I haven’t been an author for long, especially compared to the literary giants who have become household names. Most of those guys have been writing longer than I’ve been alive. But even so, having a couple published books under my belt has taught me some things – things I didn’t completely expect, though a couple I was aware of on a surface level. None of these are especially “fun”, but don’t worry. It’ll all come together at the end.
1. You have to brag.
Perhaps “brag” is too strong a word here – let’s go with “celebrate your accomplishments in a public forum.” The point is if you’re the quiet type that likes to hang in the background and not talk about yourself (like most writers are), you’d better get over that if you want to sell books.
Talking about yourself is uncomfortable, especially for women (check this article for more information on that). We’re conditioned from an early age that it’s rude, especially if you’re talking about how great you are. Add to this the existence of Impostor Syndrome, where successful people think they don’t deserve their success and chalk it up to luck or timing, and the discomfort associated with celebrating accomplishments is compounded.
Here’s the thing, though – people like to jump into something that’s already going well. That’s why the term “fairweather fans” exists. If your book does well and you post about it, chances are more people will want to read it. Fans you already have will share your successes with their friends, resulting in more exposure.
It’s easier to talk about big successes, like landing a publishing contract, winning an award, or hitting the best-seller list, but sometimes, especially at first, you have to talk about the little successes. “My book broke the top 20,000 on Amazon!” or “Check out this great review!”count as successes. Talk about them. It may feel silly and uncomfortable at times, but it makes you and your book look viable and more read-worthy.
2. You have to market (okay, you probably know this, but you don’t know know it until your book is out).
And you have to be sneaky about it most of the time. People won’t buy your book if they don’t know it exists. Celebrating successes is one way to indirectly market. Twitter chats are also useful, though I don’t consider those “marketing”, per se. They’re a way to connect with other authors, which is key, because if you team up, you can cross-promote each other. You can’t think of other writers as competition. We’re all in this together, and there are plenty of readers to go around.
Some authors are hesitant to pay for any kind of marketing, which I think is a mistake. You just have to be picky about where you spend your marketing dollars, and to do that, you have to know what your goals are. It might not always be about sales. Facebook ads are good for tracking which users are clicking your ads, so you can see if your targeted audience is actually interested in your book based on the cover and maybe a short description. Subscription services, such as BookBub and Ereader News Today, are better for generating a lot of sales and climbing best seller lists.
Shooting for free marketing all the time means you have to rely on your family, friends, Twitter followers, Facebook followers, etc. to help you get the word out about your book. And while it’s nice when they do that, that’s not their job. They will get tired of seeing your face and your book if that’s the only reason you’re posting anything.
3. Say goodbye to reading for fun.
Maybe this is just me (I hope it is, for the sake of all the other authors out there), but since I started writing and editing, reading for fun has become a lot more difficult. It’s tough to turn off the critical eye. I don’t consider myself an “average” reader anymore, so I’m reluctant to post reviews – that is, unless I really enjoyed something. These days, that’s tough to accomplish. Any other writers with me here?
4. Everyone gets permission to express their opinion about you.
This is another one you probably know going in but can’t really appreciate until you get there. While people talk about each other all the time – meaning they’re talking about you already – producing something creative and distributing it for public consumption gives strangers permission to do it in public and be thanked for the favor. It doesn’t matter if their opinion is positive or negative or valid. Putting yourself out there means people get to talk about you, even if they have the verbal skills and friendly manner of a trapped skunk.
This is scary for the majority of new writers, I suspect. It certainly was for me. And those first few bad reviews do sting more. But after a while, you see things level out. You start to appreciate the true value of an opinion, and you remember why you started this whole writing thing in the first place. I bet it wasn’t to impress a bunch of strangers on the internet.
After reading all this, you may be wondering why I continue writing books for publication. While these four points certainly caught me off guard, as I get used to how things work, they become the new normal. Celebrating successes on my Facebook page is fun, because I have friends there who celebrate with me. Marketing becomes easier when you figure out what works. I truly appreciate a new book that grabs me and keeps my attention. And my skin has become much thicker over time.
If you’re a published author, do you agree with these points? Or do you have points of your own?
If you’re working towards publication, what are some things you’re unsure of as the day gets closer?