Nowadays, aspiring novelists must contend with the promotion (and possible stigma) of an unpublished book. We may have other published works, sure, but a long-term writing project like a novel-in-progress can frustrate even the most patient storyteller and wordsmith. A working novel’s manuscript–unfortunately–isn’t a book until it looks like one, feels like one, is bound (usually), is available digitally (especially if it isn’t bound), and probably has an ISBN code so it can be sold. The opportunity to self-promote via the Internet means a number of us now are pre-promoting work prior to its release, which is exciting, educational, time-consuming, somewhat social (admittedly stretched rationalization) and–for me–rewarding. It’s self-induced pressure to the max . . . heralded only by those of us doing it, because we understand and appreciate it.
The pre-promotion of a forthcoming book for a first-time novelist is necessary. Growing readership of our work shouldn’t focus merely on agency representation or publication itself, but getting our work out there to an eager audience that’s waiting to discover it. The largest audience possible, yes, but we shouldn’t seek to merely get signed to a specific agent or publisher. Instead, we need to define what route makes most sense for us to protect our integrity as writers and get our work read by the most people possible . . . those searching for our kind of work. If a literary agency or publisher has faith in the commerce behind the art, we’ve hit gold. No doubt, readership can grow immensely with that support.
For those of us seeking such representation, a burgeoning fanbase clearly illustrates a writer’s marketability . . . and reduces the risk of anyone investing time and energy into them. This would go for any artist. Case and point: A couple days ago, a rock band I’ve followed for a couple years finally got signed to a label. I discovered Imagine Dragons performing in Las Vegas and have followed them since, have seen them here in San Diego, and–after a few years of recording, performing, and promoting–they’ve hit a grand slam by signing with Interscope Records. Dedication to their craft is not in question, nor is the magnitude of their growing fanbase. It took a couple years, though, of looming in on a targeted objective. Dan Reynolds, the frontman for the band, said to Las Vegas Weekly, “The goal of a band should never be to sign with a major label. It should be to make good music and get it out to as many people as possible.”
We need conviction in our work and dedication to cultivating our talent. And tireless self-promotion, so that our work does indeed exist . . . in the form of a book.