It’s been a week slammed with conversations that all had the same theme: traditionally published writers feeling disenchanted with the marketing efforts of their publishers.
I’m sure this is an age-old complaint. “My book isn’t selling. The publisher won’t promote it.” Meanwhile, the publisher is probably thinking, “This book isn’t selling well. The author didn’t have the platform we expected. Let’s move on to the next project. It will sell better, and maybe pay our salaries.”
It’s a vicious cycle of blame. But where does the blame really lie?
Probably with the system. Bookstores with limited shelf space. Too many titles competing for a piece of an ever-shrinking pie of hardcover book attention. Too much competition from e-books that have almost no overhead invested in their production cost. Too few large publishers, too many very small publishers, too many authors, too few readers of “my brand of fiction.” It’s a blame game.
As far as I’m concerned, in my writing there’s only one method as a solution to this cycle: 1) Write what I love to write. 2) Publish it if I can — either traditionally or by self-publishing. 3) Let some people know I wrote it, people I think will enjoy it. 4) Hope it catches on, but learn more about how to get it to catch on and do those things. 5) Mostly ignore the reviews (unless I have to look through some for a blurb for a back cover for the paperback I’m producing.) 6) Meanwhile, enjoy thinking up another book. Get busy writing for the joy of it. Sales will follow. Or not. Don’t get too caught up in it.
Like I told one writer friend today: Most of the promotion efforts an author makes are like spitting in the wind. The best you can do is to promote it in all the ways you want to, so it doesn’t overtax either you or your family; don’t put too much unnecessary pressure on yourself. If it stops being fun, it’s a sign you should do something else for a bit — like write the next book.
My guess (although not my personal experience yet) is that creating a body of nice stories that people want to read is the best way to make my writing hobby a “success” — success being defined in different ways. It can’t all be about money, because I personally wouldn’t term the person who wrote Fifty Shades a success. It has to be about creating something that makes a reader feel something. Maybe that feeling is relief. Maybe it’s escape. Maybe it’s joy or simply an uplift. Keep going. Enjoy it. Learn new stuff about improving skills. Try new ways to promote. Keep discovering fun plots, fun ways to promote the book, fun people with bright ideas and personalities. The writing community is vibrant and creative. Get excited about the hobby. Sell some books. But don’t overthink it. Just get going on the next project, and thank the fabulous readers of the stories I create! They’re the best.
Yours might differ, but that’s my plan. I’ll let you know how it turns out.