I understand what it’s like to dream of being a writer. I understand how hard it is to achieve that dream. I understand how difficult it is to remain in print. I understand it because I’ve lived it.
What I don’t understand is why some writers delight in deluding themselves — even when they know that what they are doing is foolish, costly, pointless and pathetic. I got an email the other day that’s a perfect example of this bizarre phenomenon. Here’s how it began:
I’ve been reading you for a while. I don’t get people who post
their unpublished writing on their blogs or websites. On the other
hand, I feel somewhat guilty because I have a self-published book out
(pretty pathetic, I know, but 27 years ago my first book was published
commercially and I’ve had books reviewed in the LA & NY Times) and
feel really weird about trying to promote it. I don’t quite know what
Okay, he had a book published 27 years ago and has had his work reviewed by the NY Times and LA Times. That’s great. But what does that have to do with self-publishing his book today? Nothing.
He says he feels "weird" trying to promote the book and doesn’t quite know how to do it. Excuse me? He’s asking himself now how he’s going to promote his self-published novel? Shouldn’t he have thought of that before writing a check to some vanity press? What was he thinking when he went to a vanity press? Clearly, he wasn’t thinking at all. He was deluding himself. But it gets worse…or sadder, depending on your perspective:
Let’s try to follow the logic of that paragraph, one sentence at a time…
"I doubt you’d be interested in my book, but here’s a link to the Kirkus Discoveries review."
He doesn’t think I’ll care about his book, but he’s going to point me to a review that he paid for anyway, because that might convince me it’s good. Huh??
"Yeah, I paid $350 to them so I’d get at least one review."
This is a perfect example of what I’m talking about: a writer deluding himself, knowing that he is, and going along with the delusion anyway. If you paid for a positive review, it’s not really a review, is it? In fact, it’s worthless. What good is a review that everyone knows you’ve bought and paid for? Does it make you feel better about your work that someone you paid to like it says he likes it? You could have saved $350 by simply writing a rave review of your book yourself.
It’s clear from his email that he knows he made a mistake, he feels foolish about it, and yet he can’t stop himself from compounding his error. He paid to be published without thinking about how he’d promote his book once it was out. He paid for a review just for the pleasure of seeing someone talk about his work. Then he sends an email to me, of all people, that basically says "look at me, aren’t I pathetic?"
And he thinks this is a winning strategy?
I’m not telling you about this email to humiliate the guy. I feel sad for him…and yet, at the same time, stories like his infuriate me. He’s not some idiot being taken advantage of by the false claims of a vanity press… he knows better. So why does he do it anyway?
I just don’t get it. Someone, please, explain it to me.