When I wrote the following essay seven years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. You’ll be pleased to know that, with all I’ve learned since, I still have no clue.
That being said, the naiveté of my younger self is still cringe inducing.
I post this for anyone else struggling to get their own fiction sold. I figure it will either encourage or kill the impulse to sell.
Either way, I’m sure they will be happier.
When I signed up for this—and by ‘this’, I mean being a professional writer—I suspected I’d end up doing most of the leg-work selling my fiction.
I was wrong.
I’m doing all of it.
I was so fucking whiny here.
Selling my first novel has turned into an intense learning curve of marketing on a budget (where the budget is $0). What it mostly involves is begging for positive feedback in print. I feel a bit like that ‘old whore’, giving deep discounts for sex.
Why didn’t that analogy make me feel dirty? Never mind; rhetorical question.
It still doesn’t, though. Guess I’m just a slut.
There aren’t any secret short cuts to getting people excited about my work. If there were, believe me, I’d have found them by now! Every Authorpreneur (God, I love that word!) is doing what I am, only some are spending money doing it. I can’t see a significant advantage in that, so far.
If you network with the right people, money can make a tremendous difference. Again, I had no idea what I was talking about.
“Authorpreneur” – If you’re involved in self-publishing, you’ve likely been hearing this word a lot in the last seven years. No? Well shit, I must have been talking out my ass back then.
I’m doing or have done everything right. I’ve written the best story I can write; that includes countless rewrites, revisions, & read-throughs by me and a few amazing volunteers.
I hadn’t done nearly enough; I still haven’t. I had also made—and continue to make—many hideous mistakes.
I enlisted a friend, a professional illustrator, to make me a kick-ass cover, for free (that’s friendship!).
The friend in question is a gifted illustrator and artist. I got what I paid for and it served me right for asking a fellow starving artist to work for free. Sorry, Juan.
I have this website and many social networks where I constantly provide news and new promos, info, and teasers to get people interested. I have a scant few reviews, but they’re all great ones. I could use a lot more and that’s what I’m focusing on at the moment.
I still have all this and still no one cares, and why should they?
Begging for good pity reviews is not the way to go.
I should be hard at work on my next book because, by a kind of logic I only vaguely understand, having more than one book for sale makes all my work more attractive to the potential reader.
Me to my past self, “It’s called a back catalogue, you idiot. And it only matters if the other books have good independent reviews and have actually sold a few copies.”
I’m not really going anywhere with this, I’m just venting I suppose. I haven’t written any fiction in weeks as I feel guilty taking any time away from crafting my stories.
I should have listen to my guilt. I’m not a marketing genius and I never will be. My talent (sic) and skill (also sic) is writing and that’s the only solo activity that should ever have received my time and loving attention.
Also, why was I “venting”, anyway?
I should have been heads down working on something I might actually be able to sell one day. Moron!
It will likely be months before I see any measurable (read: ‘monetary’) results from this. Right now, I’m soliciting reviews from bloggers who do that sort of thing. Professional critics charge money, so that’s out at present.
The optimism in this paragraph is physically sickening to me, now.
About the only thing I haven’t tried so far is exchanging reviews with other authors. I’m reluctant to start that because reading adds more work to my plate and leaves less time for other types of marketing—time I’m taking away from actually writing. *guilt!*
Oh, you must shut up!
The following is all—and only—what I should have been doing all along—
One – Create the work.
Two – Fix it as well as I am able.
[NOTE A: At some designated point, just fucking stop editing. Aim for a standard of ‘good enough’, or I’ll never finish.
NOTE B: I’m going to have to get someone I know to attempt to read each newly minted work critically. It’s going to be embarrassing and useless, but it has to happen. Don’t ask me why.]
Three – Put it up for sale on Amazon and on this website.
[NOTE C: Spend as little time as I think I can get away with on the typesetting/cover design BS. As long as—
i) It’s readable
ii) I get the title and my name both spelled right on the cover
—It’s fucking good enough. Do it and move on.
NOTE D: The same goes for my website. Get it up and keep it simple. I can lose hours every day trying to make my site more attractive cosmetically, when the only thing that really matters is the content.]
Three-a – If I’m feeling particularly masochistic, first spend a few years futilely trying to flog my latest ‘masterwork’ to publishers/agents before giving up and selling it directly.
Four – Repeat until death.
This is ALL I should EVER have been doing.
I’m keeping an eye out for that breakout moment when I get unsolicited positive feedback.
Good thing I didn’t hold my breath while waiting.
Fuck, what a noob I was.
I’ll post it when it happens.
[2019 – It never did.]
Nauseating, wasn’t it.
My current advice to all aspiring authors of narrative is to concentrate on your craft.
Don’t spend a moment longer than life forces you to on anything else—especially, don’t waste time figuring out how to sell your work. If it’s good enough, it will sell. If it doesn’t, that means you still have to get better at it. Stop reading right now and get back to work.
Just had to read one more sentence, didn’t you. Well read the next one, then.
Looking back, the one thing I got right seven years ago was this: there are no shortcuts.
You’re still here. Go and write.