Is My Work Worth the Work?
Writing is work. So, of course, is marketing.
I don’t limit the concept of marketing to agents and publishers and glossy magazine pitches. Marketing your work also includes the delicate balancing act between gaining an audience for a piece on your blog or other platforms and spamming the life out of social media by linking to your work every fifteen minutes. (I’ve seen people do it, and so have you.)
Even a perfect balance of give and take, or a well researched properly addressed pitch require mental, even emotional energy. Some require more of it than others. I especially need a great deal of energy and lead up time for most marketing actions, given my particular personality.
So it’s not only natural but wise for people like myself, (as you might be) to allocate our energies wisely.
Sometimes the decision comes easy. I finish a piece I have been longing to write, and realize by the end of the first draft that I either have less passion for the idea than I initially thought I had, the words aren’t “clicking” (you know what I mean, I know you do) or some other issue that makes us set the piece aside without further work. It’s almost always still worth writing, because of the practice I gained, or the expansion of my viewpoint and overall attitude toward my work in general. But, other people probably don’t need to see it after all.
In the above case, no marketing energy needed. In fact little to no revision energy needed.
Then there are the finished pieces that I’ve revised, polished, double checked. They are, for all intents and purposes, complete, ready for prime time. Yet there is still a question to ask myself; is this piece marketable? Perhaps the broader and better way to form the question is, does this piece have an audience?
It can be hard to make this determination. I won’t pretend to have the answers, or even all the questions you should ask to determine this about your work. And it goes without saying that even if you decide the piece has an audience, that it can serve others, you may fail, despite your best efforts, to attract that audience to your piece. Finishing, talking it up, social media posting, offering the link in conversations online. And that’s just for your own self-published stuff.
If you hope to have your work featured in a well known publication, or want an agent say to represent your book in hopes of getting it traditionally published, there is research, pitch-writing, waiting, more waiting, direct rejection, more, waiting. I repeat myself, but that’s a lot of energy to put forth for what is, at best, a lottery at times.
You may love the piece you wrote. You may have felt a strong need to get it down, to edit it, to polish it to a showroom shine. You may feel better about yourself as a person and a writer once you have done so. And yet you still may conclude that your energies are better spent elsewhere. This time you may have produced art for art’s sake alone. You may pop it onto your site, or Medium and some other platform, and throw up a flair here and there about it. You could get lucky after all. But in the end, it’s not the best use of your energy.
Then of course, there are times when you write something, polish it, polish it again, go over it, share it with a few beta readers, sit on it, ponder it some more and come to one inescapable conclusion; you love the piece and feel it can greatly serve an audience. You will pour your efforts and energies and thoughts into pitching it everywhere, (or advertising it everywhere yourself) until it has attained the status you want. You either never stop until you make it, or you spend far more time trying than you do on most of your pieces.
Even then, after a while you may have to begin to consider if this belongs in the art for art’s sake folder if you get no bites.
It’s damn hard to write well, damn hard to market effectively, and damn hard to make the decision whether or not you want to market something at all. It’s not a decision I ever make easily. I am proud of all of my public work; I don’t allow it to become public, with my name attached, unless I have some pride in it. But I’ve lost more than an hour of sleep at times trying to decipher which of my “solid” pieces are worthy of the energy of standard marketing, and which are best left as semi-private personal testament to my passion and discipline.
What is one to do when faced with such challenging determinations? I admit I don’t know. But I do know, whichever category a given piece ends up in, it wouldn’t have even gotten that far if I had never written it.
I am bone weary at times, but I must keep writing something, damn it.
So do you.