This post was originally written and posted August 6th, 2014, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.
Still off the grid in Alaska. This post has been uploaded ahead of time.
Let us imagine, for a moment, that we live in a different universe. This universe isn’t very different—in fact it’s shockingly similar. But there are a few key differences. Tiny ones, but tiny ones that lead to some interesting changes.
The key difference is that in this universe more authors listen to a particular bit of “advice” that gets handed out quite often. Let’s take a look and see what happens by following the life of a woman named Naomi.
Naomi is a writer. She’s written several manuscripts for a series over the years, but has been turned down by publishers for each one of them. She continues to write. One night she is at a party with her husband, and they happen to meet Stephen King.
Ah! A fellow—if famous—writer! The perfect opportunity to talk shop and share stories! Maybe even mention her own work. Except as Naomi thinks about it, she realizes that she shouldn’t bring up her own writing. After all, as people are so inclined to often tell her, “a writer shouldn’t promote their own work.” Disappointed but deciding that those people are right, Naomi stays quiet.
As a result, in this universe Stephen King never reads her manuscripts nor takes them to his editor. They are never published, and never go on to win numerous awards. They never sell hundreds of thousands of copies. They are never mentioned in Entertainment Weekly. Naomi Novik does not go on to write many more novels of historical fantasy and become an international success.
All because she listened to one of the most common bits of advice I hear being given to new authors: that an author shouldn’t promote his or her own work.