If you’re a longtime reader (or listener) of mine, you know 2020 was a year of reckoning, identity-wise. Who did I want to be as a writer? Who did I want to be as, you know, a regular old person?
As one might have expected, when the clock struck midnight on the morning of January 1st, 2021, no curtain parted. No pedestal was revealed with some long-concealed answer tucked tidily away in an envelope atop it. The process, as they say, is ongoing, both personally and professionally.
But I like to think we’re trending in the right direction.
Seeking Out Your People
With the release of And Ampersand inching ever closer, I set out in search of readers. I did not, as was the case while promoting past fiction, permit myself the delusion that because it existed, it would be read. I did not succumb to the notion that because I have friends and family who care about me, they would automatically read my book, review it, and recommend it to others.
Instead, I sought out readers of contemporary fiction, specifically those who enjoy work written with what I hope I can say is a voice that aspires to something approximating literary.
This was—and still is—a daunting process, but it’s one I’m so glad to be undertaking, because, at long last, I might be finding my people.
No Risk, No Reward
I took to Facebook and Goodreads in search of groups with an interest in fiction like And Ampersand. I combed their forums, commented where appropriate, and did more than beg for eyes on my work (though I’ll admit I did my fair share of that, too).
Days passed. A week, maybe. In the end, maybe half a dozen new-to-me readers reached out and asked for advance reader copies of And Ampersand.
And though this is exactly what I wanted, I’ll admit I paled at the thought of actually turning over my work. Some of these prospective reviewers had not been especially chockfull of praise for work not all that dissimilar to my own, but deep down, I knew this was a risk I had to take.
So, I surrendered ARCs of And Ampersand, and I’m so glad I did.
They Want to Read Your Work
Consider this excerpt of a review from a reader I first met through a Facebook group for authors and readers of literary fiction.
Hemingway. de Lillo. Surely this is some cruel joke, right?
But as another review rolled in, one from someone who asked for an advance reader copy on Goodreads, I started to suspect this wasn’t a fluke.
Look, at first I didn’t know what was happening either, but then it clicked.
These are my readers. These are my people. This is where I can make my literary roost.
And lest you think I’m sharing this praise merely to not-so-slyly pat myself on the back, know this—
That’s exactly what I’m doing.
But more important than any one (or two) positive reviews is the idea of resonance, something I feel can only be achieved when both writer and reader are in perfect harmony.
And what do we have here if not pristine fifths and regal-sounding sixths?
The Key: Found Family
I’ve been deliberate in using active verbs when it comes to describing how to reach one’s ideal readers. It’s called found family, after all, not whoa, hey, I don’t really care for people barging into my office, but you seem cool, so maybe you can stay a while family.
Both for you and for me, it’s going to take work to find, to grow these families. It’s going to take time. It will take all the patience we can muster and more, but it can happen.
It’s already happening, in fact—or at least it is if you’re willing to put in the work.
And Ampersand: Short Stories on Endings and Beginnings (of a Sort) is available March 8th, 2021.