The writing and publishing business is full of, “On the one hand, this. Oh, yeah, but on the other foot, what about this BS?” Here’s the conflicting advice on my mind this week, to and fro, pro and con:
1. People complain about marketing on Twitter, “What can I say of value in 140 characters?”
It gets worse. It’s better if you say it in 100 characters. Say more with less and it’s more likely to be read and retweeted. Leaving more room allows for additions, links and commentary from enthusiastic retweeters. So be pithier. You’re a writer. You can handle that.
2. More blog posts, daily, equals more traffic to your blog.
Unless you’re blogging a book, you’re losing time you could be using to write your next book. There are still many writers who struggle with time management and discipline. The writing — the book writing — has to come first. Promotion is secondary because you aren’t in the promotion business. You’re in the writing business. Promotion is for the stolen time that would otherwise be unproductive.
Hint: If you’re still flogging the same book, and you only have one book, and that was published over a year ago? You aren’t in the writing business. Finish something new.
3. Some people say we should begin promoting the book as soon we conceptualize what it will be….someday.
However, you’re going to change the title before you publish it at the very least and if you take too long, someone will steal that great title. Promoting too soon is an exercise in chicken counting that could just as easily wear out potential readers if you talk about the potential book, too much, forever.
Corollary: Don’t write your blog or push your book until you have something solid to say.
And don’t repeat yourself too often, please. If I see one more blog post with the title proclaiming “Content is king!” I might have to shoot somebody with a water pistol full of skunk juice. And then kill them. (Note: Don’t swing sledgehammers in small rooms. Ice picks to brain stems are efficient. A disposable raincoat and a friend who gives alibis without asking questions is essential. Ask a mystery writer for best strategies…though you might have to wipe them out, too, just to cover your tracks.)
4. We all look forward to being discovered by a huge audience.
That’s where the negative reviews come from, too. Brace yourself.
My quest isn’t for a huge audience. It’s for 50,000 true fans. Yes, I know people usually say 1,000 true fans, but I’m ambitious and we all need to stretch and reach. (Plus 50,000 true fans fits my budget better. Daddy’s got bills!)
5. We aren’t supposed to respond to reviews.
It is a bad idea, generally….which means the false and misleading reviews stay up, uncorrected. This one isn’t about the conflict in the advice. It’s about the conflict that arises in you. You crave justice for your innocent book babies.
This one? Live with it. It’s not worth it. It’s annoying, but the Authors Behaving Badly meme is much stronger than the Reviewers Behaving Badly meme. We’re outnumbered.
Unless they’re threatening you physically, forget it. If they are threatening you physically, revisit #3 for helpful, murderous suggestions if you’re not into dialling 911. And click the Report Abuse button with gusto.
6. Everybody wants to write the great American novel.
It’s been written and it’s probably The Great Gatsby. The problem here is some writers get caught up in what they think they should write and how that ideal should look and sound. Don’t be the serious guy who takes himself too seriously. He is tiring to be around and his shoulds are misplaced.
Originate, do not emulate. If someone else did it better, we’ll go read the original. Of the hundred Harry Potter clones, how many do you really want to read? Do not chase trends. A trend is so fast, it runs you over and leaves you far behind at the same time.
7. Everyone says social media marketing is about having Internet “presence.”
Presence is weak. It says, “I’m here. I hope you find me.” Hunters don’t wait for deer to come to their house, knock on the door, peel some potatoes and conveniently slip into the oven. Hunters go hunting.
We’ll find more readers if we’re active and proactive. Go find book bloggers. Go where readers are. Make a list and follow people on Twitter as a planned approach. There are people out there who already proclaim their love of Steampunk in their Twitter profiles. If you write Steampunk, why haven’t you introduced yourself already? Stop waiting for them to come to you.
8. Gurus say, “Be everywhere.”
Maybe “everywhere” isn’t for you. Is LinkedIn really helping you as an author or is that medium best built for job searches? Unless there are forums there you love, maybe that’s wasted energy. What about Tumblr? It might be an excellent spot for you, but Tumblr’s users tend to be young, hip and artistic. Is pushing historical fiction about railway trains of the Klondike really the best use of your time there? Choose a platform or two or three you love. Focus.
Almost everyone says we should dump the exclusivity of KDP Select and be on all sales platforms. Maybe not or maybe not yet. I’ve written extensively on this issue in the past so I won’t beat that zebra into a coma again. However, when you do make that decision, don’t jump (or not jump) because someone told you to do so. Have a plan how you’re going to move those books on those other platforms (because, with few exceptions, those platforms don’t have tools you can use to raise that crop of readers.)
Don’t believe a word. Test suggestions instead.
9. When publishing gurus have nothing else to offer, they say, “Work harder.”
I don’t know a single author who isn’t working hard. Writing despite kids, day jobs, lost sleep, and long hours? Check, check, check, check. “Work harder,” for most of us, does not add value. It’s a bad math teacher telling a student staring, clueless, at an algebraic equation on the blackboard: “Stare harder and you’ll solve for X.”
Excuse me, sir, but your pants are on fire. With napalm.
“I will work harder,” is the horse that gets carted off for meat and glue in Animal Farm. What we need is to test strategies, first on a small scale. If Slideshare works for you and gets more clicks to your author site and conversions to your newsletter, do more of that. If one lure to your mailing list doesn’t work, add value and try again. Always focus on what works instead of trying everything at once. Eighty percent of results come from twenty percent of your efforts. Find your twenty percent.
Also, please, please, don’t work harder. We’re already sitting too much and worrying ourselves into an early grave while some consultants are actually making money off poor writers by yelling, “Work harder!” That damn whip arm never seems to tire. Screw those guys. We’re already putting in the time. We need smarter tools, not louder barking from the water boys.
Instead of working harder, when you’re writing, please write more joyously. Take chances. Have more fun. You can even enjoy the creative aspects of marketing, believe it or not. Joy translates to all your work. Readers won’t necessarily know why they love the joyous writer more, but they’ll feel it and respond.
10. We’re told to market to readers only.
Don’t bother writing a writing blog. There’s too much of that already and writers don’t buy books. They’re too busy writing them. Forget writers!
Hm. If true, that’s worrisome. Writers should read a lot. I think, generally, we do read plenty. I’m a voracious reader. I wrote two books about writing that emerged from this blog, so there’s that. But more important, the friends I’ve made through blogging to writers and podcasting with writers? They’ve been an immense help to me. I’ve connected with allies who’ve blurbed my books and been my beta readers and helped me expand my reach in many ways. The indie writing community is a very supportive group.
Through this blog and my podcasts, there are literally dozens of people who have helped me publish and publicize. I started to write a list of helpful fellow authors and fans, but the list got too long and I worried I’d forget somebody. Connecting with allies here, not aiming exclusively at readers, has delivered great opportunities.
I hope I’ve helped my allies plenty, too.
Thank you all. Much love.
~ Robert Chazz Chute isn’t as mean as he sometimes sounds. His next books are This Plague of Days, Season 3 and This Plague of Days, The Complete Series. They’ll launch June 15th. For more on This Plague of Days, the international zombie thriller with an autistic hero, go to ThisPlagueOfDays.com.