After the Call

By: Dennis Bates

I wonder if Edgar Allen Poe had to take time out from his writing to market his short stories and poems. How about Dickens? Did he write “A Christmas Carol” after a frustrating day at the book stores?

Marketing is the bane of every author’s existence. If you are self published, like I am, it’s just one more thing you hadn’t counted on when you decided to write, and it’s almost enough to make a person want to find an agent. Almost. These days you have to market to even find one of those.

Perhaps when you’re younger, the one-sheet synopses, one line pitches, and the begging for agents to represent you and editor’s to understand you is tolerable. Maybe when you are younger and more pliable as an author, you more willing to allow your diamond studded stories to  be translated into costume jewelry so they have a larger market, or any market at all, for that matter.

But when you get older most of us are unwilling to change our unique and fresh stories (written with tongue firmly in cheek) into the kind of formula that sells thousands of copies. And let’s face it, that’s the kind of author an agent wants to represent. You can’t really blame them for that, by the way; that’s how they make a living. If you don’t make money, neither do they.

In spite of what I know to be true economically there is this fatal flaw inside people like me that leads us down a much more complicated path humming what we convince ourselves is a simpler song. Stubborn. I think that’s what you call people like me, among other things even less flattering. And as my mother used to say, sometimes I’m just too stubborn for my own good. I’ve known that about myself for a long time. I just don’t seem to be able to do anything about it.

 “If you build it they will come,” makes a good line for a movie, but even here in Iowa where the movie was filmed, most of us know better. Once you build it, you have to sell it, and that means to some degree that you have to build something someone actually wants to buy.

Of course, if you not concerned about selling what you build, that’s another matter. If you want to build one “Field of Dreams” after another merely to say you can, then go for it. It will keep you occupied and maybe even inspire a person or two, but don’t be surprised if that field turns back into a cornfield a few years down the line, or worse yet, a weed patch.

That’s what happens when fertile soil is left unattended.  It’s also what happens to our writing if we leave it unattended by not marketing it. I know that many of us believe that we have been called by God to write, and I believe we have been. My only question is are we going to market what we’ve been called to do, or are we going to move from one field to another leaving nothing but a fertile field for the weeds to come in behind us?

Receiving God’s call is life changing. Responding to His call is exciting and exhilarating. Marketing what He gives us so it doesn’t revert back to a patch of weeds is hard. That doesn’t mean we should ignore it.

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