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The awful stink of writer desperation

Last night my wife received an email from a fellow she sort of knows. He’s a fantasy writer, apparently, and after hearing that she’s married to me, he pressed her to take a copy of his novel (which comes with supplemental materials, it seems).

My next sentence will have even more commas.

There’s a lot of calling people “friends” and more than a few claims that Goodreads, et al, make certain books more visible based on an algorithm that blah blah blah. Seriously, do these sites not also sell co-op? I don’t actually know if they do or not; I’ve always just assumed.

Anyway, the whole thing reeks of desperation, it’s awkwardly written, and it makes the deadly mistake of (politely) ordering people around. That’s why I’m going to address the rest of this post to the unnamed and unquoted indie author.

Yes, word of mouth is important. Yes, readers spreading the word about books they love does good things for those books. However, that word of mouth has to be done out of love. If a you’re relying on some sort of social obligation (“I’d better give Arlene’s new book four stars before I see her at the office on Monday…”) then everyone loses, because that reader is going to resent being recruited as a volunteer PR person, the review they write won’t be honest, and anyone fooled by it is going to be disappointed. That’s not what you want.

Look, I know it’s tough. I know it’s hard to get any kind of visibility, especially as an indie author. It’s hard to get reviews, or any sort of attention. It’s like shouting in a crowd of other shouting people.

You want to know the real secret here? It’s not about the marketing. It’s not about emails to acquaintances begging for reviews. It’s about three things: the book itself, your ability to identify the people who would like it, your ability to give them a reason to read a free sample.

If you can get those three things right, you don’t have to worry about the book too much. It will take off on its own. Breaking it down:

The book itself: This isn’t a question about whether your book is “good” or not. There’s no point in arguing that your book is good (which won’t stop people, but that’s beside the point here). Is the book a story that people love and want to share with their friends? Do they read it and then buy three copies to give as gifts?

If you’re not getting that kind of response, no marketing in the world is going to help you.

Your ability to identify the people who would like it: You know how much fantasy fiction my wife reads? None. Well, it used to be none before she got tangled up with me. Now she reads mine, but I don’t think that counts. Thing is, she’s not what you’d call a geek at all. She’ll see the movies because that’s fun mass entertainment. She’ll watch ARROW if they remember to include workout scenes. When she sits down with a book, she reads about non-fiction about education reform.

Seriously, that’s her thing. She’s a homeschooling parent, and she wants to do a good job. So pressing a fantasy novel into her hands will do nothing for you except waste your time.

Your ability to give them a reason to read a free sample: See, even if you can identify potential readers of your work, you need to pique their interest. You ought to be funny, or kind, or insightful. You should be out in the world, most likely in social media, sharing things that interest people. And right beside that, you have a bio that reads “I write books. Read a free sample here.”

That’s it. Yeah, there’s more to it, obviously, but those are the basics.

I understand how frustrating it is, but some choices can actively hurt your chances of success. Sending long emails to my wife is one of them.

Good luck.

Mirrored from Harry Connolly. You can comment here but not there.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
fidelioscabinet
Aug. 12th, 2014 12:30 am (UTC)
Word.
Twice I have received e-mails from an acquaintance I hadn't seen in years. Both were pushing books--a romance novel by a friend of hers, a nonfiction book of her own. Both had the sort of canned feel of an e-mail written according to a marketing department's guidelines. Neither were in any way personal--they weren't in her own voice.

I stood with her through a divorce and her ex-husband's sudden death. She couldn't bother to let me know when she remarried & moved out of state. But I was fair game for book marketing spam. </p>

She might have got me if her e-mail had been a general personal update, with the books worked in along the way. Or if she'd said "I know you don't much read romance, but if you know someone who does..." or "If you know someone who could use a book on X, tell them I'm good!" But as it was, it was mass-produced marketing spam. And it was deleted as soon as I read it, both times.

It wasn't evil on her part, just dumb. She was almost surely told it was a good thing to do. If she'd thought about it, she'd have done a better job. But she didn't.

burger_eater
Aug. 12th, 2014 02:29 pm (UTC)
That is just fucking sad. Really.
avitzur
Aug. 12th, 2014 03:51 am (UTC)
Got to say, major kudos for taking an awkward social situation and transforming it into something 1) entertaining, 2) helpful, 3) informative, and most of all 4) funny.

Well done, sir.
burger_eater
Aug. 12th, 2014 02:42 pm (UTC)
Well thank you!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )