Thursday, May 6, 2021

A Twelve-Step Program for Writers • Part 6



In 1997, in a few minutes of whimsy, I knocked off twelve lines of highly concentrated and somewhat snarky advice for writers seeking to develop or repair their writing careers. To my surprise these words of wisdom remain available on the SFWA web site. To my even greater surprise Guy Stewart has taken the time and trouble to explicate them in depth. Herewith, Guy’s Commentaries.

—Bruce Bethke

The sixth step:

We are entirely ready to let someone else take the blame for the way our last book tanked.

As I only HAVE one book, I can’t exactly address this. My ONLY book is still being sold even though (as I talked about earlier), the contract I signed was essentially a work-for-hire and they continue to print copies (it’s ranked #1,775,076 today!) and sell it. So I can’t actually say it tanked…it’s just that I signed a stupid deal and have absolutely no one to blame but myself. I stopped promoting the book ages ago because I have little desire to lend my name to a poor deal I made when I was young.

So then, I’ll move on to the present. I have a science fiction manuscript that made it out of the slush pile at BAEN BOOKS. My agent is confident that VICTORY OF FISTS will sell somewhere. (It never did…) I had a short, kids’ science fiction story in the January issue of CRICKET MAGAZINE, and have had several more as well as appearing a half-dozen times in ANALOG Science Fiction & Fact. So what’s up now?

I’m looking at my platform whilst reading the book CREATING YOUR WRITER’S PLATFORM ( in which Chuck Sambuchino forces me to ask the question: “What is my visibility as an author?”

That’s what a platform is.

It’s relation to the sixth step of the Twelve Step Program should be obvious, but if it’s not, it goes something like this: If you’re invisible as an author, then your book will tank.

Apparently, the halcyon days of book promotion tours on the publisher’s penny are gone forever. In fact, as far as doing tours at all, there are fewer and fewer places that a flesh and blood writer can go to. If there’s nowhere for a writer to go, then how do we let people know that we’ve written a book?

One way, I suppose would be to talk to all the people you see, but as a writer sees few people in a day, that’s sort of a moot point. How about the people you email, text, FB or otherwise interact with in cyberspace? How many of you have been to a webinar? (Scary fact: the dictionary program of Word RECOGNIZES THE WORD WEBINAR AS A REAL WORD AND IT IS ALREADY A PART OF THE STANDARD DICTIONARY!) How many of you even knew what a webinar was in 1990? (According to the online dictionary, the word is a portmanteau of “webcast seminar” and was coined in the early 90s.)) How many of you have led a webinar? (I can now say that I have – several times.)

With the birth of the cyber platform comes the necessity of having some sort of online presence. That of course, has created an industry dedicated to creating a class of cyber etiquette for authors. How many times can I mention my writing before my friends and online contact begin to block me—or worse yet, start to mark my FaceBook posts and emails as SPAM or junk?

So, in this cyber world, is Bruce’s Sixth Step even a valid statement anymore, because the only answer possible is that I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN PROMOTE ME!


Guy Stewart is a husband supporting his wife who is a multi-year breast cancer survivor; a father, father-in-law, grandfather, foster father, friend, writer, and recently retired teacher and school counselor who maintains a writing blog by the name of POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS ( where he showcases his opinion and offers his writing up for comment. He has 72 stories, articles, reviews, and one musical script to his credit, and the list still includes one book! He also maintains GUY'S GOTTA TALK ABOUT BREAST CANCER & ALZHEIMER'S, where he shares his thoughts and translates research papers into everyday language. In his spare time, he herds cats and a rescued dog, helps keep a house, and loves to bike, walk, and camp.


NEXT TUESDAY: Step 7, We humbly hope our new publisher will not find out what we said about our last publisher.