No One’s Reading My Book How I keep going while no one seems to notice

No one's reading my book - Bookshelf - Pyragraph

That one, on the left.

Since the first royal courts, artists have traded expression for survival. (Non-civilized cultures, because they’re wiser than us, don’t have this dichotomy.) I decided about 10 years ago that I didn’t want to stake my welfare on my poems.

Paradoxically, that’s probably responsible for both my depression and notable absence of ulcers. I’ll work harder and longer, and have higher hopes for my novel than any other project, but I’m not starving along the way.

The Novel

I’ve been working on The Dredge Cycle since 2006. (Tagline: “What if the world ended when you were a kid, and no one noticed?”) First what kept me going was pure inspired adrenaline. Then came the verve of collaboration. I sent a section to semi-blind readers for review, to good responses. (Maybe because no one wanted to talk any shit.) Through it all, one modest goal underlay my ego: These ideas are important. Let’s discuss them.

My confidence grew. By 2010, I was sure this book would enjoy such underground success I’d have to practice soundbites for my Democracy Now! interview. By a year ago, I was tired of talking about a book no one could read. So I decided to put my novel, in progress, on the internet. I waited for high-fives; yawns; demands for clarification and new chapters; maybe even a church scandal, once the Powers got hip to me.

No, none of that.

It’s not just bad luck. I’m pretty focused on being a poet-novelist, not an industrial self-promotion machine. I haven’t done my marketing due diligence.

I have blogged about it since 2006, emailed friends and family, printed stickers, talked it up at bars and parties. The staff at my coffee shop of choice knows what’s happening under my crinkled forehead on weekend afternoons. I don’t frown on anyone’s high volume/slow reading schedules.

The fact remains: No one is reading my book.

I’m not being paranoid. I just check my webstats. The fact that no one is reading could mean a few things. Let’s consider them in two categories: Things I can control for, and those I can’t.

I can control for:

  • The design of the site. Easy to navigate? Am I losing traffic?
  • SEO. I probably need professional help.
  • Draw. How am I luring readers?
  • On-site marketing.
  • Off-site marketing. Where should I focus my extremely meager budget?

I can’t control for:

  • Appeal. Are the themes/narrative actually…not very compelling? Too esoteric?
  • Word of mouth. Readers will talk about it, or they won’t.
  • The internet is, like, really big. Staking a website is basically like putting a sign in front of my house.

I’ll tell you a secret: All of these absolutely terrify me.

It’s scary as hell to be a solitary, broke artist, trying to scrape up and implement marketing basics. It’s scary as hell to conclude that, even if I do everything right, this book might fail even my most modest goals. I hold this fear tightly in my body.

So I keep two articles of faith.

First (some days second), I’m young. This book is evolving. We both have plenty of time to emerge more fully.

Second (some days first), writing this book makes me happy. Simple. The deeper, the stranger, the tighter, the more coherent, the more satisfying.

Here’s how they cycle: I gestate, grow, understand (everything) better. I post changes on the website (they’re marked in each table of contents). I daydream that everyone reading now is reading a better book—first timers and returners. I’m on cloud nine…until the views don’t nudge any. Depression folds in, I get anxious. I remind myself that I’m young, and this makes me happy; depression lifts, my little ulcer disappears. I go through this every few months.

Because under my ego-dreams…I really just want a small, human connection. When someone demands the next section, I relax. It’s working.

And you know? After a month of excellent advice from designers, palmists, painters and rodeo clowns, I think fear is my validator. Why ask the gods if you’re sure of what they’ll say?

If no one’s reading my book today, that’s okay. Because I am. Merciful as she is pernicious, my muse is giving me a book I love to read. By her light, I just can’t stop.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

No one is reading my book - Major events timeline - Pyragraph
Adam Rubinstein

About Adam Rubinstein

Adam can be credited a birthfather, writer and designer, terrible dancer, vegetarian, sustainability enthusiast, lover of chile, travel, drone music, and campy horror movies. He’s writing a book about the end of the world, which happened in his hometown, roughly 50 years ago, and again, roughly 100 years before that. You can read it as it evolves at its very own website.

14 Comments

  1. Elene on October 25, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    OK, you got me interested, and I went to your site and read some of it!

  2. Eva Avenue Eva Avenue on October 28, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Woot woot!

  3. G_times on October 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Hi, looked at prologue – if the narrator wound up in traction, why later “the girl who jumped without a scratch”?
    Back to this tho: SEO can be self-done & rumor has it is not as key as previously thought; for offsite marketing have u tried fundraisers like Tshirts, bumperstickers etc all with a hook line? Wear one yourself.
    The positives are: I like the water breakdown for chapters in the time line; the subjective is: lost interest at the prologue. Sorry. First impression, need continuity that works, knowing why isn’t a strong hook. Needs to be tighter, but then that’s me. Re-writing is good, finding an editor is good too.
    Can’t help thinking how so many of us self-motivated peeps believe in our stuff but need to expose it to writing peers & contextualise it too. Can you ask a creative writing group at a Uni or College to workshop it for you? (it helps not to wear out your friends)

    • Adam Rubinstein Adam Rubinstein on October 30, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Thanks, @Elene & @Eva! And sorry, all, for the delay; I’ve been out of town.

