A writing colleague and friend recently posted an article to my Facebook timeline on the subject of addiction. I eagerly read the piece, which promised to uncover addiction’s cause.
Addiction, Johann Hari claims, stems from loneliness. Accordingly, the solution is bonding. “The opposite of addiction,” he writes, “is not sobriety. It is human connection.” He goes on to say that the whole criminalization of drugs is misguided, and argues for replacing punishment with job training.
As I’ve written on this blog, supply is not the problem with regard to drugs. Demand is. Until addicts want to stop escaping from reality, drugs will always seem a promising alternative to lives that are all too often desolate and dark. Until we provide addicts with the ability to change their circumstances for the better, they will seek to escape from life the only way they know how.
But single cause explanations, though elegant, seldom provide the full answer. There are plenty of people who are plugged into a community or society, who still suffer the devastating consequences of addiction. Native American communities are particularly tight-knit, for example, yet alcoholism runs rampant. So lack of connection cannot be the sole cause.
It is my belief that addiction is a disease that must be treated medically and psychologically, by trained professionals. Once the period of detoxification is over, and the medical symptoms dispensed with, it is time for an in-depth psychological analysis of why a person uses drugs. This should be done on a case-by-case basis, not through some cookie-cutter, one-size fits all method often found in rehabs and other treatment centers.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, both on the article and on my comments here.
Something happened at McIntyre’s Books last Saturday, when I read from Conversations Among Ruins—something personal and beautiful. For the first time, in a very long time, I felt connected to a group of strangers.
I sometimes felt connected with my students when I lectured, but this was different. Conversations Among Ruins is a personal story. The book isn’t entirely autobiographical, but I did draw from my life experiences to write it. Like me, the protagonist is dual diagnosed, meaning he suffers from a mood disorder and chemical dependency.
I learned that people, if given the chance to do so in a safe environment, want to talk about this issue. I discovered that once I gave myself permission to open up about it, others gave themselves permission as well.
The stigma associated with mental illness is huge, as is the stigma attached to addiction—combining the two makes things worse.
The best way I know of combatting the stigma is to talk about dual diagnosis, just like we talk about other medical conditions. I don’t know a single person who is ashamed of having heart disease or diabetes. But the number of people I’ve met who feel ashamed about having a mental disorder and/or chemical dependency is overwhelming.
Opening up a dialogue and providing a safe space for others to share is a major step in the right direction. One young woman in the audience had read Conversations Among Ruins beforehand and felt comfortable enough to share her personal experiences. I am so grateful to have been a part of her journey. Others came up to me afterward and expressed how much my reading had meant to them.
I am so grateful to the people who came out to hear me read, and to those who couldn’t come, but who supported me with their wonderful words. You all took part in the enormously important work of fighting the stigma against dual diagnosis. Thank you one and all. Thank you for letting me be a small part of your journey. And please know you are a large part of mine.
My reading from Conversations Among Ruins at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village yesterday was a resounding success. It started with the extremely supportive members of my writing group coming out to demonstrate their support. They are truly a wonderful, talented group of folks.
The receptivity of the audience to the issue of dual diagnosis was amazing, as was the quality of audience participation. I could not have picked a better group of people.
Afterward, I had folks come up to me and thank me for giving them permission to speak about dual diagnosis, psychiatric conditions, and addiction. I learned that people really want to talk about these issues, and that if given a chance to do so, they open up like flowers.
I want to thank everyone who was there, including Pete Mock for making it such a pleasant experience.
Here are some photos of the event:
I had two books published in 2014. Conversations Among Ruins (CAR), a work of literary fiction, was released on August 13 by All Things That Matter Press. My religious thriller, The Brothers’ Keepers (TBK), became available on October 1 through MuseItUp Publishing.
Both books have risen and fallen in Amazon rankings, which can jump hundreds of thousands of places when someone buys a book. TBK seems to be selling better than CAR, at least according to this very crude measure.
I’ve received one royalty check for CAR. (Just to let you know, I’m not planning any trips to exotic locales.) I really won’t know how TBK is selling until I get my royalty statement from MuseItUp.
Overall, the results have been a little disappointing.
The fundamental issue is how to increase awareness of my books among the veritable sea of books published every month. Outside of the people I tell by word of mouth, and the efforts I’ve taken thus far, I really have no idea how a person is supposed to come across them.
So, what have I done in order to promote sales? In addition to telling everyone I know about the books and encouraging people to write reviews, here are some of the steps I’ve taken:
- I post free ads in Facebook reading/writing groups—this seems to have some limited success. I do notice a correlation between posting in the groups and sales, but as we all know, correlation does not prove causation.
- I hired a publicist—this has had some limited success. I’ve had a book launch at a local bookstore and I’ve seen small reviews of my books in the local paper and other publications. I have more engagements coming up this year, so I will let you know how they work out.
- I ran a giveaway on Goodreads for CAR—this seems to have had no result. The person who won a copy of the book has yet to post a review, and though hundreds of people added the book to their read shelves, I haven’t seen any indication that more people are reading the book now than before. I can’t hold a giveaway for TBK since it is still available only in e-format.
- I tweet about the books—I try to do this in moderation. It is important that ads you post on Twitter for your own books are balanced by tweets on other topics. It is my sense that I’ve sold more books through Twitter than through other means, but it is a hard claim to verify. I am basing this observation on the positive feedback I receive from my tweets, including retweets, and the number of followers I have.
- I’ve hired Goddess Fish Promotions to do a book/blogging tour for TBK—this is scheduled to happen in February, so I’ll let you know how this goes. Depending on the results, I’ll consider doing a tour of CAR.
- I’m running a paid Facebook ad—I have yet to see the results of this effort, though the ads only starting running a few days ago. I have had some clicks to my website as a result of the ad, but can’t really see any conversions into sales (at this very early point).
- I continue to write—this is what I’ve heard is the best means of selling more books: writing more books. And not just any books, but quality stuff.
It is still early to gauge the effectiveness of these efforts: time will indicate their success or failure.
I would greatly appreciate any insights into the best way of increasing the visibility of one’s books. Some of you reading this blog have much more experience than I do when it comes to marketing.
I remain hopeful things will improve in the future.
All the best,