A writer makes choices along the journey toward publishing with its fame, fans and riches (or whatever one’s goals may be). Those were the ones on my list when I was sixteen, again at twenty-six, but by fifty-six I’d wised up, and began to focus on one: publishing. But in order to get to that step I had to give up the idea of making a living as a writer, have had achieved a certain amount of fame and already an acquired fan-base. Not the kind of fame that has twenty year olds exclaiming, “Hi. Remember me? I was in your first grade class?” No, broader recognition than that. One must have a platform, which, like a soap box, serves as a place from which the writer speaks and is listened to, followed by thousands and following many more.
Today, a writer, who by nature is often a loner, must get around, say things to thousands of people, and have more up her sleeve, no end of things to exclaim, post, tweet or toot. And that’s before the book release. A writer is a politician, pokes placards into lawns, prints up her own bumper stickers, free when you sign up online for her monthly newsletter, delivered right into your hands through your email: “Have you read Nancy’s book? Or you could request a custom license plate frame with her most recent working title and web address flashing in lights along the narrow strips, bottom and top.
Recognition is a must before the writer can seek a publishing deal, before she seeks an agent: the earlier you begin gaining recognition, the better. Before she starts to write. Before she can read? Should parents get their child a website at birth? A Facebook account? A blog? Instagram and Twitter handles? Is that what you call it, a handle? A baby you tube channel? People get their infants a wine locker, add a bottle each year or plant an apple tree fertilized by the placenta, many start a college fund, which, by the way, when the child is three is used up to get the child on the waiting list at the best preschool in town.
Well, not me. As a child of the fifties we got none of that, and I started a college fund for my children that turned out to be good thing because after the divorce I needed it for rent. Facial recognition? Now there’s a topic. Maybe it was my family (or just me), but looking at myself was private. If I had a poppy seed in my tooth, I stepped into the bathroom, a pimple? Same thing. Was my hair okay? I avoided, at all costs getting caught looking in the rear view mirror to check my lip gloss. At sixteen I was gifted a tiny mirror in a velvet case for my purse, but gave it away after it sat unused. The last time I posed for a head shot was at graduation; my shoulders draped in black silk.
Facial recognition requires a photo, posting it, maybe several versions in different outfits with different expressions. Not a “Selfie”, although some people have gotten very good at that. But for me, who never dared to put on mascara or lipstick in my car mirror. Groom in public? I need at least one professional head-shot, dressing the torso for a sought-after image. Black jacket, silk blouse: real estate agent. Light linen jacket, rose shell, a large pendant necklace and a scarf for creativity. Hands at chin: psychologist. A yoga teacher in warrior pose, full body tights, a plaid shirt and felt hat for the western mystery thriller writer, a head tilt, lips licked, chin down, neck back, smile, not too big; smiling makes wrinkles. Do I dare ask her to airbrush wrinkles or match both eyebrows?
The cost for a photo shoot comes due before I’ve sold the book, even the idea of my book. I decided to pay someone to help me set up my website, to keep it current, newsy and get back to followers. Oh, my, followers. I have been working on that list. I will offer a free gift when you sign up for my free newsletter, but need someone to tweet for me on topic, post relevant articles and the reviews I write and watch for topical news stories. I follow publishing trends, post blogs because once I have all that in place, my identity established, I am somewhat recognizable. I will publish a few stand-alones, pack my bio with lists of successes and then ready to seek an agent.
All of this assumes my story is a great one, literary, crafted skillfully and regularly revised and edited with the support of a brilliant critique group. No typos. Oh, I nearly forgot: hire an editor, struggle through revisions, pay her in full to cut 25% to meet a recommendation for a manuscript under 300 pages? Once confident, I can now to submit a set of queries, and include my spiffy web address. But wait, I need one more blast of confidence, lest I have missed something crucial: An online webinar that begins this month on preparing the manuscript, finding an agent, and how to get published.
Look for my book, Fallen From the Nest, in the next few years at your local book-seller. Sign up to get my newsletter at gmabrown.com and read my blog at WordPress Letters to Montana Out on the street, say “Hey” if you recognize me. NancyKayBrown.com, gmabrown
Photo by Portia Shao, Positive Vista Photography & Art, Santa Cruz