You Are My Network

I’m up to 233 Twitter followers, yay me. I give a lot of attention to my tweeps, and feed them a steady stream of entertaining true fact/bar facts, twitter-tales and newly invented words, interspersed with those not so entertaining but oh so critical calls to action (“Buy my book! No, that one! No, the other one!”) without which the whole endeavor would be a massive exercise in pointless self-indulgence. But you know what? There’s a massive element of self-indulgence in it anyhow, as I flatter myself to think that my mots are all that bon, that someone somewhere is hanging on my every tweet. (Well, why not? I mean, perpendiculous is a good word, and the world’s been crying out for it.) I confess that I take way more than inordinate pleasure in noting the addition of new followers. In the case of Twitter, then, I’ve found a way to strike a balance between grudging acceptance of a social network chore and genuine enjoyment in the task. File all of this under the heading of “getting used to the new model.”

And don’t think you’re not part of this. I’ve already told you that these monthly contributions to WriterUnboxed, and the immediate (and mostly positive) feedback I get make writing and posting these columns something I’ve really come to look forward to. Not only that, they really force me to focus and articulate my thoughts on what I’m going through as an author of the new model. Clarity? Never a bad idea. And the fact that some of you have joined my Cavalcade o’ Tweeps or friended me on Facebook or even –  who knows? – bought one or another of my books or ebooks is just a certain sort of gravy on the cake. (And yes, that phrase was written exactly as intend because, among other things, these columns grant me full License to Whimsy, which license I never need to be coaxed to exploit.) So here again I have reached a rough accommodation between meeting my emotional and creative needs as a writer and carving out, by achingly slow degrees, a new way of selling myself to the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that new way lately, and taking giant steps not just toward accepting it but actually embracing it. A big turning point in my thinking came just last week when I received the latest royalty statement for my two Random House novels, The California Roll and The Albuquerque Turkey. These books are not selling well. How not-well? I did a quick calculation and determined that, at current rates of sale, the books won’t earn out their advance until sometime early in the 22nd century. Good thing I got those advances, huh?

But here’s the thing: Three, four years ago, when I was making those deals and getting those advances, I had a viable corporate customer in Random House. The notion of mid-list authors selling to big publishing houses still had some traction. (And maybe I’m flattering myself by calling myself mid-list, but whatever.) Today, scant years later, that model is dead – dead as disco in the hearts of the unforgiving. I can’t sell to corporations anymore. I can only sell to folks.

The good news is, I can sell to folks, and as you know, I’m doing everything in my power to fill my Amazon author pages with all kinds of product, everything from previously unpublished novels to flights of fancy like Decide to Play Drunk Poker to (one day soon, you betcha) JV Unboxed, Volume 1, my first collection of Writer Unboxed essays. I’ve also branched out into audiobooks, recording my own works, publishing them through Spoken Word, Inc. and distributing them through audible.com. I am of the completely unsubstantiated opinion that audiobooks are a growth vector for me, that I can find a market for people who want to hear, specifically, me reading my works, on the assumption that the author will inject a certain heart and nuance into the read that no professional narrator, no matter how polished, could capture. If I’m right in this, I will have found yet another way of trying to get rich two bucks at a time.

I have no choice. Gone are the fat advances of 2008. I’m not even sure I miss them all that much. After all, big publishers never did much of anything for me except publicity (which they didn’t do), marketing (which they didn’t do) and distribution (which they didn’t do). So I’m left with the grass-roots approach, building my network of fans of my work and friends of my efforts, and doing it one tweep at a time, one reader at a time, one pair of eyes or ears at a time. By luck or self-hypnosis, I’ve come to enjoy the network-building part of the job in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. Maybe it’s self-indulgence, but at least it’s real. My Twitter feed tells me that I have one more fan today than yesterday. And that’s not nothing.

Know what else? The effort has completely re-energized my writing life. Knowing that I am now solely responsible for what I release, and when and how I release it, my mind is alive with Big Big Plans. I intend to launch one new novel every six months if I can manage it. And I think I can manage it. I’ve written six so far, and they’ve all taken me about six months. In between, I’ll litter my product stream with whatever small efforts I see fit to spawn. Maybe JV Unboxed. Maybe Christmas stories. Maybe my memoir in sections. It can be anything at all, anything I want, because, for better or for worse, this particular inmate is now fully in charge of this little asylum. I don’t have to get rich two dollars at a time. I don’t even have to get rich. I just have to keep writing (which I would do anyway), keep reaching out to my fans (which I would do anyway), keep promoting myself (which I would do anyway), and keep enjoying my days.

