The Public Life of a Writer

Writing used to be a solitary enterprise—you labored in the seclusion of your study for months or years, and then emerged, ream of double spaced text in hand, to bless the world with your brilliance. No more. These days publishers want you to have a following before you publish. This is what Writer’s Market are saying about the BEA (BookExpo America), 2010:

“One thing that seemed obvious this year is that publishers don’t think it’s a big deal if potential authors have a blog, but they do think it’s a big deal if potential authors do not have a blog or e-mail list or some other direct reach to their target audience. If you want to publish a book, you need a great hook or idea, but it’s becoming increasingly important to also have an audience—before the book deal.” (My emphases) —  Robert Lee Brewer, “Four Book Publishers, BEA, and more!,” May 28, 2010.

Since I’ve completed the combat phase of my upcoming book, The Four Lions, I need to start making friends (and probably enemies) on the Web. Let’s talk about Internet enemies. There is one brand of online enemy that not only puzzles me, but helps to convince me that the Last Days are upon us. For example, someone posts a video on YouTube of Pavarotti singing Nessum Dorma. Some simple soul, such a myself, for example, posts: “Oh what an amazing voice. I get goose bumps when he hits those high C’s.” Inevitable the reply comes: “Obviously u don’t no shit about music, you dumb fuck. 4 ure info P. don’t sing no C’s in nesum dorema, only b’s.” (By the way, I don’t know if this is true; I mean about Pavarotti singing C’s or not in Nessum Dorma—I’m not going to do that kind of research for a polemic against trolls.) To me, there is no difference between this kind of response and Alaric raging through the streets of Rome, his sword dripping with the blood of an entire kindergarten class of  two-year-olds. Except that  Alaric killed you and put you out of your misery and prevented you from seeing the gates of civilization pulled down. No wonder St. Augustine wrote in his long lost City of God, Part II—and I translate freely from the original Latin (Saint Gus never wrote unoriginal Latin):

“When I see trolls disparaging friendly, intelligent commentators on the internet, and I realize that these trolls are part of society, as much offline as online, I cannot but wish for God to take me away to His eternal city, and as soon as possible.”

This doesn’t mean that nobody should comment to point out an error or such, but I cry out with a John McIntyre (aren’t preachers funny, sometimes, the way they cite heroes of the faith?):

“Comments are welcome, but commenters should keep a civil tongue in their heads. Identifying his errors relieves him [the author – GV] of the burden of omniscience.”—John McIntyre at   http://johnemcintyre.blogspot.com/2010/03/curse-you-microsoft-word.html.

Anyway, I’ll be blogging away, so if you find my ravings either amusing or informative, do follow my blog or my tweeter-farting, or join my mailing list, although God knows what I’m going to email you about.  Also, I haven’t set up any email newsletter system or even the tweeting stuff, so, if you’re close personal friend of mine, and you’ve already blabbed to me that you plan to follow this blog, please watch this space. I’ll do all of those things as soon as I find my reading glasses.