It has long been an accepted fact in the world of academia that you must publish stuff or disappear from view. Among the learned university crowd the path to credibility is paved with journals and books as part of the peer review system. For the non-academic crowd unfamiliar with peer review, it’s roughly the equivalent of developing a special new food recipe then having everyone tell you what you did wrong. That may be a bit harsh, but you get the idea.
The same syndrome, actually more like a virus, has come to the internet. All writers and authors are now expected not just to publish, but to publish as much and as often as they can. For consumers of information (aka readers), using the internet is like trying to drink from a fire hose.
The number of new book titles released each year has more than doubled over the past decade. Agents and publishers are becoming dinosaurs as writers take their materials directly to the public. The gates are open. No longer does an author need to struggle with a critical editor or deal with a lengthy and arduous print publishing cycle.
Well that’s fine, but the new digital world has also put a lot more pressure on fiction writers to write stuff they would probably prefer not to, like blogs and social network posts.
The prevailing wisdom from internet marketing gurus is that an author needs to have a blog and post at least 250-300 words twice a day on weekdays and once on weekends. That is over 3,000 words a week or approximately five to six typed pages of fresh, insightful, interesting and eye-catching new material. Considering that the average novel runs between 70,000 and 120,000 words…click, click, click on the calculator….writing a blog would be the equivalent of cranking out a new novel every three to six weeks. It’s exhausting just to think about.
Of course just putting words out on the internet is no guarantee that anyone will read them, or be interested enough to spend actual money to read the author’s books. So, in addition to blogging, the publishing pundits also recommend putting pithy posts pertaining to particulars on at least a half-dozen social networks as well. Turning again to our trusty digital calculator…click, click, click….that now puts said author into the equivalent of a six-day work week with no salary, benefits or paid holidays.
If authors really wanted to live that way they could apply to work at…wait, we don’t want a libel suit, so suffice it to say that kind of lifestyle is probably not what most writers aspire to.
Some successful authors write books about how they paid their dues, or suffered for their readers or some other ordeal they had to endure to make their first bestseller. You can always tell from a book cover if an author is successful. Their name is in very large, bold print while the title of the book itself is tiny. The vast majority of writers, however, are happy just to get ranked higher than 473,835 on the Amazon bestseller list.
So, for any bright, new graduates who seek to make a career of writing, always remember these three words: be a doctor.