When you put in the work, you get help. Really.

Listen: I have something to tell all you “aspiring writers” out there. I used the quotes because if that’s what you’re calling yourself, close the laptop and GTFO. You’re either writing or not. There are other ways to distinguish yourself, if you feel presumptuous or insecure enough to want to qualify your title. Maybe writer vs. author, with the latter only coming out when you have a real, live book in hand.

But that’s not what I really want to tell you.

Here it is, the real secret: people want to help you.

If you’ve really put in the work–the real, serious work–of writing a book. You’ve edited and rewritten it so many times that it starts to feel like self-flagellation instead of anything remotely creative. If you’ve done your research and come to the understanding that there aren’t any shortcuts, and you’ll have to put in the time, effort and yes, money, to make your book a real, live thing. If you’ve, in short, done your actual best and not the grade-school, participation-ribbon approximation of it, then you’ll get more help and support than you realized you would.

Please understand that you’ll have to put yourself out there for it. You’ll need to research the popular local blogs and ask them to review your book. You’ll need to approach boutique owners and small bookstores. You’ll need to humbly go around with stacks of books in your arms like a street peddler from the turn of last century, and you’ll need to ask–with the expectation of being turned away–“Would you be interested in selling my book?”

post depicting the cover of my book, Haints
This poster went up in the Old City in Knoxville to advertise my book launch.

I’ve been turned down and ignored, it’s true. But, honestly, I’ve been received with open arms more than I thought I would. My local bookstore put Haints on the shelf within ten minutes of my walking through the door. Inside of Knoxville wrote a positive review. My friends’ boutique regularly advertises the book on their social media accounts, and have encouraged me to host a reading at their store–which I’ll do, next week. A freelance client (turned part-time boss) graciously hosted a book launch for me at her gallery space. If this sounds like an embarrassment of riches, it is! Am I on the bestsellers lists anywhere? No, admittedly. And I’m not seeing thousands of dollars in sales–not by a long shot. I’m no overnight celebrity.

Our warped sense of success, as a society, comes from some kind of magical combination of going viral (electronic fate) and being known worldwide, and wildly rich. I’m none of those things. But my book’s fans–I have a few fans! Isn’t that cool!?–approach me with real commentary about the parts of Haints that touched them, that made them think and relate. I used to dream about having those discussions.

If you’re really a writer, then it’s all about the story. And if it’s a good story, and you do the work for it, then, yes, people will help you out.

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