It makes me feel dirty. It makes me feel guilty. So I'm going to have to put a stop to it. To us. Even though it feels so good. Promoting my book, I mean.
I'm a writer, and I'm a cliché, in that I'm a writer who is anti-social. Not exactly socially awkward, I hope -- I love a party and a glass of champagne and practicing the art of le charme. But I also love having dinner with my kids in my pjs and forgetting what it feels like to go outside after 7 pm. And I really truly enjoy being shut up in my home office most of the day, with the occasional foray to the grocery store, so much that my husband sometimes accuses me of having no sense of the real world whatsoever. "You'd die if you had to deal with as many people as I do all day," he observes.
The poor, naïve man. He is, as usual, the last to know. Because as far as I can tell from my experience with my book Stepmonster, writing isn't really about writing so much as it is about what happens when you're done writing. Which is more writing. And not sitting in your cubby hole writing, writing, in blissful or tormented isolation. No, it's about relationships, and soldering those relationships, one by one, through exhaustive, committed, and exhausting writing that connects you to people in ways you never expected. I'm not talking about writing to potential blurbers, or editors and writers at print and online magazines, or bloggers, billions of bloggers, as I so dutifully have. No, I'm talking about readers. I'm talking about being in a titillating flirtation and perhaps, eventually, a full-blown romance with them. And not them as a group. With them as individual people. Each and every one of them. Every single day.
She's just insecure, you're thinking. One doesn't have to write to one's readers just because they have written. Philip Roth doesn't.
Well of course you don't have to. If you're Philip Roth. Or if you wind up on Oprah. Meanwhile, if you're a writer like me, you need people. Lots of them. Writing you. And you writing back to them. On Facebook, ,on My Space, on Twitter, on your blog comments section, on other people's blogs and Facebook pages, and via email. Constantly. And not just "I like your book" and "Hey, thanks!" Oh no. Keep going. Keep on, keep on going. Book promotion, for all the hullabaloo about the new social media, is really a lot like a Laclos novel, or Pamela -- the writer had just better keep on writing those letters, promiscuously and endlessly, or else there isn't going to be a show.
Selling a book, to me at least (since I haven't been on Oprah -- have I mentioned that? -- or even Jon Stewart), feels an awful lot like flirting, and also kind of hand-holding, and also like being in an very committed relationship with many, many people at once. It's labor intensive, even more so after the intensive labor of writing and editing the book is over. Yes, I know people have been saying for years that book tours are grueling and that tv appearances are taxing. But I recently read that Jodi Picoult answers every single email she gets -- and I understand that Jodi Picoult sells millions of books -- and I just want to say, I'll have whatever she's having.
As far as my own writing and book promoting go, I guess I'm a lesbian, because I wrote a book for women with stepchildren, a group very much in need of advice and support and validation, and of course they're women to boot, and women love to talk. And write. And I am in touch with them in very intense and gratifying ways, every day via many, many media. In the same way that my relationship with my husband could only be better if he were a cosmetic dermatologist (please understand, I live in Manhattan), my relationships with my readers could only be more demanding if they were all my husbands and I were extremely, extremely polyandrous.
I'd like to continue this post, but I have a lot of writing to do. I'm not talking about my next book proposal or even one of my other blogs. I've really, really got to write to my readers. Because while I'm a nerd who likes to stay home and avoid people, I'm no fool. I know where my bread is buttered, and I like the people who are doing it, and they had better like me. In fact, they had better love me. So I'm going to ask you to please leave us alone now. Unless you want to leave a comment. In which case I promise to write you back.