I sense a deep tension in many of the writers I talk with, particularly those who aspire to make a living from their writing. You may be one of them.
Perhaps the idea of marketing your work seems distasteful, maybe even unethical. It’s not that you’re afraid of hard work or shy about telling people about your stories. It goes deeper than that. Marketing feels inherently un-artistic, maybe even anti-artistic. It’s like once you take the dive into marketing strategies and “building your author platform” and (ick) “growing your personal brand,” you’re going to shrivel into a soulless SEO linkbaiter and everything will be ruined forever.
I have a different way of looking at marketing, and it has pretty much changed my life. It has made me more generous, more excited, and more sincere. It gives me a filter for when and how and where to spread the word about my stories, so that I can get great readers without just being an annoying self-promoter. Best of all, it has aligned my goals so that I can throw all of my energy unhesitantly in one direction rather than feeling like I have to flip-flop between doing the good work of writing my stories and making the necessary compromise of marketing them.
From now on, when I say ‘marketing,’ I mean telling people a thing exists or helping them get it more easily or cheaply. (I think I may have stolen this from Write. Publish. Repeat. Maybe not. Either way, I recommend it.)
This gets really cool really fast. Here are three of my favorite angles on it.
No Tricking People
You’ll notice one part I left out of my marketing definition: making people think they want or need something. I think this is the heart of why so much traditional advertising feels so soulless. It’s intentionally planting dissatisfaction in people so that they’ll buy something they don’t need so that other people make money.
My job is to find the people who do want or would want my stories and get the word out to them.
Create and Spread Real Value
So if we’re not tricking people into wanting it, it has to be something genuinely valuable to them. (For the record, that also means valuable enough to make it worth paying what’s being asked.) This is the part that helps me align my energy, effort, and enthusiasm. If my book is going to make peoples’ lives better, it’s worth helping them get their hands on it. If it’s valuable to some people but not to others, I’ll tell the some but not bother the others. If it’s not going to make peoples’ lives better, I shouldn’t be writing it in the first place, much less marketing it.
This all seems simple in retrospect, but it’s been absolutely revolutionary for me. If I genuinely believe my stories are great and will make peoples’ lives better—and I do—I have permission to be truly enthusiastic about marketing my stories to them. You could even argue I have a duty to spread the word. If I have something that would make peoples’ lives better and I don’t exert my full energy, intelligence, and persistence in getting it to them, I’m not living as I should.
Now here’s where it gets especially cool. If someone would genuinely enjoy my stories, telling her they exist is doing her a favor. If my story will make her life better, helping her get it is a generous act.
Think about the books that have changed your life, that you’ve gone back to over and over. What if nobody had ever told you about them? Sad, right? But you did hear about it. Does it matter whether it was a friend or the author or a library sale that first drew your attention to it? Not at all. It’s not being creepy to help someone find or get something they’ll love.
So that’s it. Make sure you’re creating something valuable, find the people whose lives it would improve, and help them get their hands on it.
In that vein, I’d like to offer you a gift. The Dream World Collective is a novel about chasing what you love. It’s quirky and geeky and silly and sweet, and I think a lot of you will love it. It’s due for publication later this year, but in the meantime I’d like to give it to you for free. I’m pre-releasing it in sections as I work through the final edits.
1. Click here to download the first section. I’ll keep posting more at bit.ly/latestdwc.
2. I’d love your help getting the word out. Details here.
3. If you’re not into it, no worries. I’m grateful you read this far and I wish you all the best.
Sometimes with all of the blogging, twittering, and social media-ing, I just wonder if all writers are doing are talking to other writers. It’s like we’re all door-to-door salesmen, knocking on a door, “Wanna buy my book?” And the person answers, “No, but do YOU wanna buy MY book?”
I know! It’s crazy. I have much to say on this but I’m rushing out the door.
Ok, sorry about that. I’m back.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this since last night. My reply ended up becoming a full post. It’s here. Thanks so much for the really excellent observation.