My First Step Into A Larger World
Please help me welcome Mr. Jerry Roth, Author of Bottom Feeders, to the Writer's Journey Blog this week.
My first Step into a larger world
From an early age, I always loved to tell stories. When we look back into our youth, everything appears clearer. Anxieties—the joys, and even our daily boredom hides where our path is leading. The hobbies, for most of us, will remain only an exciting daydream. We all want to make the fantasies of our childhood a reality—a major league baseball player—an astronaut, a race car driver. These are the things we often leave behind when adulthood takes hold—when responsibilities squeeze out wishful thoughts.
Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents who read bedtime stories to me nightly. It was in these memories I understood the power a story had to transport us to another world. An author wielded the skill to create a destination inside my head, and that kind of power called to me.
One of my earliest writing creations was a handful of blank papers folded in half and stapled to make a spine. In this crude first book, my uncle Mark helped me design simple “Star Wars” panels of Tie Fighters and X-Wing Fighters flying through the galaxy and saying dramatic words like, “Laugh now…but cry later,” Vader said. It was in these handmade comics that I learned what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Years later, riding the bus back and forth to school, I soon became the kid to tell stories about the movie trailers I saw on Television but wasn’t old enough to see myself. Not actually seeing the movie didn’t stop me, I would just make up my version of what I thought the film would be like. It got to where my friends on the bus asked me to describe the plot of the latest Friday the 13th flick or Dirty Harry to pass the time.
In my teen years, my childhood friend Adam and I searched for worn paperback novels—they were always in our hands, bought for a dollar at our local used bookstore. I didn’t know it then, but I was studying my craft—forming my writing voice. Lost in the possibilities, the well-told stories captured me.
As soon as I graduated to adult fiction, my greatest hero was and always will be Stephen King. The ideas that sprung from him were nothing less than magical. His strength to push the boundaries of what it meant to be a horror writer was an inspiration to every author I knew. I’m proud to say that after years of working at the craft, I will get my novel “Bottom Feeders” published. I want to thank everyone who believed in me along the way, and I hope you enjoy my book.
“People come to books looking for something. But they don’t come for the story, or even for the characters. They certainly don’t come for the genre. I think readers come for the voice.”
― Stephen King
A Writer’s Voice
Finding your voice, obsesses writers. The moment you take the craft seriously, you listen to established authors tell you that you need to find your voice. Is voice an actual thing? The quick answer is yes. But I think what some new writers don’t understand is that getting to your voice is shedding the things that make you afraid as a writer or ashamed. There are grammar rules to follow (or at least you should), but there are some gray areas like in every art form. And artists that push those boundaries of what’s acceptable are the ones that discover who they are. So, what is the voice? Being comfortable in your skin.
As I read hundreds of books with a wide range of writing styles, I understood what I liked and what I didn’t. I know that not everyone will love my novels, and that’s the hardest lesson for an author to learn. But what finding a voice does for a writer is cement a sense of security when there is none. When I look into the mirror and see my reflection, I know there is nothing I can do about the features staring back at me. In a way, that’s comforting. Here I am, scars and all. I apply the same philosophy to my work. After years of study and practice—what you see is what you get.
Are There Two Voices for a Writer?
If an author talked about their journey—been there—read that! What I didn’t understand until my publisher released my book into the world was, I needed to find my voice as a public person. A writer spends most of their early years scribbling things down for no one to see (spouse excluded), and when the outside world starts to read your work, your self-perception changes. In a matter of days, I went from a writer who wants readers to a writer who wants customers. How did this happen?
If you are an author for a small publisher or one of the BIG FIVE, your expectation is to have platforms to reach your audience, and there is an underlying expectation with any partnership in the writing business.
For me, the public persona has been the most challenging part of publishing a novel. I can’t speak for all authors, but I sometimes feel like a crab forced out of its shell when I must do anything other than write. Let’s face it, drafting stories is what we live for, and everything else is work. Although the temptation to hide away is strong, I am making a conscious decision to reach out beyond my haven.
What has Publishing a Book taught me?
What I learned a few weeks after my first book launch—I want my audience to read my books! I hope my readers finish one of my books and say, I wonder when he will write another? Jerry Roth took me on a ride, and it was worth every penny spent. Authors are not car salespeople—not working at a lemonade stand, and we are not barkers at carnivals trying to corral an audience for the next show. So, what can you do to gain an audience without bashing them over the head? If a colossal publishing company signs you—you might get away with mentioning your book a few times a year and let the marketing team do the rest. What about the rest of us?
If you are an author in 2020, then these are only a few of the things that consume your time. Some authors follow the rise and fall of their sales—or other author sales. Why did my sales climb? Why did they fall? Was the spike of sales because of a holiday or because we turned the clocks back? You could drive yourself crazy with the trivial details, and I don’t want to do this!
Proud of your book? Highlight the positive aspects that don’t relate to the dollars and cents. Got a good review? Share this with your audience. Did someone you respect interview you about your novel? Scream it from the mountain top!
As a writer, I had to find my center when developing my craft, and there isn’t much difference when it comes to the business of selling my novels. Selling is a chore—which is why a lot of authors don’t even bother to do it. Whether the author sells one book or a million doesn’t matter—peddling their art to the public feels vulgar. For me, I think the answer lies somewhere in between. Making a real connection with your readership should be my number one goal. Sure, I’ll lose myself in the marketing and sales aspects of the machine from time to time.
When I was a child creating my first writings (in comic book form) with crayons and magic markers, I never thought about my perfect demographic audience—an acceptable price point that will bring in customers. In between deciding if my Evel Knievel, knockoff character, will land his mile-high jump with or without a parachute, I never wondered how many likes or impressions my story could get. When I think back to the young writer I once was—there was an excitement if someone wanted to read my work. Would I tell myself back then all the ways to get more customers?
I want to focus on what I can control—keeping the world of Likes, Impressions, and sales statistics in the background—where they belong. How about you?