Let me see if I can formulate my thoughts into actual words today: Marketing sucks… No, not folks who work in marketing, but having to market one’s self sucks rotten, stinky ostrich eggs.
Sadly, this is where being intelligent would play a big role in making things happen…
Back in April, I lamented about a marketing plan and how many of my writer friends either shot it down, wanted to change it or just wasn’t willing to participate for one reason or other: Have Something To Say Why Don’t Yah
Simplicity is often more intimidating than the things that we make harder than what they really are. The plan was simple. Possibly too simple. But, I get it. I really do. We, as writers, only have so much time to give of ourselves and many things that seem simple may not be. We need to focus on our work, our marketing, on getting our names out there. If we don’t, who will? We have to write blogs and update websites and post at writer forums and update the Facebook page and post our tweets on Twitter and we have to get in good with other writers, hopefully in good with some influential people in the process. Oh, let’s not forget we have to write the stories we’re trying to pimp out.
There’s an image for you:
A writer decked out in his green bell bottoms and purple button up shirt that has the top five buttons undone showing off the chest hairs, or cleavage if she’s a gal (or a man, for that matter). The writer wears gold around the neck, on the fingers and wrists and even in the mouth. A wide brimmed hat sits atop the head and dark sunglasses cover the eyes to keep folks from being able to read the expression in them. The writer struts down the street, possibly in a seedy section of town, heels clacking on concrete or black top or cobblestone. He reaches a corner, looks around to see who’s watching. From a shiny briefcase, he pulls out a stack of papers, separates them with clips and sets them by a lamppost, a bench, the entrance to an alleyway. The writer gives a nod of the head.
“Y’all get to work. I’ll be back in a little while to collect what’s mine.”
Of course, the papers just sit there because they are stories and stories can’t sell themselves by themselves. Right? They can’t strut up and down the street with nylons and mini skirts talking to folks, “Hey, big boy. Want something good to read? Come pick me up, sugar cakes and I’ll take you on an adventure you’ll never forget.”
Nope, they can’t do that.
You know what’s going to happen? After a dozen or so times out in the world without bringing back an acceptance letter, some cash or at least a few promising leads, Pimp Writer just isn’t going to be happy and, well, prostistories get replaced easy enough.
If you think about it, marketing your short stories and novels is nothing like pimping out a prostitute. One’s legal. The other is not. Okay, maybe in some ways it is. Especially with the self publish (or indie, as it is referred to) route. We spend hours on end making sure the story is perfect and dressed up (formatted) just right. We have to make sure there is a cover that is appealing (you know, since that is the ‘face’ of the book). There needs to be a hook in the cover blurb that entices the reader to want to read more (do I really need to elaborate on that comparison?). There has to be a payoff in the end and hopefully there is a satisfied customer that keeps coming back for more. And maybe even a smoke when all is said and done.
I think I need a shower now.
This is the wondrous thing about having a creative mind: when I sit to write, anything can come out, as it did just now with the prostistories thing. The drawback is I often lose my train of thought. This was supposed to be about marketing and how I’m apparently doing it wrong.
My friend, Michelle Garren Flye, who I think is one of the best writers I have ever read, posted a piece up at her blog, BREATHE. It is titled, Sometimes Magic Happens and in it she speaks of how, for some authors, things just happened for them. Not just because they wrote a good story, but because they wrote something that sucked the readers in, held them tight and didn’t let go. Their stories were magical. Those readers had to tell someone and it went from there.
Michelle then asks: So how do I get it? Meaning, how does she create that magic? She goes on to answer her question and, in turn, spark another one:
I’ve only come up with one answer. Keep plugging away. Keep writing, and write what I love to write. One of these days, maybe somebody will read one of my books and find themselves so lost in it they can’t stop talking about it. Maybe they’ll tell their friends and maybe across the nation, somebody else will do the same. Maybe a lot of somebodies will find it in themselves to take that leap of faith and pick up one of my books, become lost in my world for a while.
That last part… yeah, that last part is important. Readers take leaps of faith when they read someone for the first or second or fifteenth time. They trust that we, the writers, will take them for a journey with our words. We have to deliver those goods in order to keep them coming back.
And guess what? Readers are a little more leery of purchasing from unknowns than they are well knowns. With good reason: how many times have you picked up a book by someone you didn’t know about and didn’t care much for it? Or maybe the story wasn’t edited properly and it was hard to get into. Maybe everything was one dimensional and there was no personal investment into the characters and the storyline. Maybe it was a rough draft and tossed up on a self publish site without so much as another read over. Sadly, that happens a lot in this business now as e-books and e-publishing has become the popular route to go.
There are some great unknowns out there, just waiting to be discovered. This is where marketing becomes daunting. Why? Well, asks most unknown writers and even some of the better known ones, who do you market to? Many of them will say, uhh… other writers. Yes, other writers. We market to each other in our writer forums and Facebook pages and Twitter tweets and whatever else is out there as far as social media is concerned. Sure, that’s great within the writing community, but don’t we want to reach folks other than writers? Don’t we want to reach the everyday reader who might be able to spread the word to one of their friends and then that friend does the same and so on?
Michelle also posted a link to an interview where the answer to the last question was as accurate as any statement I’ve heard in a while. The interview was with Molly Gaudry at the Luna Park website. The question was: As an author and publicist, what do you make of the evolving landscape of publishing in the digital era? What advice can you give writers today?
Her answer? It has never been easier to publish that book you always said you’d write. The hard part is finding an audience for it. The good news is that a personal blog and a Facebook account might be all you really need to market your book to targeted audiences. If you’ve got the time and energy—and determination—to do it yourself, there’s really no reason not to. So get to it! And good luck!
It has never been easier to publish a book or a short story collection. E-publishing has made sure of that. There is that audience thing again, that reader thing. It’s finding those readers that seems to be the difficult part. You can publish all the books or short stories you want, but if you don’t have anyone reading what you put out there, what good does it do? I guess that’s where the determination comes in. I guess that’s where pimping ones wares comes in. I guess that’s where I need to get better. That and a bunch of other stuff I haven’t figured out yet. Again, this is where intelligence would help. Damn my small brain.
I’m working on a new plan. I don’t know what it will be yet. I just know I’m a writer looking for readers. Maybe I should take an ad out in a bunch of newspapers. Married White Writer looking for Readers of All Ages to share adventures in words with. Short term readership welcome, long term readership preferred. Will write for readers…
Kind of cheesy, but I like it.
I need to go, but I’ll say this before I do: writing is the easy part. Marketing is where the real work is.
Let me go find those bell-bottoms. I have some prostistories that need pimping…