A few months ago, when I first started my independent publishing adventure, I scoured the web for all the information I could find on the subject. I’ve learned a lot since then simply by reading online articles and forums. But what stood out immediately was the necessity for good marketing. Good marketing, as it turns out, is synonymous with success. Virtually no one gets a free ride these days. Whether you publish traditionally or set out bravely on your own, as I have, if you want your books to be read, you have to dedicate your own time and resources into this magical thing called “marketing.” Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that I lack a natural talent for marketing. This apparently glaring defect in my personality appears to be at least partially rooted in my private and rather introverted nature. (In other words, I’m bashful.)
I am not an outgoing person by any means. I don’t crave attention. I don’t need to be surrounded by people to be happy. In fact, I actually have a little bit of a crowd phobia. I become extremely anxious when I’m surrounded by too many people. And I’m extremely self-conscious about every little thing I say and do. I even write these blog posts in MS Word and make my wife read them for me before I post them on this blog! (I really don’t know what I’d do without her.) But if I want to be successful, I can’t just sit and wait for my fans to find me, no matter how good my work is. I need to get out there and find them. I need to engage them. I need to talk to them. I need to win them. …but I’m not very good at that.
Social networking is the most important tool in marketing, according to most of the articles I’ve read. By the time my first book becomes available, I’m supposed to already have a well-developed social network, consisting, presumably, of a great number of friends and family who will all launch into a frothing frenzy of excitement when I announce the release of my brand new ebook and beat and claw each other to be the first to buy it. Furthermore, after having obtained the ebook, and of course having neglected everything important in their lives in order to immediately read it from front to back, they will then enthusiastically tell everyone who will listen how wonderful the book is. Those they tell will in turn race out to get the book, giddy with excitement, read it immediately and tell everyone they know and so on, driving my ebook ever-upward through the bestsellers lists. I would quickly become famous and fabulously wealthy and everyone would want to be my friend and compliment me on my new shoes. The reality, of course, is quite different.
I began by starting a website, a sort of online base of operations, and then a Facebook account. I didn’t have a Facebook account before I published my first book because…well, because I didn’t really care to have one. I didn’t see the point. It simply did not interest me. As a result, I did not have the immediate attention of hundreds of friends when I made my first official announcement that Book one of The Temple of the Blind was now available as an ebook. I did, however, have the attention of a few of my friends and family, who I just knew would trip over themselves with girlish glee upon hearing my bold and earth-shattering announcement. Or at the very least would bombard me with congratulatory replies and beg me for more information…or maybe even just click that little “like” button under the post. What I actually received was practically nothing.
It’s not that nobody cared. Quite the opposite. I’ve discovered that people I never expected to care in the least have been reading my posts with interest. They’re simply not bothered to respond to or “like” every post. And this is fine. I have no problem with it. I’m not bothered to respond to or “like” everyone else’s posts, either. But at the time, I was admittedly a little disheartened. I could see my sales reports, and I was not selling as many books as I had friends and family, after all. But I realized soon enough that my decision to publish my books in electronic format was a deterrent. I did not realize how few of them even knew that they could purchase the book without owning an expensive ereader. And even if they knew, I would be the first to agree that a laptop is not the most enjoyable tool for reading an entire book. (I don’t have an ereader yet, either… Shh, don’t tell anyone!)
The worst part about it all was that I’d really hoped that the social networking would kind of run itself. (Naïve, I know, but you can’t blame me for wishing!) Where are all those giddy fans I was talking about? It’s been, like, four months now! Shouldn’t I have my own Wikipedia page by now? I didn’t honestly believe that it would be enough to drive my sales into record breaking stats, but I did think that perhaps it would be a good solid foundation from which to build my marketing strategy.
I said before that there are no free rides, and this is a good example of exactly what I was talking about, even if I did dare to expect more than I deserved. After all, the key to successful social networking is…well, to be social and to actually network. I’m working on both of those things. For instance, I’m on Twitter, where I have a whopping four followers as I write this. (I can tell you’re impressed.) Right now, I’m mostly just making announcements there, so I guess it’s not the most interesting place to be. I hope to make it more entertaining in the near future, so maybe it’ll become something people will actually want to follow. I’ve also signed up for Linkedin …although I still don’t have a clue how to use it yet… I’m also on a number of author forums, but again, I’m not the best at jumping into conversations. And forums are finicky places anyway. I’m admittedly a little intimidated by most forums, but that’s an entirely different post, and I’ve rambled on far too long for one day already.
The lesson here is that it pays to be outgoing. If you can go out there with a smile on your face and engage people, you can win readers almost anywhere. Whether it’s in a coffee shop or on an online forum, it pays to simply strike up a conversation with whomever you run into.
Of course, there’s always that delicate balance between being engaging and being the creepy guy who keeps trying to tell you about his books… I really don’t want to be that guy! You’ll tell me if I start to be that guy, won’t you?