In my twenties, I used to belong to a forum called Tolkien Online. This was when the Peter Jackson LOTR movies were going strong. I had read LOTR twice while in college and became a total fangirl. My love for fantasy literature had been rekindled (see my life’s story for more on that).
I loved Tolkien Online. There were vibrant discussions of LOTR movies, intelligent discussions of Tolkien’s books, threads for debates about religion and philosophy, even a thread dedicated to reciting Grateful Dead lyrics. I spent incredible amounts of time on Tolkien Online.
But then college ended, I got more enmeshed in the Classic Movie Blogosphere (not sure if that’s a proper noun or not, but it feels like it should be), and I fell out of the habit of posting to message boards.
Eventually, real adulthood happened (aka, my 30s), and I fell out of the habit of posting comments on my favorite movie blogs too. Basically, I didn’t have time to read a hundred comments a day and write something witty in response to them. I had a job. I had a family. I sorta, kinda, completely stopped being an active online presence in other people’s playgrounds. (I never gave up blogging, though. That would be absurd.)
But now that I’m getting ready to publish my first book, I feel like I have to drum up some interest for the book on the interwebz. I have to “find my readers” and “gain an audience” and “market,” and I don’t want to be sleazy about it, I don’t want to just pop into some comments section and blab randomly about my book, or post annoying “Look at me!” posts on a forum where I’m a total noob. I want to make myself part of the community. I want to show that I’m not just a saleslady for my product. I want to be genuine.
So I joined two fantasy literature forums (I won’t say which ones). I didn’t post right away. I spent time reading the different threads and getting to know the lay of the land. And every time I came close to posting something, every time I thought that maybe I’d found the place where I wanted to jump in… I didn’t. I’d hit “reply” and get ready to type. And then… nothing.
I started beating myself up about it: You’ve got to get going! Your book is coming out in June! Establish relationships, build an audience! Make yourself part of these online communities! What are you waiting for? Just do it!
And yet, despite my self-badgerings, I still couldn’t do it.
I’m not in my twenties anymore. I’m not the message board gal I used to be.
It’s not where my head is.
It’s not where my voice is.
It’s not that I think message boards suck or anything. For many people, they are still awesome ways to connect.
But they’re just not for me. I can’t explain why, but I just don’t have anything to add to the conversations on these forums.
My blog is enough. I can ramble into the abyss all I want here.
My books are enough. I can express myself and communicate my ideas through them.
I don’t feel the need to be a commenter. I don’t have the drive to belong to a forum.
And I know this is a liability. I know that for a completely unknown author who doesn’t even have anyone reading her blog, I need to get my name out there. And yet… I’m not feeling it.
I’m more than ready to keyword-ninja my way through the Amazon algorithms, and I’m more than ready to pay for advertising. I’m doing Tim Grahl’s pre-launch strategies as best I can. But I don’t think I can be a full-time forum poster. I don’t think I can start reading a dozen blogs again just so I can get my “name” known in the comments.
If this means career suicide, I guess I’m fine with putting my head in the oven.
And the reason is that even if I did force myself to comment and post on different forums, my heart wouldn’t be in it. I’d be faking. I’d be as disingenuous as the sleaze-oids who post about their books on Twitter every five seconds. If I’m gonna go on Twitter, it’s gonna be so I can retweet awesome pictures of old movie stars. It’s not gonna be to hock my books.
Maybe I’ll do more on GoodReads. That feels more like “me.” If nothing else, I’ll try reviewing some books on there (which I’ve been meaning to do since forever).
But whatever I may do in my as-of-yet-non-existent career in self-publishing, I don’t want to be untrue to myself. I can’t fake things.
And if that means I’ll be bad at marketing, so be it.
Maybe I’ll find another way.