You are a writer. Therefore, you’re a slave. To reviews, to courting a readership, to spending hours on tasks not related to writing. Writer and slave: You’re helpless against that bondage.
Most writers now are resigned to the fact that they should also be business people. It is an uncomfortable, unwelcome role especially to the disproportionate number of introverted introspective souls among writers. But grovel, you must, like everyone else who wants to grow their business. For the reviews that could make or break the product of your dreams and toils, for as much attention as you can get on social media, for high SEO (search engine optimization) values of blog posts you’re told to write, and for anything else that’s supposed to help “market your brand.”
“Brand marketing” we are told is the name of the game in attracting readers. It has spawned many real and self-proclaimed experts who want you to read their posts or buy their books touting the last word on publicizing and selling your brand. I’ve read about it (including a couple of ebooks), but it remains a puzzle to me. I can’t learn its language.
I’ll come right out and confess that I’m one of those who would rather stay—figuratively—within the small perimeter of my writing world (my bed and laptop or my favorite armchair and laptop). I write not for money, but from a desire to say something a certain way. I’ve long ago realized my writing would not have wide appeal because of who I am and how I prefer to write. Marketing myself is an unnerving prospect. But I do seek some audience, so I have sought and paid for the services of a publicist.
In terms of units sold, the return of my publicity dollars has been negligible. My amazon free downloads did triple, and I probably got two reviews and a couple of sales, but that was it.
Wisely or not, I decided from the outset that if I did promotions, I would only use royalties from my books—let me rephrase that—from the one book I’ve written that sells about $100 a month. I’m convinced this book sells (granted, just a few, but that’s opposed to none), despite the absence of any promotion/marketing, because of what it is—a sequel to a classic-lit-cum-BBC production that attracted a large female audience, an audience hungry to recreate the titillation elicited by the actor who played the hero in the TV miniseries. Imagination is a powerful agent that transports us to our preferred version of reality and fiction books can feed that imagination.
Despite my limited understanding of brand marketing, I sense the truth of what this article says: To sell, brands must appeal to personal and emotional cravings of their target audience.
On the criteria of how well-written it is, this sequel, the first novel I wrote, is no better than my other novels. It has lower review ratings and I would admit that, as a character-driven novel, it is “meh” on plot. Neither are there bedroom scenes to make you drool, nor spine-tingling mysteries to make you sit on the edge of your chair.
My other two novels have higher ratings (4+) and richer plots. But they were not born of classic-lit-cum-movie with a sexy actor-cum-hero to feed fantasies. I have done some promotional work on one of these later novels. I’ve tweeted, put up a YouTube book trailer (complete with a beautiful Spanish love song especially composed for it), and posted on various Facebook groups. It attracted a few sales, but nothing close to the classic-lit-cum-BBC movie sequel, which in October sold 13 printed books, in addition to ebooks.
So what’s my point?
It is this: An identified, passionate, and devoted audience somehow finds what it seeks without much help from social media. Target such an audience and you’ve probably won half the battle. But first, you must define it, seek its online hangouts and court it there. Maybe, you’ll find being writer and slave a fun, enriching experience. Unless, of course, that audience just isn’t there.