      And big thanks, @G_times. I can clarify some of the shifts between speakers; right now they’re color-coded, but I can go further. I can definitely ratchet up the hooks, too. My last editor died a few years ago—shortly thereafter a lot of life happened, and I haven’t looked to hard to replace her.

      I’ve tried stickers and cards, broadsides, touring, and printed some versions of the book, but I live pretty hand-to-mouth, so it’s hard for me to invest in print at the moment.

      Those are great ideas and I’ll definitely fold them into practice.

      • G_times on October 30, 2013 at 7:45 pm

        Thanks Adam – it’s not easy I know by experience – but I’m journo editorial trained & I write – good at finding “plot holes” for instance – so if you want my kind of feedback/ copy editing etc, I’m happy to give it (up to a point of course) for free.

        I have some tiny marketing tips starting with the T-shirt – if vistaprint is beyond the budget, next time you have $10, a trip to KMart & a permanent sharpie pen (black or red) will get you the means to buy a very cheap t-shirt & write on it yourself. Next time someone admires it, say “$10 & it’s yours!” Number them & remind them it’s limited edition collectible & a new one will come out soon after they invest – okay?

        That should happen at the next reading you negotiate at the local pub or cafe.

        Next time you have $50 there’s a writer in the Blue Mountains that checks a certain amount of work & gives feedback within limits – or, of course, there’s me when you’re financial.

        Really do wish you well for your determination & glad you took my feedback in the spirit given.

        • Adam Rubinstein Adam Rubinstein on October 31, 2013 at 9:00 am

          I’ll certainly take whatever feedback you’re willing to read for, G_times, to a point. And I understand that point—I edit for a living, too; I’m Pyragraph’s Managing Editor. :)

          I think a lot of my uphill-ness comes from how this project started, and what it’s become (which I’ve blogged about for years): It started as a book of poems. The means of hooking a reader with a book of poems is vastly different than with a novel. I’d hardly written narrative before when, before my eyes, that’s what the book was doing (and demanding). So I have lots to tackle. Thanks again for adjusting my eye!

          • G_times on November 1, 2013 at 3:53 am

            “I edit for a living, too; I’m Pyragraph’s Managing Editor.” You do? You are? then my objectivity is here for you.
            Your work’s starting to sound like Leaves of Grass :)



          • Adam Rubinstein Adam Rubinstein on November 1, 2013 at 9:31 am

            Double thanks, G. So sweet of you to say!



  4. Peri Pakroo on November 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Great piece Adam. I have a feeling part of the low readership has to do with framing. As in, when you call it a novel or a novel-in-progress maybe folks just subconsciously think, “I’ll just wait till it’s done. *Then* I’ll read it.” There’s somehow less urgency or immediacy.

    I think also of how book launches are done, and how the goal is to build excitement and anticipation for the finished product. I don’t mean to say that’s the only or the most effective way to launch a book, but being the standard method there must be something to it.

    I guess what occurs to me is that maybe your experience suggests that readers are simply less interested in the in-progress version. Which doesn’t (to me, anyway) necessarily mean they wouldn’t be interested in the novel when it’s done. (Or “done.”)

    • G_times on November 2, 2013 at 7:51 pm

      good point! btw, does each section have even a subtle cliff-hanger? keeping peeps guess is a proven connector of reader to writing – especially when you give a reading at yr kindly cafe.

      • Adam Rubinstein Adam Rubinstein on November 3, 2013 at 11:12 am

        Thanks for all that, Peri! All good, and calming, points.

        G, each section has a cliffhanger, but not each chapter. Some do, but the whole first section (Freshwater Dredge) is in the voice of a speaker who lives out of chronological order. It’s on my list to give his section a compelling narrative backbone (based on a race-riot that was always threatening to percolate at the high school).

        This conversation is helping me start to identify how much of the book I want to keep as poems, which are bound by theme, rather than event. (Far from all of it.) I’ve really been pushing it toward novel-ness, and much of its soul remains a book of poems. Clearly the trick’s gonna be finding a functional balance.

      • Adam Rubinstein Adam Rubinstein on November 6, 2013 at 3:22 pm

        Hi again G,

        I’ve been swept up in work and unable to type anything in (I write on a typewriter on weekends), but I wanted you to know I rewrote the Prologue last weekend, on your suggestion. I’ll get it up sooner than later, hoping. Thanks again for your critical eye, and response.

        • G_times on November 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm

          You’re so industrious!

          • Adam Rubinstein Adam Rubinstein on November 6, 2013 at 4:33 pm

            Kind muse, and riding a good wave. :)



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