For long I imagined that the job of writers or poets was only to write. Once they created something beautiful the world would discover them, hail them and celebrate their greatness. Being a student of literature, I have read various anecdotes of great writers immersed in their work, completely unaware of the world around them. And once the masterpiece was created, they would be discovered, somehow. But the catch was many of these greats were recognized much later in life and often died poor. The great romantic poets Shelley and Keats lived and died in abject poverty. But the fact that they were only concerned about their work and didn’t care for money or fame lends a certain aura to their image, makes us respect them even more.
So, with the image of a writer who is only concerned about writing firmly etched in my mind, I started my journey as a writer. It started with this blog, writing nostalgically about the charm of yesteryears or anything that I hold dear. I found some readers along the way, mostly my classmates, friends, family and acquaintances who would take time to read my blog and comment. I was thrilled when my cousin told me she enjoys going back to my old posts and re-reading them. Once, when a friend me pinged to check why I hadn’t posted my blog that week, I felt I had achieved something as a writer. “I wait for your posts,” she added to my delight.
I didn’t give up my job though, don’t intend to. Writing is my passion, something that I do in late hours after work. I enjoy writing, I want more people to read my posts and share their feedback. My job pays the bills.
Encouraged by the response, I started writing short stories. One day, to my surprise, I wrote a poem. Maybe I was falling in love, or falling out of love, and my emotions found expression in poems. When I visited Agartala this year I was torn to see unplanned development all around ruining my once serene hometown. The nostalgia for the Agartala lost was a trigger for me to write poems. And suddenly I felt the urge to publish my collection of poems.
Poetry as a genre doesn’t interest publishers I was told, definitely not from a new writer. My friend, who’s a writer and a translator herself, advised me to go with a self-publishing house Notion Press. I burnt midnight oils, put my manuscript together and came out with my first collection – Love & Longings. I am quite happy with the end result I must say. When I called up another friend of mine who’s in the publishing industry and told her about the book, I was asked what I plan to do about promotion. “I have written a book. Isn’t that enough?” I asked. “No, you have to promote it,” she said. Though I am a PR practitioner self-promotion doesn’t come easily to me. I suck at selling myself I have been told. Authors now focus on building their profiles. It’s not just about being read, it’s about the image, I learnt.
I started my career promoting books for an NGO and a niche publishing house Katha, but things have changed drastically since then. In those days, I am talking about early 2000, it was about sharing the book with newspapers and magazines for a review . The reviewers would then judge the book on its merit and write a review. We couldn’t do much besides sending the book out and checking with the editors if they would be considering it for a review.
Since I wanted people to know about my book, I posted on Facebook and was overwhelmed by the response and the congratulatory messages. I also received many messages and proposals from people offering to promote my book.
Despite so many encouraging messages, according to Notion Press, only 15 copies of my book have been sold so far. Now that I have started writing, I also realize, I do want people to read my work. And herein comes the dilemma…should I promote my work or not? Do I have to pay people to say good things about my book?
Being in Public Relations I know that visibility is important, but it is more important to have a good product. I do hope people read my poems; I do hope they share honest feedback. Probably this post is my attempt at self-promotion.
5 thoughts on “Of writing and being read”
Loving all that you write Sumana.
Arudhuti Roy would not had been a booker prize owner had the book would not have promoted .It’s a reality now .
I know, unfortunately…