Updated: Mar 17, 2021
WILLY LOMAN HERE I COME
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Arthur Miller’s salesman Willy Loman. Poor Willy, if only he had a social media platform – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, heck even Tik Tok – his tragic ending could have been averted. I was thinking of how many widgets or vacuum cleaners, or whatever it was that Willy was selling unsuccessfully, he could have sold if he had Tik Tok. I was especially thinking of what Arthur Miller said when asked “what did Willy Loman sell?” The playwright was said to have replied “himself.”
When my novel, Hope Is the Thing with Feathers, was picked up by All Things That Matter Press, I was giddy with euphoria. The years of self-doubt and hard work bore fruit. Finally, a dream realized. However, my joy and delight quickly gave way to dread when my publisher informed me that being a small press, they have no budget for marketing or publicity. I would have to become my own saleswoman and publicist. Build a social platform they instructed me. Welcome to the 21st Century world where we’re all selling something or other, or more correctly pieces of ourselves. I would have to become Willy Loman, sell myself.
I’m not a millennial. I am of the generation that thought Facebook was so cool. We like each other’s pictures and posts, especially when we’re traveling. I mean how cool is it to be halfway around the world, post a photo of your delicious dinner in Paris and get those cute little likes or heart emojis from your friends in the U.S.? But build a social platform? Sell myself?
So I did what any baby boomer was trained to do – I went to Google and typed ‘how to build a social platform’. In no time I felt like Alice free-falling into a strange new world whose existence I was barely conscious of. I was inundated with articles and book selling me information I was obviously in dire need of. All the things without which my book launch would be an abysmal failure. These were the bare essentials: a website, platforms on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, the list went on. I must create a following on all these platforms. And I must not forget, first and foremost, to build an email list. Email lists were likened to gold-dust in the marketing world. But, not to worry there were plenty of online services ready to help me build my gold-dust list.
Of course there were enough bloggers and books out there on how to make all these wonderful things happen. Then it dawned on me. All those books and bloggers are doing the very same thing they’re instructing me to do. Selling themselves. We’ve all become Willy Lomans.