The other day I read a post entitled, “I Hate Self-Promotion” at Out:Think by Tim Grahl. I realised while reading through it just how WRONG I’ve been in my book marketing endeavours.
You see, all I’ve been doing is writing and sharing blog posts about my book, using the various aspects of promotion. Such as a price reduction, a giveaway, a new addition, the book’s launch …blah, blah. I shared all this to as many relevant Facebook / G+ / Twitter / Pinterest groups and pages and walls as possible in the hope the one cherished individual would read the post, buy my book, love it, review it. As well as this, like many of us, I’ve also spent good money and had several blog tours. All of this has had limited, if any beneficial effect on sales.
It’s frustrating. I’m lost in the slothful sea of Amazon ebooks. I sea my ranking go up and down without any idea why. I see other books storm the charts, gather accolades like Best Seller and have no idea why. I read How to’s until I’m almost blind, all saying to ensure you have the right cover, the right keywords, the right title, the right book blurb. I’ve done all of the above, and then some, and still no change. Why?
Tim Grahl suggests this is about SELF PROMOTION rather than AUTHOR PLATFORM BUILDING because it is missing one crucial element: The Why! Not the why’s I’ve been asking, another much more vital WHY.
For non-fiction writers I imagine this is pretty simple. They need to heal you or show you how to do something. But with fiction, it’s different. With horror, perhaps it’s make your skin crawl? With hard sci-fi, perhaps it’s a profound message of where our world is headed. But mine’s a paranormal mystery with aliens and supernatural creatures and a psychic heroine. Where’s the why in that?
Seth Godin says we need a “tribe” ( Tribes). To him, a tribe is “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”
You therefore need 3 things to build your author platform (TRIBE):
- Author – (the leader)
- Readers – (the members)
- The Idea – (the WHY!)
What is your why?
Every writer I’ve met has a “why”. From the vegan chef to the management guru to the steampunk sci-fi writer… they all have their own “why” that is bigger than themselves and book sales.
This is the place you find your cure to self-promotion. When you identify your “why” and make everything you do about that, you will attract your members and be a true leader.
Stephan King knew this ages ago when he said: “It seems to me that every book – at least the ones worth reading – is about something.”
I wondered and struggled and floundered, and fretted: But what is my WHY? I want a WHY. There is no WHY?
So, guess what I did? I made a list of all the issues the MC has, and the themes my books deals with, and it looked a little like this:
- Psychic oddities (so many!)
- Feeling alone/lonely/unloved
- Self-loathing / Lacking self-worth
- Difficulty making friends
- Mental Health
- Supernatural / Paranormal
- Sin / Suicide
- Family & Friendship
- Good vs Evil
There were more, but I tried to stick to the big-guns. So, I asked myself: “WHY did I write the book and fill it with these elements? WHY would someone be entertained, learn something, get value from reading my book? WHY should someone be exposed to my book and its contents? What’s my WHY?”
In essence I asked,
Why should anyone buy my book?
Answers were vague at first, I’ll be honest.
Tim looked at favourite fiction authors to find their WHY, to add clarity to his idea. I did the same. Try it, it’s surprisingly difficult to get past, “It’s to entertain their readers.”
One example of those I looked at: Charlaine Harris – (True Blood’s WHY) – To show us the US Southern side of supernatural creatures as they merge with the lives of everyday Southern citizens. She does this using humour, humility and an insight into the great folks of the US South (all dressed up in a sexy urban-fantasy wrapping).
I see that. Do you?
In fact, I see it clearly. Of course, you might see True Blood’s WHY equally clearly, but differently. But this is the WHY which made me buy the whole series in paperback and DVD. Did Charlaine mean to apply this WHY? No idea. But does her publisher? Hell yeah.
But I don’t have a publisher (and it’s marketing machine) to see my WHY, to show it or share it. So, I still couldn’t see the WHY of Finding Esta. And that’s just it. If I couldn’t see it, my readers wouldn’t either. So anything I share is blatant self-promotion: The spam of every WALL and Newsfeed.
I don’t want to be spam. I want my WHY!!
So I stopped doing everything else for a while (I usually spread myself too thinly and do several things at once, getting no where fast) and read through my list (above) again. I asked myself: “What one thing about my book stands out as important to me? Is there one resounding message?”
And there is! Here’s my WHY!
No matter how alone we feel we are, we are never truly alone. However unloved, useless, unsuccessful, unattractive, crazy – whatever – we think we are, it is within our power to change.
This theme means so much to me personally (fighting bipolar disorder and chronic insecurity in general) that it has infused Finding Esta unintentionally. Many of us have struggled to overcome some level of personal strife, whether it’s heartbreak, loss, mental health issues, or a lack of self-confidence. If we’ve got through struggles, we know it’s possible. But some find it harder: they might not have support, cannot deal with things as well as others, are alone in the world and have no one to reach out to, so they flounder in a place of isolation, of depression, of hopelessness, scared that that’s all there is. Soon, instead of getting over one problem, then another, gathering strength, experience, wisdom, there backs break with the gradual burden of too many woes.
I wanted to suggest to these individuals that denial helps no one, that fear cripples us more than reaching out, that loneliness is relative. I also wanted to illustrate to the other’s, the ones who can cope, who do have a great support system, that they are the lucky ones, and to be aware of people reaching out. However quietly.
Luna is crippled by psychic issues which prevent touch, overwhelm her with emotion, even refuse her the simple enjoyment of food or the warmth of a sunny day. She has been raised by cold unloving parents to believe she is an object of fun or irritation, and she is more connected to the world of the dead than the living. We see her laugh with her Shadow friend and think she’s happy with her lot, despite all these issues. But bit by bit we see how she relies on denial to cope with heart ache, and blind hope to deal with the cruelty and dread of her parents. Still, Luna strives to make more of herself, to grab a slice of success, and even when her world crumbles around her and is reconstructed, against her will, into something entirely new, she scrambles to make sense of it, to find something or someone to belong to, while being true to herself.
…..When everything (including herself) has become inhuman, she is her most human.
Through the series we follow Luna as she searches for the one thing I think we all strive for, above all else. I could call it love, or family, or community. But it’s all of these things, so I prefer to call it … belonging. As long as we truly feel we belong – to a country, a people, a group, a religion, a person, a home, a heart – we can not only survive. We can truly live.
So that’s my WHY and it will someway or another influence my book marketing from now on. That’s the next problem of course!
Once you are deeply connected to yours [WHY], it becomes much easier to invite people to connect with you. Sure, you want to sell some books. But it’s bigger than that. It’s no longer about you and your self-promotion, it’s about your calling to add to your readers’ lives. From that foundation you can build an author platform that you can be proud of and leave self-promotion behind.
Do you know your WHY?
Do you suck at book marketing?
Do you have any other tips to share with us?
I dedicate this post to…
It’s been a while since I got my head straight enough to write an Indelibles post. Ever get the feeling you’ve signed up to too many memes? Each of them offers huge value, but still. Anyway, it’s definitely INDELIBLES turn 🙂