“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” Oprah Winfrey has nailed it. Besides it’s being true in general, it is like this specifically for indie authors and their friends.
To be honest, dear Diary – and with you, I’m always sincere – I’d thought that it’s different for others. When I asked the question about friends not reading fellow authors’ books, I didn’t expect to find out that it’s such a common issue. But it turned out that only a few indie authors have friends who support them by reading their books. Of course, those are only the authors who answered my tweet, but since there were almost 400 answers, it’s something to be considered.
If we rephrase Oprah Winfrey’s quote, adjusting it to indie authors, it would sound something like – while you want your friends to support you taking that bus ride with you, the only thing they seem to be interested in is when they’ll get a chance to ride with you in the limo. By the bus ride I mean – zero book sales, reviews that are so difficult to get, the constant struggle with labyrinths of promotion techniques, precarious balancing while communicating on social media, always risking to be too annoying talking about your books. One would think that it’s not that difficult – especially for someone who cares about you – to buy a friend’s book and ask what they can do to help the author. It’s perfectly understandable that not everyone knows about Goodreads (I had no idea Goodreads existed before a reader rated my book there) and most people have no idea that you have to fulfill some special criteria to be eligible to review products on Amazon. But it’s so easy to ask, or not? It seems that many indie authors think that not. Myself included.
From the comments on that tweet, you get the impression that reading a book is some kind of unliftable load, an unimaginable burden, and if you think about placing it on your friends’ shoulders, you aren’t a good friend.
I know, pardon for the exaggeration, but don’t shoot me, I’m a writer after all. We usually think in hyperbolas.
Reading a book isn’t a burden. Reading a book is supposed to be one of the greatest pleasures in life to be enjoyed in one’s spare time. Okay, I totally respect that nowadays people are busy and don’t have much free time. That’s what many authors wrote justifying their friends’ unwillingness to read their work. Everyone has jobs, kids, families, responsibilities that don’t leave them much space for indulging in the things they’d love to do more often. I know that it’s true. I’d been there myself. I, the truest bookworm to the bone. That person who lost friends over a chance to curl up on a sofa with yet another book. There were years in my life when I almost didn’t read.
But… And I’m struggling to find the right words now, dear Diary. The ones that won’t offend anyone since that’s the last – non-existent even – thing on my mind. I’ve seen so much offensiveness directed at me that I would never wish anyone to go through a similar experience by my fault. “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out,” said Walter Winchell. And what do we witness? I mean we indie authors. As far as I can see communicating with many writers who’ve been incredibly brave to put their heart work out there into the world without a shield of some respected publisher who’d explain to the skeptical public why their books are worth giving them a chance, in modern friendships, it’s more common that real-life friends walk out and only total strangers – but those who know what it takes to make that step into self-publishing – other indie authors, walk in to support you and help you not to be shot dead by the first disappointments (scarce sales, harsh reviews, etc.).
It shouldn’t be like this! That’s what I want to scream every time we discuss it with my husband. This isn’t what friendship is supposed to be. Moreover, previous generations did their best to ensure that we don’t work overly long hours and that people’s right to have time for rest is respected. People watch tv series, movies, play video games, browse websites. The truth is that the majority of us do have enough free time to read our friend’s book should someone write it. It is a different thing altogether that nowadays it’s considered justified for a friend not to be willing to sacrifice all these things to do it.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” These words belong to C.S. Lewis. And maybe I should look for the truth in them. Maybe it’s only among those like-minded you can seek understanding and support. Take the Inklings, the literary discussion group, the most famous members of which were J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
And still, not every author comes from a literary environment. Not everyone can secure a circle of people who are passionate about books and writing to share their ideas with. Some authors said that they do have such a circle and exactly because of that they don’t expect their friends to have time to read their books. They are busy writing their own, and besides, when all your friends are writers, you simply can’t read so many books.
“Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success.” Even if you’ve never heard it before, chances are high that you’d recognize Oscar Wilde’s straightforwardness. In the context of today’s discussion, I’d add rephrase this quote: “anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, sitting for hours in a bar or their kitchen over a bottle of something comforting, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s attempts to achieve success in something he truly loves doing.”
William Shakespeare’s wisdom stretched beyond the exploration of human ability to inflict sufferings on themselves by indulging in grim thoughts. According to him, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” Well, maybe nowadays friends allow you to grow, but it seems that they don’t care about your growth, neither are they interested in helping you on your road to success. Ultimate success is the only thing that matters in the world today. And you are measured solely by it.
Dear Diary, it feels appropriate to add that I’ve never expected anyone from my friends to read my books, let alone like them. I hadn’t even told anyone that I was writing and then self-published my work. But it wasn’t because I was ashamed of my books. To be honest, it was to spare me the disappointment. I knew that no one would even understand what it means to me – to attribute these magical words to myself. My books. Better than the most charming music. Sweeter than my favourite dessert. And I was right. I’ve already told you that when people did find out about my books, the only question they asked was about the money I made from my writing.
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammad Ali
I wish that we all would learn everything about friendship someday.