Per this latter, let me close with the most profound definition of success I’ve ever heard: “Success is enjoying your days.” And when I wake up in the morning and find that my Twitter feed has grown by leaplets and boundlets, I have every reason to believe that today, at least, I’m going to enjoy my day.

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About John Vorhaus

John Vorhaus has written seven novels, including Lucy in the Sky, The California Roll, The Albuquerque Turkey and The Texas Twist, plus the Killer Poker series and (with Annie Duke) Decide to Play Great Poker. His books on writing include The Comic Toolbox, How to Write Good and Creativity Rules!

Comments

  1. says

    John, thank you for this perpendiculous post. (And as you know, I mean that in the best way possible). You have given me a gentle slap of reality BUT also filled me with hope. After all, we writers write because writing is like breathing. And it’s nice to have control over our breathing.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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  2. says

    Oh, you are good, John! Thoroughly enjoyed your post, especially as I’m in the throes of internal debate (as a consequence of one of those royalty statements you mentioned) on traditional vs self-publishing. But dang, now I’m going to have to get one of your books!

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  3. says

    “Success is enjoying your days.” Thank you! I’m new to twitter as well, learning to balance social media with writing time and to navigate the self promotion waters. I admire your courage and spunk to put yourself out there, build a network, and do it because you love it. I think we sometimes forget about the joy of writing in the midst of a changing world. You’ll have another new twitter friend today. See you on the tweet side :D

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  4. says

    This is wonderful. (Granted, a small, chortling, hands-rubbing-together-maniacally way is going “bwa ha ha” in triumph. Resistance is futile!)

    Social media doesn’t have to be evil, and I absolutely love the fact that you’re now in Big Big Plan mode. Beyond that, I love seeing a happy writer.

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  5. says

    This is wonderful. (Granted, a small, chortling, hands-rubbing-together-maniacally part of me is going “bwa ha ha” in triumph. Resistance is futile!)

    Social media doesn’t have to be evil, and I absolutely love the fact that you’re now in Big Big Plan mode. Beyond that, I love seeing a happy writer.

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  6. says

    Thank you for the encourgament about social media. This online presence thing isn’t something I’ve fully come to grips with – but you’re encouraging me to invest in it a bit more! I suppose self-promotions/online presence should be a priority for a published author, no matter how they’re published.
    Also – the definition for success = brilliant!

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  7. says

    I’m smiling as I read this, wondering how many times in my life I’ve fretted over a change, submitted, and then maybe, possibly raved about the fun contained within the experience. :)

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  8. says

    Wow–yes. This is exactly what I needed to read today. It’s so easy to get discouraged in trying to fit into a publishing model that is changing so rapidly it doesn’t even recognize itself anymore. I had to re-focus on the things I had control over and the things that bring my joy. The writing and the connecting with other readers and writers.

    Keeping the faith here in writer-land. Thank you.

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  9. says

    A very encouraging and fascinating take on social media! I love Twitter and blogging and meeting writer friends — but I don’t yet have books (and related) to sell. Nonetheless, I watch the numbers with surprise (and dare I say with pleasure) as they go upward. I agree with you — success is enjoying my days, and Twitter definitely helps me do this! Nice post!

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  10. says

    Hi Jon,
    I always enjoy the honesty of your WU posts. Just an FYI, in the interests of helping you add to your followers, the link to your website in the signature box at the end of your post just links back to this page. :)

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  11. says

    So much here to love. I completely agree with you about audio books read by the author, and how they must possess that special “something.” Did you read your already trad-published novels, or weren’t you able to do that? This may be my favorite line: “for better or for worse, this particular inmate is now fully in charge of this little asylum.” Enjoy the jangling of those keys.

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  12. says

    Thanks as usual to everyone who commented on my post. WriterUnboxed day is always such a lift for me. Sheri Hart, or anyone, can you clarify this:

    Just an FYI, in the interests of helping you add to your followers, the link to your website in the signature box at the end of your post just links back to this page. :)

    Because I hit the link (I thought) and it took me to my website.

    Thanks, all. Best, -jv

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  13. Jane says

    Yeah! I believe to that it was a great post and a very encouraging and fascinating take on social media! I love Twitter and blogging and meeting writer friends . I agree with you too that success is enjoying my days, and Twitter definitely helps me do this!

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  14. says

    I don’t twitter or tweet but I do enjoy WU for wonderful warm and encouraging blogs like John’s. As they say at Burger King, ‘Have a nice day.’

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  15. says

    Great post–as everyone said. You inspired me to visit your Amazon author page, see how to improve mine. Love it. A personal request: Can you put The Comic Toolbox on Kindle so it’s more accessible? If you can’t, I understand. I’ll just have to buy it in print.

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