Friday, July 9, 2010

The business of writing

The hardest part of my role as writer is marketing my work because doing so involves contacting a complete stranger and somehow convincing her or him, in a few brief sentences, that (1) I am a pretty decent writer and (2) that other folks want to read what I’ve just written. Having to do so is tantamount to torture. I can sit for hours at the keyboard—when I was working on Tainted Legacy, I would sometimes do five-hour stints without food or potty breaks, and I could do that because I loved the work. But composing a query letter that somehow makes me shine above all the other thousands of writers out there trying to get books published? Please… don’t… make… me… do… that….

I can remember being in my early twenties, attending my first writers conferences, watching people get up and prattle on about their books. I knew I could never do that part of it. “Read me! I’m great!” is just far too embarrassing for me.

It’s not that I’m shy; I taught Lamaze classes for years before I began teaching English and Journalism. I love to speak to writers groups. In fact, I’m passionate about doing so. But shameless self-promotion is another beast entirely. At the signing for TL last spring at Border’s, the reason I had so many people approach my table had to do with friend and comic Tim Chizmar standing near the front door shouting, “S Kay Murphy! Right there at that table! Her great grandmother might have been a serial killer!” I sold 24 books that day. (Thanks, Tim.)

My reticence to promote myself has to do, I think, with having a particularly introverted, reserved personality. I simply don’t assert myself. The same was true back in the days when I was singing a lot. It all started because someone at church told someone else they’d heard me sing. Next thing I know, I’m up in front of a couple hundred people at Harvest in Riverside, singing and playing guitar. Then someone asked me to sing in a wedding, then someone else, and the next thing you know, I’m singing the National Anthem a cappella in front of 2,000 baseball fans at our local Quakes stadium.

Wait. Maybe I’ve discovered the key here. Perhaps instead of sending “Read me! I’m great!” letters out to strangers, I should fly to New York, stand on Broadway, and simply read from my next book (which, by the way, is a memoir about the dogs who’ve owned me—Hope you get a chance to Read it! It’s great!). If only….

I’ve gotta get back to work on this query letter, but don’t be surprised if you see me later in downtown Upland, standing in the gazebo, manuscript pages in hand….

[Just for practice at SSP (shameless self-promotion), I've attached an Amazon link to TL.  Forgive me.]


  1. heck no dont apologize,,,but I do know how you feel. I am a little bit the same way... is the doggie book ready yet? I want at least

  2. Aw, thanks, Glenn! No, we're a long ways from holding the book--I'm halfway through the writing and just beginning the process of finding an agent/publisher. Wish me luck!

  3. Almost every writer I know feels the same way. If I ever have a book signing, I'm sure I will say, "Thank you so much for coming. You don't have to buy a book. I'm just glad to see you." Publishers and bookstores will love me.