My publisher brain put itself on hold recently: I’m still writing my ass off, but there is no urge whatsoever to put it up. Granted, I’m working on a couple of novels right now, but believe me, I have plenty of back material that still needs to go up. So what’s going on?
It turns out that being a publisher requires creativity. Which sounds obvious, but it isn’t, not when you’re in the thick of it.
Here’s my internal monologue:
- Okay, covers, covers require creativity…pretty interior layouts…yes, yes…I get very creative with blurbs…
- Wait, promotion? Promotion needs to be creative?!?!
- But I only have so many creativity points today and I want to spend them all on wriiiiting! (I think this is the place where a lot of writers stop and say, “I think I’ll just hand all this off to a publisher.”)
- No, wait. There’s something else going on, rumbling around down there…
There’s something trying to come out from the subconscious. It’s not here yet. But, interestingly enough, I can see a little bit of the shape of it.
I ended up at Beth A. Grant’s website the other day, based on a friend’s recommendation, twice removed. (That means, I read the stuff at the original recommendation’s link, and the original link led to another link, which led to there, which, on second thought, needs a new phrase for it so you don’t have to explain that it’s not a friend twice removed but a link twice removed–“two jumps removed,” maybe?) It’s a marketing and promotions site. (Most writers will shudder there.) But she has some good stuff. My favorite point so far is the idea that not everyone should market the same way…which she breaks down in a more analytical way into personality types. It may be foolish, but I love me some personality types. When I hit the sorting hat in Harry Potter I cheered.
If you’re curious, you start here. But in short there are two axes–and I end up on the nerd end of the boxes, where I think the best thing I can do is make good content (versus being a good “speaker” or a compelling salesperson). But this site is all about…providing people a service. Not about writing and selling fiction–not about hustling art. So there’s no cut-and-dried plan there that fits my creativity. (And yes, art provides a service–but if you take a look at the concrete marketing tips, the concept just doesn’t carry over clearly.)
But it does help explain some things.
I have a hard time formulating my “brand” and selling it, because my brand is my content; either you like it or you don’t. But if I look at it a different way–in a nerdier way, although that isn’t the language she uses–and I’m pretending I’m giving a book recommendation to someone out of my own work, it becomes much easier to identify who should get what. My kids’ fiction? Is for smart kids who are bored with reading; it’s very mischievous writing. You shouldn’t give this to your kid if they are the kind who always obeys rules, if they’re horrified by scary movies, and if they aren’t constantly pushing buttons to see what they get away with. So if your kid is a brat from 8-12 years old, they’ll probably like at least some of what I write. Which is, um, a brand, although when I try to fit the two ideas together they just don’t work.
I don’t see any really good “Marketing for Nerds: The Book” floating around. There are marketing nerds, yes, and marketers are learning from nerds, but mostly nerds who need to market are treated as people who need a crutch, rather than people who need to find their own voices. I do like Seth Godin, but there’s something subtly off for me about his work. It’s inspiring, but it’s not concrete–How do you promote book X? Rely on the long tail! Provide good customer service! Don’t worry, you’ll find a niche! All great philosophy, but…what do I do about it? How do I make a jump toward something practical? Or something fundamental, some core idea that I can use to form a specific plan?
I look at the way other writers are marketing, and…wow, I could copy what other writers are doing (and I have), but is it really a way to stand out? I could chase the latest “thing,” but…well, no. That’s not actually what I want. I don’t want to play the numbers. I don’t want to calculate the best time of the year to release. I don’t want to figure out the best sites to put up ads on. I don’t want to hound people to buy books on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t want to obsess about new release lists. I don’t want to go on the Endless Blog Tour. I don’t want to give away bookmarks and Kindles…I don’t want to bribe people to like my work, and I don’t want to pound them into giving up and buying my stuff in the hope that I’ll shut up about it already. I mean, I sound really negative about it, but it’s about me, not you. I don’t like these things. They might convince me to buy stuff, but I don’t want to be the one doing them.
Yes, I’ve run into the idea that I just need to be (essentially) more woo-woo about the whole process and accept what the universe gives me–but I’m a nerd. I analyze. In fact, I analyze so that when I get down to the real meat of the matter, I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’m doing the right thing. I analyze in preparation for walking out into the woo-woo, not so I can avoid doing so.
So I both don’t want to analyze (at least, using the analytical tools that other people are using), and yet I must analyze. Which means I need to start thinking about new tools.
I don’t have them yet. Sorry: I feel like this will be really useful if I can pull it off. But I got nothing so far. I’m running through the writers I follow online…and they aren’t the ones that I read, except for Stephen Brust, and the fact that he writes amusingly online isn’t why I first started reading him. I’ll pick up a book IF another person recommends it to me and IF I like the opening page…but that doesn’t seem to be something that, as the writer myself, I can directly control–other than going on the Endless Blog Tour. (I don’t mind writing blogs, but I’d rather they be nerdy ones, not interviews about my books themselves. I wrote it already; my interest has passed on.) I am already working my ass off on writing better (and thus attracting awards and sales and whatnot that will speak for me). I got that. If I wrote a “Marketing for Nerdy Writers” book that would totally be a chapter, but it can’t be the only chapter, because it won’t tell you what else to explore, what principles to follow. “Write better” is a sine qua non, not an action plan.
…And I fully expect that whatever I find will not actually be reinventing the wheel, just rediscovering it personally. Heh. I know I have a really good idea if I can trace it back to Neil Stephenson. He’s a nerd. I should look at his promotional prowess.