Saturday, 5 January 2013

Winking in the Dark...

“Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”   --  Steuart Henderson Britt, Marketing Management and Administrative Action

This is phase three of my Oh,Those Good Old Days of Writing Just to Be Writing phase

In earlier posts, I spoke about guidelines set by publishers and by readers in fiction---what's acceptable, what's a hot button, etc. 

Now another aspect of being an author---a very important one, one that never, ever occurred to me in my innocent days of writing just for me and my buddies---is on my mind. 

Advertising. Selling myself and my product. Promo. 

This, I think, is the scariest part of all. Why? Because I'm not a natural-born pitch gal. No matter what it was in my life---whether it was just daily junk in a young person's life or my published books as an adult---I was never comfortable with drawing attention to things I'd done. 

Why, oh, why---so long ago, as I feverishly typed my fabulous stories---did I think it was all a matter of I've written my book, dear publisher, can you please publish it and make sure everyone knows about it? Thank you kindly. 

Lately I've seen or been involved in many discussions about promotion. Just what really DOES sell a book? What's best? Facebook, Twitter, Online forums? Blogging? And, when you've decided that, then how MUCH promo? Does it really work? How can you know which promo venue IS working for you? Who sees your pitches? 

So many questions, and---for me, anyway---no answers. 
I'm that man in the quote above. I'm winking in the dark. 
Oh, I do promo now and then. I throw up an occasional post on Facebook for my books. Even with that, though, I'm not comfortable. It's not easy for me to be the proverbial 'newsie', waving the latest edition of the headlines and my books. When my works were still hot off the presses and getting reviews, I probably should have shared the reviews on social networks. No go for me. Just couldn't do it. Who knows why? Not that I wasn't proud. Okay, okay, I'll admit a tiny part of me never believes the good reviews. My internal critic kicking in there. 

I don't blog hop. I'd been reprimanded by a well-meaning friend on that regard. It would be good for me, I was told, it would be a good way to promote myself and my books. But I still just don't choose to do that. 

I hear how others have full-time jobs, just like me---or who don't have conventional nine-to-five jobs but are still round-the-clock busy---and how they still make time to promo because it is necessary. If I care about my books and my writing career, I will make time to promo, I'm told.

If I care.

That's where this issue, for me, is an extremely delicate, confusing one. I do care. But...

Let me explain about ME. 

No, I am not shy, by any means. My inhibition with promoting myself isn't a social fear. But there is that little fragment of me, still left over from the early days of writing simply for pleasure and not as a career, that still lingers. 

I do care about my work. I do want readers to find me, to read my books. Most of all, for me anyway, it's nothing more than this very simple, very childish desire to share my characters with others. I love them, I want others to love them, too.

But then why not push them harder?

Again, it's just not my style. Someday, maybe. One day, when I feel confident to depend on my writing for major income, I'll be forced to navigate the promotional waters. Right now, though, writing is a passion. And that's pretty much just it.

Some claim they'd write for free, they love it so, and that it's not about money. And others don't buy that. 

But you know what? I'm somewhere in between. I like the money. Want to know something true? When I received my first contract and came to the section asking how I'd like to be paid, I actually did a mental double take. Oh, my gosh. I forgot! I'm getting PAID for this! So, yes, for real, I sincerely hadn't ventured into it with monetary goals. The royalties, though, were just a lovely topping to a wonderful cake for me. The writing, being taken seriously by a publisher, sharing my stories was the best part. And it really was. Still is. 

I do feel I have a responsibility to a publisher to promote my work. Being accepted by a publisher becomes a commitment to sell the product that is theirs as well as mine. 

But it's hard. It is so very hard.

I'd love to write in some wonderful fantasy world where it's just a matter of putting a book out there and it just finding its right homes. The right reader linking to the right book. But, yes, that's a dream. My books are just a couple in a sea filled with a bazillion others. To have those readers means doing something to bring that book to their attention. They really won't see it if I only wink in the dark. Right?


In 1999, I got wind of a Paul Simon concert in the Cynthia Woods Pavilion in Houston. Excited, I immediately called the theatre to see about tickets. Imagine my shock to find the concert had already come and gone. And I'd missed it. I lamented to the ticket salesperson. She advised me that visit had done very little publicity, it had been a sell-out simply by word of mouth. Imagine. 

Aha. So I WAS leading somewhere. No, no, I'm no Paul Simon. But what I AM getting at is...

Could I possibly just keep writing because I love it? Could I maybe just devote my energy to writing the best stuff I can write and...and...if it's meant to be, it will be? If I can produce a good story, can it reach its target over time by word of mouth? Oh, sure, it would be slow, but...

