Despite a rather cavalier approach to mathematics in my educational career, I have nevertheless developed a deep appreciation for formulae. And one of my favorites is this:
The amount of my heart and soul I put into a piece of writing is directly proportionate to how much I’m going to hate talking about it.
Book marketing vexes me. There. I said it.
Which is probably not the best attitude for an author, especially an indie one with a background in marketing. BUT STILL.
Earlier today, I had a lengthy
argument spirited discussion with my pal Mari Kurisato about the necessity of marketing one’s books. Mari’s an author too, and she’s been one of my most stalwart supporters as I’ve published various pieces over the years. She’s also nearly as stubborn as I am when it comes to speaking her mind and sticking to her guns. Mari’s of the opinion that sharing and promotion are kissin’ cousins, and so book marketing should be a part of the normal flow of craziness I share with the Faithful Horde.
She’s right. I know she is. But every time I start to think about how I want to talk to people about this book, I get clenchy. My insides seize up and I pray for the sweet release of death. Because writing is so much about SHOW, not TELL, and I always feel like my work can speak more clearly for itself than I could ever hope to do.
My struggle stems largely from the fact that I have so much experience in marketing. I know (as I pointed out to Mari) that I need to “connect with my target audience” and “convert followers into fans and evangelists” if I want to conquer the literary world. I know I need to engage these same followers in a real way, and have conversations and answer questions. I do it all the time, under my pen name, for my erotica books. I’ve done it for clients for years as a content marketer writing high-quality and entertaining content.
But Blood Ties is, like my poetry, a horse of a different color.
Why? Probably because it’s the first novel I’ve published under my name, starring a character I’ve been developing for the better part of two decades. I followed Hemingway’s dictum regarding bleeding while at the keyboard, and now I find myself loth to play the part of Jay Sherman:
One of the things I value most in this life is integrity, and if I feel like I’m sharing or conversing with someone as a function of self-promotion, I also feel like I need a Silkwood shower. I’m not sure if it’s the dissembling or the built-in Catholic guilt associated with implying I may have done something good, ever, that makes me feel so awful. But the feelings are there, nonetheless, and so when the book marketing bell rings, I’m most comfortable with throwing out a quick tweet, or an FB post where I casually imply that, hey, wouldn’t it be great if you read my book and loved it and built yourself an amusement park designed around its complex world and well-developed characters? Also, please send gold and five-star reviews. KTHANXBYE.
Can I Afford to Let the Work Speak for Itself? Or Leave it to Others?
The thing is, I want people to like my work. I want to know they enjoy it, and answer their questions, and celebrate this weird little thing sent up the dumbwaiter of my brain by the monkeys who live within its basement. But I never want to do so in a way that’s disingenuous, or false, or creepily manipulative. Not only do people pick up on that stuff, but who wants to be that yucky person with a cardboard cutout and a smile like a sticker? Bah, I say. BAH.
And yes, it’s clear people DO like the book. Quite a lot, actually. I’m publishing the novel in four parts, but so far it seems people have taken a shine to Cat.
I want to build a community, and make real connections with, people who enjoy my work. I just want to make sure I do so in a way that leaves my integrity intact (even if it leaves my pocketbook a little leaner than a more aggressive approach would). I need to be a sharer, not a marketer. I need to take a lesson from my content marketing life and talk WITH, rather than AT, the people I want in my little world.
“Sharing is just putting yourself out there through your work,” said Mari. “Your work is a tiny candle flame in the eyes of millions whose view is filled with screaming bonfires.”
Setting aside the raw awesomeness of a field full of screaming bonfires (what are they screaming? “AAAAAH! HOT! TOO HOT! AAAAAAHHHHH!” gets my vote), Mari made a very compelling argument. I want my work to speak for itself, but people need to know it’s there. My little candle can light a bonfire if I can just bring myself to let other people cozy up.
So as it turns out, for me the hardest part of being an author isn’t creating a universe and crafting a compelling yarn within it. It’s letting people know I’ve brought something out of the deep dark inside myself, then asking them to scrutinize it, and absorb it, and maybe—just maybe—enjoy it enough that they’re glad I brought it into the light.
Do you struggle with book marketing? Do you hate it when your favorite author or filmmaker or poet gets chatty about their own work? Or do you like the direct contact? How much is TOO much? Let me know in the comments!