Q&A #8

Posted by @ 4:46 pm on October 14th, 2011

If you have questions about writing or publishing or whatever, leave them in the comments or e-mail them to roxane at htmlgiant dot com and we will find you some answers.

Question:
i have a website and published stories. i sell booklets of my stories on the streets. sometimes i feel like no one reads anything i’ve written. how do i put myself out in the public more? how do i get a broader readership?

Catherine Lacey

I’m going to be blunt, ok? I’m going to be a blunt object hitting your booklets and your website: Did Marion Jones complain that not enough people were watching her when she was running? No. She just fucking ran. So forget about your readership and do your work, which, you and I both know is the whole point of doing it– not your ‘readership.’  And on second thought, forget the Marion Jones thing and take this other thing that Sam Lipsyte told a friend: This is not a race; it’s a competition. Burn your booklets and use the ash to write that on your ceiling so it’s the first thing you see when you wake up.

Ben Mirov

 Make poems or stories that seem like miracles. The market will never measure your success.

Jackie Wang

Share your work with writers you admire. Also, I started out making xeroxed copies of things I wrote and made them anti-copyright and encouraged people to copy and distribute the writings themselves. Mysteriously, they spread. To all corners of the world. I am all about keeping it free–not just as in $0 but in keeping the writing space free. Obsessing over your readership makes the writing space feel unfree. Now I long for the days when I was writing for nobody, when nobody was looking. The joy was in the process of writing. Now I have to pretend nobody is looking.

Ryan Call

I’m not sure how to put yourself out in the public more. I like that you are selling your booklets on the street. I’ve never done that; I don’t know if I could, so in a way, you’re already getting out in the public more than I. I think maybe the thing I did that helped me was I tried to find other writers for whom I felt some affinity? Like, I really liked what I read that they had written, and in my less reserved moods, I sometimes emailed them to ask for their advice. Or I looked to them as models of what I could do, to whom I could submit my stories, where I could publish. Soon, these small relationships grew into a bigger thing, I guess, which helped me see what I was doing as a part of a great mass of readers and writers doing what they enjoy doing. That, then, was my public, if that makes sense.

M. Kitchell

my answer to this question:  master the dark arts. channel your energy, karma is not the future, but it’s the present.  learn to master time and space.  give away your shit for free to everyone ever.  walk down the street shouting your stories through a megaphone.  buy a field and spray paint the words onto the ground so your works can be read from airplanes.  learn to fly or become a celebrity and then everyone will want to read your words.  win the lottery.

Alec Niedenthal

Yeah, I was going to say: start a progressive rock band and use your stories/poems as lyrics. And I was going to say that because I think, unfortunately, there’s not much of an answer to this question besides the old three-step: publish book, get book reviewed, write another.

Alexis Orgera

Preface: I’m impatient. Shortly after my first book of poems came out (6 months ago), I thought, hey it’s in the world, why isn’t anyone reading it?  Then my dear friend said to me one day when I was complaining to him, “Hey. You have a book published. That’s more than many people can say.” And then the kicker. He said, “Just go write another one.” I’ve always hated the business end of writing. I like to write, to fashion poems into manuscripts, to have snippets tacked to my walls. Until recently, I hated sending shit out. But you have to make a decision. Write a shit-ton and keep it to yourself OR write a shit-ton and send it out. That’s all I figure you can do.

Brooks Sterritt
I think the best way might be to commit a crime then publicize it, thereby becoming “notorious.”

Roxane Gay
The best thing to do is to just keep writing and getting your work out in the world. As everyone here has said, what matters most is the writing. If you love it, you’re going to do it whether you have one reader or a hundred thousand readers. That said, I understand what you’re asking: How do I get noticed more as a writer? There’s no magic answer. Readers have a wealth of writing to choose from. There world is full of writers and a great many of them are quite talented. The only thing you really can do is write the best, truest work you’re capable of writing and then put that writing into places where it can be read. Going guerilla and printing booklets is great and like Mike said, something I could probably never do. Also target your work at publications that are well regarded and well read. Write the kind of things that will get accepted by those publications. Write a book and then another one and then another one. You might consider participating in some kind of group blog or finding other ways to participate in the literary community. Attend readings, read the work of others, share good news about the work of others. That’s not about getting readership but when you start to focus solely on yourself, you lose sight of the fact that it can be good to give as much as you receive. If you’re not into that, of course, no problem, but writing is lonely and I find that when I’m worrying about “readership,” it’s time for me to look outside of myself and embrace the awesome literary community I’m a part of. More than anything, though, take your time. Be patient. It is, in many ways, too easy to get published, too easy to put lesser work into the world. No one wants to read lesser work so take your time and write things that matter (to you) and eventually, the readership will come. If it doesn’t, you will always have the work.