Field of Dreams Syndrome
If you build it, he will come.
Not everyone has watched the movie, but most people have heard the line.
We writers, by and large, are a sedentary, solitary lot. Sitting, hunched over our keyboard, learning and spending time with characters we’ve worked for months or years to create is our idea of a fun time. We laugh, we cry, we love these stories we create — of course, everyone else will love them too! Once we click “publish” the virtual headlights will shine for miles and miles from cars (computers) filled with people who just want to experience the world we’ve created. They’ll gladly hand over their hard-earned money just to read our words on their screens.
This is the Field of Dreams Syndrome.
I was fully infected myself when I hit “publish” in 2010. I’d read about the success stories. How hard could it be? I thought. The writing, the completion of the book — that’s the difficult part, right? Of course it is. How many people actually finish writing a book? Oh, sure, everyone thinks they can, but how many actually do? I’m a one-percenter! All I have to sell is ten or twenty books a day. There are hundreds of millions of people out there. Surely ten or twenty of them will buy my book each day.
I tapped my fingers on the desk, waiting patiently for that first sale. Sure, it might take a few minutes, maybe an hour. After all, the book has to propagate through the system before it shows up on every computer screen in the world. Any second now …
Three days later, my patience had worn thin. How long was this going to take? I had spent months writing the thing! The least people could do is acknowledge all that hard work and buy the damn book. Then, after hitting “refresh” for the thousandth time on my sales report, there it was: my first sale! Yes! Finally! Now things will start rolling.
I grabbed the phone and dialed my mother. “Hey, Mom, great news! I got my first sale!”
“That’s wonderful, Dear! I just got online a few minutes ago and bought one, too. Now you’ll have two sales!”
My heart sank. “Um, yeah, that’s great. Thanks, Mom.” I hung up, knowing full well that my first sale would likely be my only sale.
Any of that sound familiar to you? I feel your pain. I, like many other writers out there, was incredibly naive and thought, if I write it, they will come. Do your research, understand your genre, your audience, what makes a great story. Get involved with a writing community, either online or in your home town. Share experiences. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your writing or your marketing.*
Above all, remember one thing: if you love writing, then you’re in this for the long haul. Once you type, “The End,” follow it up with the next, “Chapter One”.
Is this heaven? No, it’s the life of a writer.
But there are times when it can feel like heaven.
*Edit: Check the comments below for some of the things I’ve done as examples of this.