Don’t Let the Booker Get You Down – The Artist’s Task

I know a number of writers, me included, who find the idea of having to market one’s self or one’s work thoroughly depressing, and for the most part, totally ineffective. Amazon, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads Giveaways, Blog Tours (thankfully I’ve never done one of those) and who are we talking to? Mostly we are talking to ourselves. Or I suspect to other writer’s in similar postions.

If we’re not published by the mainstream it’s hard to get our work out there and hard to find readers. (Although when we do, on that rare occasion, find readers or reviewers who offer their unsolicited praise this is as a gift from heaven!)

We feel we’ve failed because we’re not the name on everyone’s lips and we haven’t made the shortlist for a big prize. We allow ourselves to be judged by a publishing world that has little intellectual, or material, investment in writers. We doubt ourselves. And worst of all we forget that the joy is, and must always be, in the work itself.

Amit Chaudhuri in his Guardian article, Why The Booker Prize is Bad For Writers    argues – ‘The meaning of a writer’s work must be created, and argued for, by writers themselves, and not by some extraneous source of endorsement…Virginia Woolf didn’t wake up in the morning and think, “I wonder if Mrs Dalloway will be longlisted for the Booker?”’ (I love this reference to Virginia Woolf. It’s going up on my wall!)

I read Chaudhuri’s article this morning at coffee time. I read it with great relish and I recommend it. We need writers like Chaudhuri to remind us what it’s all about, and to give us permission to carry on. Permission to reclaim ourselves and our work.

And in case you’re in need of further reminding and consoling as to the true work of the writer here is an unmissable piece by Mary Oliver, on – The Artist’s Task


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash




1 Comment

  1. This needs to be said. Thank you, Avril, and Amit Chaudhuri. I’m responding here as a published writer and as the director of Linen Press, the only independent women’s press in the UK. The book trade has changed beyond recognition in the ten years I’ve been doing the job. Then, before the flood, I walked into mainstream and indie book shops with my books and they were taken or rejected on their merit by a knowledgeable salesperson who knew her clientele. Now the doors are barred and no-one even answers my emails.

    My authors have had to morph into PR people and saleswomen, pushing and selling their books like any other commodity. For authors who are private, solitary people, this selling of themselves to attract attention is depressing and even repugnant, yet we are told this is what we must do. Get over it! ‘Exposure is the only way to get the word out. It isn’t enough to write a great book if no one knows that it exists. You don’t want your book to be that tree in the forest when it falls, and no one hears it.’
    So we drown in a deluge of self-promoting blogs and websites that dilute the good with the mediocre and poor. We post on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest when we’d love to save our energy and creativity to write.

    And does any of this work? My authors have won awards, built beautiful websites and blogged regularly, intelligently and creatively but their efforts don’t translate into copies sold. Only the most advertised, hyped and financially backed publications float to the top of the book mountain and into Waterstones. Marketing money, loads of it, opens doors.

    Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, there are self-published authors who have succeeded. Yes, there are a few indie presses who have found gold by being listed for the Booker. But how many good books does that leave making baby steps to nowhere?

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