I’ve been writing stories my whole life—as have many, I’ve come to discover. I’ve only thought of myself as an ‘author’, however, since around 2011, when I started working on the project that would eventually become my first published book, The Redemption of Erâth. It’s a funny distinction; even when I was working on a project many years ago that I would one day like to revive (and therefore isn’t relegated solely to the dustbin), I never thought of myself as an author. I suppose I think of an author as someone whose aim is publication.
Yet on a daily basis I feel like the underpants gnomes from South Park (Step 1: Steal underpants. Step 2: ? Step 3: Profit.) I’m not exactly rolling in the profit, although I reckon I have the hang of stealing underpants by now. In fact, I can count the number of sales of my book in the past year on the totality of my digits, and I can’t help feeling that I missed step two somehow.
So what is step two, in the writing game? Sadly, it’s the thing that most of us introspective, insular and introverted writers abhor almost as much as people who write 100,000 words during National Novel Writing Month: marketing. Surely, we all clamor, I shouldn’t need to market—my book is amazing, and should sell itself. I’ve come to believe there are two fundamental untruths we tell ourselves herein.
First off: your book is not amazing. You’re not Stephen King, or even Dean Koontz, let alone Dickens or Joyce or Maya Angelou. Your novel is more than likely a mediocre attempt at a half-baked idea that’s been done to death a million times over. How do I know? Because my own book falls squarely into that category. As much as I live and breath my characters and want to believe my story is the most original idea since the Iliad, the truth is that it’s a Tolkien knock-off without the poetry and a different name for orcs.
Secondly, no book sells itself. I’ve been watching a new author by the name of Nancy Chase for about a year now, through the publication of her first book, a fairytale called The Seventh Magpie. I read it; I loved it; I reviewed it glowingly. It’s actually rather good. In six months, she’s sold more copies than (at the rate I’m going) I’ll sell in ten years. But it sure as hell isn’t the quality of the story or the writing, or even the lovely illustrations, that have helped reached such lofty heights. Nooo … it’s Nancy’s single-minded determination to sell her book as hard as she can.
This is a determination, I think, many of us sadly lack. There’s a fine, intricate art to selling things, and a lot of people—especially those whose artistic bent lends them to wordsmithing—kind of just suck at it. In the past year, I’ve tried giveaways; I’ve tried regular postings about the book on my Facebook page and Twitter; I’ve tried paying for advertisements on Goodreads and Facebook and Google. Mostly, I’ve tried doing nothing and looking the other way, wondering if, when I come back to my sales rankings in two months, they’ll somehow be up. Unsurprisingly, nothing much has happened.
Later this year I’m looking forward to releasing my second book in the Redemption of Erâth series. I suspect it will do as spectacularly as the first. I’ve learned a lot, of course, and there are a number of things I’ll be doing differently. Still … step two. Somehow I have to convince people that my book is worth reading, over the millions of others that get released every single day.
Marketing, my writer friends: it’s the bane of our existence. Compared to getting your book out there, the writing process itself is seamlessly easy. The good news? I’ve come to believe that you don’t necessarily have to have the very best manuscript in the world: ultimately people are looking for entertainment, and they’ll settle for flaws, as long as they’re given a compelling reason to read it in the first place.
Of course, perfection doesn’t hurt. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t work hard at the story in the first place, but rather to say that the hard work doesn’t stop at ‘The End’. It’s only the beginning.
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