this Steve Almond collection (it's good, you should read it) and came across this quote: "It's what writers do, this shuck and jive, this nevous dance to balance the emotional needs of those you love against your own need for glory."
Almond goes on to talk, briefly, about the writer's need to be noticed, to have his books read, which he shares with Vonnegut. I didn't think much of it until I woke up and read this HuffPost piece by Julianna Baggott, which links to an Andre Codrescu piece (full disclosure: I didn't read that, as Codrescu makes me want to claw my eyeballs out) about facebook. And in it, Baggott says, "And I know I'm supposed to feel guilty for wanting people to buy my books... and books in general? Novels and poetry, they belong to the realm of art. How dirty of us to try to hawk art! But, after a decade of hand-wringing and apologies, I can't quite muster the guilt anymore."
I feel bad for anyone who has experienced even a moment of guilt for wanting people to buy her books. In fact, I think Baggott is lying--I don't think she's ever really felt guilty about this.
Because honestly, if we don't want to be read, what the hell are we doing? If we write and don't send out our stuff, it's because we're afraid of rejection. If we have writer's block, it's because we're afraid of failure. But not wanting to be read is not any writer's problem. If you don't want to be read, you're not a "writer." You're some other thing. A diarist, perhaps.
Now, as for Codrescu's complaint, if I am friends with you on facebook, and you use more than, say, 1 in 20 posts to promote your own work, then I find you annoying, and I have you hidden in my news feed. facebook is for being mildly amusing and posting links to videos of stampeding baby goats and pictures of your kids with ice cream on their faces. If you listen to your publicist and treat it like an advertising medium, then you're crapping in the pool.
But I sympathize: I want to be noticed, too. Everyone does. Am I not blogging right this minute? The thing is, the correct way to be noticed is not to ask people to notice you, it's to make more stuff for them to notice. If you want readers, write a lot, unshittily. Don't post ads on facebook, post content. (I have at least one friend, Lou Beach, who has a book coming out that consists entirely of short stories written there.) Same goes for twitter, and your blog. Listen carefully here, writers, because this is important. Content. Do not post reports on how many people came to your reading or what nice things book reviewers said about you. This is called bragging and it makes you look like an ass. People will read your books not because you're telling them how much people like you, but because your writing is worth reading. So, on the internet, give them more of that. Give people more of yourself.
And quit feeling guilty about wanting people to buy your books. It's like feeling guilty about wanting sex, or breakfast. And yes, there are people who feel guilty about those things, too. Take a good long look at those people. Do they look happy? No, they look hungry. And horny.
Desire readers. Then write.