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Sassetta AKA Stefano di Giovanni: The Agony in the Garden (1437-1444)

"This Fourth Station ain't worth my tarrying over."

And so we come to the Fourth Station of the Authoring Cross, Promotion. I have nothing authoritative to say about Promotion, for I have never mastered it. The real underlying reason I began this enquiry into Authoring had everything to do with Promotion, and, specifically, SelfPromotion, which I've long recognized as my Achilles Heel, as I explained in my earlier Reconsidering series. For someone with a degree in Marketing, I seem a particularly inept marketer. I shudder whenever I'm called to say a few supportive words about my work and either feel as though I'm bragging or underplaying, often both. I had hoped that a more focused considering of Authoring might enable me to find a more comfortable frame within which to place this Fourth Station and its many expectations, but as I watch the calendar moving toward the expected ending of this endeavor, I realize that I'm no closer to feeling any more comfortable with promoting my work than I ever was. I feel as though I've played this game to stymie again after specifically re-engaging again to learn how to play around or beyond stymie. I feel about ready to accept that I actually am me, and that the earlier instances of myself which I thought were perhaps just underdeveloped manifestations might have been instead finished pieces and I've been in denial for decades. This result does not surprise me.

I've been shopping the usual marketplaces.
I seem to have been through all of them so many times before. The offered workshops familiar, the material, identical. It seems as though there never was anything new under the promotional sun. It seems so moribund, ridden with paradoxical All Ya Gotta Dos. "Just give the customer what he wants," they say, to which I reply, "But I have no customer, not yet." Abstract mention of target customers start then, as if I was supposed to have imagined the sort of person who would be interested in reading what I created. This idea amounts to delusional thinking. Once one starts reading potential customers' minds, there's no end to what one might swallow or how much one might spend to achieve even the most imaginal end. I've left every marketing workshop with a knapsack filled with the same injunctions I know for certain I'll never follow because they seem hollow and utterly impossible to follow. One of my colleagues swears by her strategy of queuing up a week's worth of Tweets every Sunday evening so that a fresh one posts precisely during her followers' most persuadable moment in their schedules. That just seems conniving.

My strategies for promoting my works have almost always not worked. None of The Muse and my clever Guerrilla Marketing tactics ever resulted in attracting a single customer. Word of mouth worked. Nothing else ever did. A publisher worth her salt will expect her authors to have a strategy for promoting their work, and one not based upon the expectation that promotion must be the publisher's sole responsibility. Many Authors give keynote speeches, using their book as a calling card. Some manage to secure bulk sales, the golden calf of book promotion, as a result. Keynote Speaker-Authors make the bulk of their income from speaking, just like workshop purveyor-Authors live off the proceeds of their workshops, and consultant-Authors' consulting clients support their writing habit. None of them are 'just' Authors. Authoring itself works as their Promotion for their real profession. They've got day gigs! What in the Hell am I selling?

Now I feel stripped bare and on display. What am I selling? I ain't selling nuthin'! It's my ethical position that I decline to tell anybody what they should do, and that goes double if I intend to tell them for their own good. I likewise consider charging for my meager services an ethical violation, since I have no way to determine the value of whatever I might impart. Mine's not a .com operation. I hail from the generation that insisted that we are community, that we should be sharing rather than plotting how to charge each other for everything. I write for the joy of writing and sometimes for the self-inflicted agony of it. I am not a psychological experiment. I am not a product. My manuscript was never intended to change anyone's life but mine. I do not possess the secrets to anything. I hold precisely the same mysteries you hold, perhaps a tad bit clumsier than you hold yours. This Fourth Station of the Authoring Cross always reminds me that my work's not a commodity and not a business and not just some product to be promoted. I get stuck at this station because it seems as though it's alien territory. It's just as if I do not belong here.

Will I understand after this time through The Stations? Will I remember why I came here? Will I somehow manage to Author a story that manages to sidestep the stymie that usually confounds me? The Fourth Station of the Authoring Cross reminds me that I need to be Authoring more than my manuscripts, but also and perhaps more prominently, my experience. I might confide to myself that leading a horse to water won't make him drink, that expecting myself to engage in Promotion will not ever produce a damned thing except frustration, embarrassment, and humiliation. I don't play the piccolo, either. I might one day—how about today?—just get over this feature and forever after refuse to consider it a flaw. I have not a damned thing to get over other than my own presumptions. My degree in Marketing notwithstanding, the question for me to answer was never how to engage in Promotion as an Author, but how to Author without Promotion. This Fourth Station ain't worth my tarrying over. I've got real work to finish.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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