I’ve been receiving some advice lately—unsolicited, and from non-writers—on how to sell my books.
The persons offering this counsel mean well. They wish me financial success so that I can continue writing without having to having to keep my day job.
I consider myself fortunate to have friends who care enough about me to share their wisdom.
And what has been particularly touching, at least in my eyes, is that these individuals have been triumphant in business, having fared far better monetarily than I can ever hope to do.
And writing, to them, is like any other business.
I have to agree.
The problem is that I am still struggling to understand the financial part of the craft—I’ve been too busy just learning how to write, which, in all truthfulness, is difficult enough. But recently, thanks to several books my wife gave me, I’ve been researching the subject of how to better promote my work. The irony is that while I’ve helped make the writers of these books-about-selling-books successful, I’ve discovered that I really don’t have much time to peddle my work.
I’m too busy teaching and writing.
I’d be dishonest if I said that I wouldn’t embrace making enough money from my efforts to allow me to stay home and devote the rest of my life to writing. Nothing would please me more. At present I have more ideas for books than I have years left in which to write them. But the truth is that I’ll have to do the best I can with the snippets of time I manage carve out during teaching hiatuses (and teaching, incidentally, is something that I also love doing).
So, if not for financial gain, why do I write?
I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m mature enough not to crave fame and fortune—although, again, a little of each would be most welcomed.
And I don’t write out of compulsion, as many writers claim to do. I envy their obsession because, from what I understand, writing, to them, is as important as breathing. But I’m afraid that type of creative fixation is beyond me.
One reason I write is because with each new project I learn something new about the craft; and, in the process, I discover what I think and believe about the subject at hand and, in doing so, I learn more about myself than by doing anything else.
But the most important reason I write was expressed with succinct eloquence by the Spanish novelist, essayist, philosopher, poet, and rector of the Universidad de Salamanca, Miguel de Unamuno, who said: “I write so that people don’t forget that I was here.”
To write, then, for me—as it apparently was for Unamuno—is an attempt to remain a presence beyond my mortal years.
When I was a doctoral student, I remember several instances in which I came across the names of writers—that few people would remember today—who in spite of the lack of recognition made a small contribution to the literature of their times. And although their legacies are now confined to brief mentions in books that sit idly on the shelves of huge libraries, gathering dust, for the few moments I held the book in my hand and read about them, they came alive again.
That tiny whisper of immortality would be enough for me.
What’s comforting is that, at present, I’m assured of one thing: with the publication of Bernardo and the Virgin, Meet Me under the Ceiba, and now The Saint of Santa Fe, my name is guaranteed to survive in the occasional footnote as the first Nicaraguan-American to have novels, written in English, appear in print in the United States. At worst, then, I’m destined to be an obscure trivia question among literary nerds of future generations.
And this makes the hardships, the sacrifices, and the lack of financial success worthwhile.
I know I can never, even in my loftiest dreams, aspire to make a contribution as significant as Miguel de Unamuno’s. And I’m resigned to never becoming well known. But I do know that, someday, many years from now, a student of literature will take a book off of the library shelf and, for one glorious instant, bring me back to life.
Find out more about Sirias' latest novel, The Saint of Santa Fe, on Amazon
Silvio Sirias is the author of Bernardo and the Virgin (2005) and Meet Me under the Ceiba (2009), winner of the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize for Best Novel, and most recently The Saint of Santa Fe. A native of Los Angeles, he spent his adolescence in Nicaragua and currently lives in Panama. In 2010, Silvio was named one of the “Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (and Read).” He has a doctorate in Spanish from the University of Arizona. He has also published academic books on Julia Alvarez, Rudolfo Anaya, and the poet Salomon de la Selva. In addition, he has a collection of essays titled Love Made Visible: Reflections on Writing, Teaching, and Other Distractions. The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature lists him among the handful of authors who are introducing Central American themes into the U.S. literary landscape. For more information, visit his website at www.silviosirias.com.
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