Can I be patient? The modest but beautiful readership I've developed sure hasn't evolved because I've been an aggressive promotional enigma. I'm happy with the status quo. It's come at its own natural timing.

Maybe, just maybe some DO see us if we just wink in the dark?



Dorien Grey said...

Don't know which word is more accurate to describe my response: empathy or agreement. Let's go with both. Well said, Carol, as always.

Moria said...

I feel you, Carol. It's so hard for me to promote as well and when I do, I feel like a fraud somehow. lol

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Part of me doesn't care if I sell books. Part of me does. Maybe that means I'm a freak. Haha, Maybe but I don't care. Don't worry about where you fit in, Carol. Time has a way of making sense of this stuff. Maybe by book #4 you'll figure it out. That's what I'm waiting for, once I publish #3, #4, or #5, maybe I'll care about the money and the numbers.

I do do bloghops because otherwise I'm lament away in this lonely, solitary stop. I'm one of those people who have to work at being social. It's way too easy to just hide out and become a recluse.

Happy New Year, my dear friend.

NPT said...

Every writer HATES doing promos. It takes time away from writing! But I've noticed that "old-fashioned" authors, i.e., those before the internet, built sales with multiple books. Each new book increased the sales of previously published books.

But at least you are not doing what some do, which is to RELENTLESSLY shout their books EVERYWHERE. In the end one skips over their emails/twits/blog pieces.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Wow, this could be me. In fact (aside from the concert story) this post is not something I haven't said or thought or argued before at some point.

Like you, I am not comfortable tooting my own horn beyond a quiet, "hey, I've got a new story out, if you're interested, that is..." I feel if I write what I love and other people like it too, that should be enough.

The problem is, I would like to sell stories. I know I'll never be a household name, or even a mid-lister on a large scale, but the beauty of successfully selling stories (as opposed to the seventy or so I've posted for free over the years) is that there is the hope that someday, selling stories will allow me to work less at the day job, which in turn leads to more time to enjoy life. Which includes writing more stories. :-)

There has to be a balance. I'm usually teetering the board too far in either direction most days. Thanks for speaking to what is one of my biggest hurdles as an author--self-promotion.

I suspect, on a larger level, it could be said that many women such as myself were taught to be self-effacing and that I need to learn to get over that. The ingrained message, however, is that promoting yourself somehow means you are arrogant and conceited--traits to be avoided at all costs.

I think for me, the key lies in 'promotion with grace'. Let people know when you have something new out. Participate in the kinds of things that put your name/face out there that lie within your comfort zone. For me, that would be blog-hops yes, live chats, no. No automated tweets or relentless promos on every list you can think of.

But the real key is keep writing good stories and keep publishing them in a timely fashion. And I do think that's hard to do when we seem to spend more time writing about writing than actually producing anything! :-)

C. Zampa said...

Thank you for visiting, Dorien!

C. Zampa said...

OMG, Moira, that's kind of how I feel, too. This fraud. And that, I figure, is our self-confidence slagging. And that's yet another problem. LOL...

C. Zampa said...

Oh, Joylene, I do swear we were souls separated at birth.

I love blogging, too. It's such a wonderful way to be able to things on my heart, to talk about writing...that we never had before the internet.

And, my friend, I'm glad that---whatever work you did at being social---was enough for us to meet.

Happy New Year to you as well.

C. Zampa said...

Nikolaos...I'm pretty sure that shouting relentlessly about my product is one thing I just can't do. Now or ever. There will just have to be another way.

And you know what? I hadn't thought about the 'old fashioned' authors before internet. You are so right. It was chance and the efforts of their publishers to get them out into the public eye.

C. Zampa said...

Sarah, that's a wonderful way to put it, and I need to keep that in mind---'promotion with grace'. I like that.

And I'm exactly like you. I feel the need to add to my promos...'if you want to read it, that is.'

Where that comes from in us, I don't know. Might be like you said, we're taught not to show off.

And that's where the 'grace' part comes in. That line between 'enough' and 'too much'.

Kelly Rand said...

This. Totally. Absolutely. I thought there was something wrong with me. I feel a little less alone on the interwebs now.

C. Zampa said...

Oh, no, Kelly, it's not just you, to be sure! LOL.

It's daunting. For a non-ad gal like me, it takes a lot of steel agaisnt my nature to make myself do any promo at all.

B Snow said...

What you said, and what Moria said above. I'm not shy, either, but I HATE talking myself up. It DOES feel like showing off. I'm not sure I'll EVER be proud enough of something I write to want to promote it, because I don't think my stuff is that great -- yes, fun little stories, but nothing unusual or extraordinary, nothing that's ever going to win contests or hit best-seller charts. So why would people want to know about it?? :P