Thursday, 10 January 2013

Don’t Be a Desperate Newbie Author

Please buy my book, please buy my book, please, please buy my book!

Now this could be called, if you were in a generous mood, a call to action. But then again it might just come across as being a little bit desperate. The unfortunate thing about this is that during the times when we are most in need we are also our most unattractive. Like those long ago times at the school disco when you stood frantically checking out the boys on the other side of the room, hoping against hope that one of them would dare to break rank and come and ask you to dance, while you pretended to be so cool and uncaring.  It didn’t happen because despite your best efforts, despite the false giggles and talking to your mates, you reeked of desperation.

Now, like me, you may have just self published your very first book or even have been lucky enough to have landed a traditional publishing deal.   You have probably been thinking about this book, writing this book, editing this book and procrastinating over this book for years. But all of a sudden, you now have a tangible product in your hands or on your e-reader. And you have to sell it, because these days nobody is going to do it for you.

So what do you do when you run out of obliging friends and family that can be persuaded, sweet talked or bribed to download your pride and joy? When you realise that all of your loved ones have started leaving the room when you enter or are discreetly taking the battery out of their hearing aids rather than listen to any more of your pitiful begging? To be quite honest, I don’t really know.  So far I have managed to rein in my impulse to run down the road and accost total strangers, but for how much longer?

But the one thing I have learned is that is fatal to come over as desperate, under confident and generally like a typical newbie. To be like one of those kids with their faces eternally pressed up against the window of the sweet shop that never gets to go in and choose their candy. One of the problems, oddly enough, is not that there is too little information out there about how to sell and promote your book. In fact there is probably way too much. There is blog after blog, website after website, free download after free download all trying to tell you that they have the secrets that you are looking for, the tips that will get you results, and the only wisdom that you will ever need in your journey to becoming a best-selling author. Now I was very surprised to find that I should have started promoting my book at least a year before I published it, but unfortunately for me that is a boat that has already sailed. But at some point you are going to have to put your toes in the water and starting pushing your work in order to gain an audience.

Now whether you choose to blog, tweet, Facebook, Pin or do combinations of lots of things is up to you, but here are some general things to bear in mind:

1)      Although you are a brand new author, with maybe just one title or an unfinished manuscript under your belt, you are still an writer and should be proud of what you do.  Being a good writer means learning all the time, and often the people we can learn the most from are established authors who have garnered a lot of skill and experience over the years. But just because someone has written a raft of best-sellers and is a household name, does not mean that you have to abase yourself before them and go to the extremes of follower behaviour. Always speak and communicate with your writing peers as an equal, and while acknowledging that other authors deserve respect for their achievements, remember that you too have experience, skills and a lot to offer.

2)      Criticism is always hard to take and as writers we are inevitably going to get some bad reviews and criticism of our work.  However, it looks so much better to the world if we learn to deal with these bad reviews graciously and, if the criticism is constructive, take on board what was said and use it to improve our writing in the future.  After all, we are always learning right? But one of the sad facts of the world today is that the internet is infested with trolls, nut jobs and people with nothing better to do than judge other people’s work.  The trick is to discern genuine constructive criticism that you can learn from, and which reviews are just attacks or nastiness.  Also, it is important to remember that reviewers are talking about your book and not you as a person.  If a troll does start attacking you personally, blank them and they will generally get bored and go away.  Or hit the report button of whatever social media site you are on if you are sure that they are really having a go at you and not just expressing an opinion that you do not like.

3)      Another important thing to remember is that while we may be trembling jellies, unsure of ourselves and how our books will be received by the world, there are plenty of people out there, especially on the internet that are mighty sure of themselves.  Unfortunately, just because they come across well and have a shiny, slick looking website doesn’t mean that they are experts or know what they are talking about.  If you do a lot of research and reading you will come to work out those writers and bloggers who really do know their stuff and who resonate with you. But before you are really sure of someone’s expertise and credentials, don’t be tempted to be parted from your money.  You could easily spend a lot and gain very little, or even be outright scammed if you are not careful.

4)      A guru is someone who discovered something that worked well for them and then communicated how they achieved that success to their followers.  This is great and you can learn a lot.  It does not, however, mean that if we slavishly follow their every move that it will necessarily work for you or me. We are all on our own, individual writing journeys and have different goals, different ways of doing things and different comfort zones. So we need to test things out, try different things and build our own promotional toolkit of things that work for us.  And when we do find something that works well for us, pay it forward and share it with the followers that we have gained. And then you might just be surprised to find that people have started talking about you as the latest hot shot writing, publishing or social media guru.

5)      Don’t get caught up in the politics.  I was blissfully unaware of the raging arguments between Indie and traditional publishing before I started my reading and research, and have been somewhat surprised by the heat and vehemence displayed in some of the opinions for and against both positions.  Again you need to do what you feel is right for you and this may change on a book by book basis.  I have chosen to self publish my first book without exploring the traditional route, but that is my decision and I applaud any author who chooses the traditional route. Life is a smorgasbord as far as I am concerned and I have always been a fan of a pick n’ mix approach to life.

I think that we newbie authors can be guilty of taking ourselves a bit too seriously. It used to be so much easier in the good old days, when all we had to do was labour over our manuscripts in a freezing, windy attic for years before dying and being ‘discovered’ years after our deaths. Now we not only have to write a good book, we have to brand ourselves, build an author platform and try to be a professional in every situation that life throws at us. But ask yourself why you really write.  Do you have a story inside you that just has to be told?  Do you want the freedom from commuting and a workplace that writing can offer you?  Do you want to have fun and experiment a bit?

So be proud of your achievements so far and face the world with confidence and a sense of self worth.  Desperation just attracts the predators in and leads us to making bad decisions.  So we owe it to ourselves to chill out a bit, enjoy the journey as we go along and trust that if our work is good enough and we do some work on promotion that people will find our books, read them, enjoy them and come back for more.

One last thing......please buy my book, please buy my book, please, please buy my book!!!

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