1. Because I worked as a high school teacher, I was not entirely free to put myself out there.
If I had published a book called How To Be A Great Teacher or Fluffy Bunny's ABC Adventures, I would have had no qualms about building an online presence as a writer while I worked as a high school teacher. But I hadn't written a book like that.
I published my novel in 2012, but I continued to work as a high school teacher until March 2015. Though I tackle many themes and subjects in my novel The City of Earthly Desire, a large portion of the narrative focuses on the pornography industry that began to thrive in Budapest immediately after the collapse of communism in Hungary.
Now, as anyone who has read the novel can tell you, it is not a pornographic novel, that it is I did not write it with the sole aim of arousing sexual desire in the reader; on the contrary, the novel is extremely critical of pornography as a pernicious social and soul-corrupting phemonenon. I wrote no explicitly crude sexual scenes, but I admit that some of the content of my novel is, due to the inherent nature of the thing I chose to focus on, vulgar in nature. It would be difficult to provide the reader with a truthful representation of what the porn industry in Budapest was like without including some of the terms and ideas inherent within the porn industry itself. Of course, the novel is not solely about pornography, which I frame as the choice between love and lust, but it does dominate the narrative landscape of the book.
Because I was still working as I high school teacher in 2012, I took a considerable chance when I self-published the novel. In today's hypersensitive education environment, I knew that one vindictive student or curious parent would be all it would take to put my career in jeopardy. Therefore, my promotion of the novel after it appeared on the market was tepid at best. I imposed a sort of censorship upon myself. I had think about the potential consequences of every little thing I did and ensure that anything I put online could not be misconstrued, used against me, or misunderstood. Even so, a couple of students did stumble across my novel or blog from time-to-time, but none of them ever bothered to look into it in any great detail nor notify my higher ups about it, let alone purchase or read it. The only exception to this was the private school prinicipal I worked for in Toronto; a cultured gentleman, he not only purchased the novel and read it, but told me he liked it and left it at that. I doubt I would have been dealt with so mercifully had I worked in the public education sector at the time.
When I went to work in England, I quickly learned that I had to keep my novel off the radar if I wanted to keep my job. I kept my blogging and online activities to a bare minimum in order to avoid accidental detection by the administration or students because I knew that if I was discovered there, I would have been drawn and quartered without a second thought. In the end, it was a good experience because it finally inspired me to get out of teaching high school and do something where I had more control of my life. I quit my job in England a mere eight months after I had accepted it and took a university instructor position in Sopron, Hungary instead.
Since I am no longer working as a high school teacher, I no longer feel constrained or compromised about my novel or my activities as a writer. In fact, I have doggedly focused on manifesting the kind of circumstances where I can be myself, speak freely, and promote my work as I desire without the fear of losing my job. I have also attained enough financial security to be able to withstand the possible loss of a job. The work I do outside of writing is no longer a potential noose around my neck.
2. I could not engage in the most effective platform building activities
Even in 2012, I knew YouTube was the way to go, but for all the reasons I have mentioned above, I could not engage in promoting the book through YouTube when I was a teacher.
3. I had to be careful on Facebook and Twitter
Again, the teacher thing. Then, in 2015, I quit Facebook and Twitter altogether for personal and political reasons. I will not return to Facebook or Twitter in the future even though I know they can serve as useful platform-building tools.
4. I focused on my family
My son was born six months before I published my novel. Being a writer is important to me, but being a father is infinitely more important.
5. I was happy and am happy still
I'll be honest. I always was, and continue to be fairly apprehensive about putting myself out there in terms of presence. I am a fairly private individual by nature and I am not inspired by dreams of fame; I simply would like to reach a wider readership. Unfortunately, I do not how I can build a readership without putting my face and body out there. A book on the market is not enough these days. Nor are positive reviews or mere presence on a blog or on sites like Goodreads. So if I want more people to read my book, I have to be more visible. Here's the catch - I am happy about my life now, and though I would welcome a wider readership, I am still wary about the extra attention it may bring.
Well, having said all that all, buidling, or rather, expanding my platform is now a primary goal and I am currently focusing on this endeavor. Stay tuned.