To be an author today is not enough to earn a living wage. It is almost impossible in fact. It is not totally unattainable, but to really earn enough money just from the books you sell, you have to spend time, be patient, and work hard in the background to get yourself seen, heard, and, more importantly, read by the people that matter. That is, your audience. Your fan base. The people who enjoy your stories, who want to know more about your characters, where they come from, what they do, how you met them. The readers want to know about you, the author. You are a brand.
It has taken me a few years to learn this. Back when I finally started to write my novel, got some short stories published, and decided that actually, I am quite good at this, I thought I was made. I could have my first novel published and I would be up there with all the greats, earning my millions and churning out more books for my adoring fans. It didn't quite happen like that. I'm still waiting for it. I am still seeking those adoring fans. I know they are out there (maybe you are one of them, please say hello, it would really make my day!)
The truth is that the role of the 21st century author is not just to write stories. That is only the beginning process of our job. Most of us publish our stories because they simply have to be told. My fellow writers will understand that nagging urge, that commanding voice as the characters take physical form and force themselves through your hand and onto the page. You have to write. It is as essential as eating. We feed the force within that requires nourishment, or we face the prospect of withering away to a mere empty shell of a human. Yes, being a writer is that important to me.
So we write. We publish. It is easier to do that these days, what with modern technology and eBooks and all the rest of it. But therein lies the problem. Our books are published, and they are subsequently submerged in a sea of other books, other stories, other authors. Some of these authors give all of their time to social networking in order to sell their books, and it works for them. Some prefer to pay others for the service of marketing and promotion. I would choose this option if I had the finances in place, and maybe I will in the future. For now I have to establish how to use what little spare time I have to the most effective outcome.
It is a tough learning curve. I am finally beginning to make sense of all those wonderful platforms available to us. I currently favour Twitter, Facebook and Google+, but I don't spend anywhere near enough time on them doing anything really productive in terms of book marketing. I am still learning. I am studying. If you are in the same situation, please share your experiences, advice, and anything else you can contribute to the conundrum of our generation. I look forward to hearing from you!