The world is big and wide and open to many things. There are millions of people on Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr all eager for news. So there is no reason to think that social networks won't be thrilled to hear about my new book, your new book, or whatever it is we have just created--right? Maybe. Among writers and inventors and people who create things and want to sell them, worries arise. How to sell my product.
Some folks will blast out emails to everyone and anyone. Others will hang back, read articles about how to sell, when to sell, how often is too often to tweet, post on Facebook etc etc.
In the book world, there are countless blogs that offer advice and strong opinions about every aspect of book marketing. It can make your head spin. But after reading all that advice, in the world of book writing, publishing and marketing the bottom line is the writer has to be out there. It's a given. Whether you publish with the Big Five or go with a small publisher or self-publish--if you want people to read your work, you have to be out there.
The word launch has taken on a whole new meaning and it doesn't necessarily include dock shoes and a bottle of champagne.
Question: So what's a writer to do?
Answer: Adopt a philosophy or approach and run with it.
Problem: There are lots of approaches out there.
Solution: Combine them.
And that solution takes time, careful thought and planning. It's a little like preparing for a party--you make certain that each individual guest will feel comfortable when they arrive, thus guaranteeing that they will stay for the duration; think: buy your book.
When I launched my first book, a collection of stories entitled A Mother's Time Capsule, four generous fellow bloggers printed guest posts about my book. And I was honored by organizations that focus on writing and publishing: Women's Fiction Writers Association and Sezoni Whitfield's Writer's Kaboodle. I tweeted and posted on Facebook. I created a Pinterest Board that illustrated and provided a quote from each of the 13 stories in the book--creative fun, but time consuming. And I'll never know if it caused even one sale.
But the activity that took the most time and yet had interesting and questionable results were the 75-100 personal emails that I wrote. These were not copy and paste, these were emails that addressed the receiver's personal life and then mentioned the advent of the book. I got a 75% response from the email itself. Book sales? Very few. And who is in your email? Why family and friends.
So when author and friend Kathryn Craft (The Art of Falling, The Far Side of Happy) addressed this issue, her words rang true.
...I've heard this over sharing argument before, and always from writer moms with young kids, so I want to share my perspective as an empty nester. I am stealing the spotlight from no one when sharing my excitement about something good happening in my life--and since my life is more and more writing related these days, that something will probably be about writing and its related activities. And if I share these things on my personal page, I expect that 1) my large cache of writing friends will be thrilled, knowing what it must mean to me; 2) my non-writing friends will gain a fascinating look into the trials and joys of being a writer, trusting that once the launch is over their feeds will calm; and 3) disinterested family members can scroll past, thinking, "Oh there's Kathryn doing her Kathryn thing again."
For me, her words translated to, Oh there's Beth doing her Beth thing again.
Kathryn's work like that of many writers, pulls from deep personal experience and it is thought-provoking that she could take the suicide of a family member and from that wrenching experience create an incredible novel. Fiction mirrors life, but it takes not only talent, but guts to do so.
So when Kathryn also states: If you are sharing to spread excitement that you can no longer contain in your heart, I say the world needs more evidence of such passion. If you are persisting despite the odds, I say the world needs more examples of such drive... I want to jump up and clap and cheer!
Kathryn and I are writers, mothers, empty nesters. We are in the 3rd stage and find it full of challenge yet excitement. So if we publish a book--wow! That's giving birth again, that's passionate creation from a whole other side of ourselves and our talents. And we have to celebrate it--shout it out.
And there are editors and publishers, publicists and agents who would agree. Kathryn also shared this reflection with me:
Agent Cherry Weiner once told us at a panel, "Don't you dare leave this conference and write to me to say you heard me speak and think I might like your book. If you can't come up to me and tell me face-to-face how much you love what you've written, you don't have what it takes to sell a book."
That changed my life. For me it was no longer about selling, which is so off-putting. It was about spreading the love.
These words truly answered the question: so what's a writer to do?
Love your work, believe in your work, mention it, talk about it, send people copies of it. Easy right?
Not always. Writers love to sit at computers alone and write, dream things up, create problems and solve them, make up nasty conversation and end it. We are in control, running things. As the mission statement on my mug from Women's Fiction Writers Association reads: DRINK COFFE. MAKE THINGS UP. What a life!!
Being out there with a new publication can be scary even if you love your work. Because there are thousands on social media telling you when, how and why to do it. They shout about bragging and fake reviews, and spammy writing and paying people to sell your book etc etc. Please! All I want to do is write and publish--and go back to my quiet room. To me THAT would be Beth doing her Beth thing.
In the end, the approach to writing and then to selling a book will directly reflect who the author is, the kind of person he or she is. It certainly is so in the case of Kathryn Craft who wrote and attended conferences, wrote some more, took classes, and then, after many rejections, acquired a great agent and...the rest is history.
When you're giving birth to books, it is another variation on motherhood: you carefully and tenderly make some choices, then struggle to give birth, and after its arrival as you begin to speak about your progeny, you finally realize--it's time to share the love.