Life is full of People. Sometimes we can’t live with them, but we certainly can’t live without them. It is impossible to live in this world and avoid relating to someone at some time in some way. Often, I wish it weren’t so. Relationships are hard work for me. All of them. I gave up my childhood ambition to be a hermit when I was informed I would still have to earn a living. For someone who has difficulty relating, I chose an odd career: nursing. Strangely, as long as I wear the uniform, I am comfortable with patients and staff. Out of uniform, I become once again, the hermit.
In the world of writing, this is a detriment to an author. You see, a writer must also be a seller–a hawker of his books, if he wants to earn decent royalties. The publisher starts the process, but both before and after the initial surge of orders, it’s up to the writer to pound pavement, meet and greet, arrange for book signings, interviews, etc. (Unless the book happens to be the next Harry Potter or Twilight series, and almost sells itself!) My guess is I’m not the only author who feels like she sends her baby off in a basket of bulrushes down the Nile, hoping a princess will pick it up and love it so much, it becomes a prince among books.
But that doesn’t happen often. Which brings us back to relationships. Selling books is about forging relationships. To one who is relationship-challenged, this presents a huge obstacle. It means leaving the comfort zone of the little world you’ve created on paper and entering the dog-eat-dog world of a glutted market. Walk around any bookstore and you can see that the ratio of books to customers is depressingly lop-sided. Books by the likes of Debbie Macomber, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, and Mary Higgens Clark sell; the rest remain on the shelves, hopeful, but a little sad.
Let’s look for a moment at Debbie Macomber. I had the privilege of meeting her in Port Orchard, WA. a few years ago. She is a charming, humorous speaker, who enchants her readers as much by her easy manner and warm, folksy stories as by her best seller books. She is read world-wide, her ‘brand’ is so well-known you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t at least heard of her. Fame like that is the result, not only of good books, but of relationships. For years, Debbie has taken great pains to build relationships with her readers. She seems to love it and does it well, adding more fans at each book signing. No doubt comfortable now with the kind of success most writers can only dream of achieving, she doesn’t let up; she continues to maintain a work schedule that, frankly, boggles my mind.
And here’s the rub. I am anything but a confident, relaxed public speaker with lots of folksy stories on tap to bring out on demand. (For that matter, I am anything but a workholic.) Nor am I a confident enough writer to flog my book at malls, book stores, or church bazaars. I almost apologize for mentioning it, and generally am embarrassed if anyone says they’ve read it. (Despite the neurotic need I have to be read–what’s that all about?) And this depresses me. I admit it.
The only solution I find to this dilemma is to immerse myself in fiction once again. I retreat into my imagination, to a place where I rule the world. Relationships are under my control, and within my power to create, exactly the way I want them to be. If only I could translate the relationship-capable character I created into me…