cover image by joshua coleman
As I enter the arena of book marketing for the first time, it feels like I’m entering a popularity contest of likes, shares, comments, followers, and tweets. I’ve never paid much attention to the number of followers I have, which obviously means I don’t have a lot, but I’m at that stage now where I must learn to strike a balance between authenticity and posting to create a readership. It feels a bit… oxymoronic (?).
Until now, Facebook has been a way for me to connect with people whose paths have crossed mine, and for whatever reason, we have decided to maintain contact. I mostly see the good side of everyone’s lives: their children’s first step, graduation and prom photos. The most recent holidays and the pictures of weight loss and muscle tone. I also read longer posts about causes that could use more support and how family members and friends are finding their way forward again after some major life setback.
However, like a number of Americans, after the 2014 election, I became somewhat disenfranchised, realizing that I, too, was living in a bubble of like-mindedness, and so I slowly began to wean myself off of my daily visits to Facebook.
Fun Fact #1: Most fiction authors don’t think about book marketing until after they’ve signed with a publishing house. Why? IMHO, there are so many other things to focus on that attempting to build an audience before you have one feels a bit premature and plucky. Note: I do not know if this applies to nonfiction.
But now I realize writing a book— a feat worthy of celebration—is only the first checkpoint on what feels like an Everest hike. My book will quietly enter this world on the 21st of July in Asia (at first), and only my close friends and family will take notice. I’m a first time author with no large publishing house, no large marketing budget, and no readership. And as my novel begins its journey West, it will enter the infinitely long list of books available on amazon and book depository, and if I’m lucky, the spine will be visible in a sea of titles and covers at the larger bookstore chains—though I like the idea of smaller bookstores because I’ll get more readings that way.
When it comes to marketing my book, I suddenly feel so… insignificant.
Fun fact #2: When I go into a bookstore, library, paint shop or any place that sells the exact same thing but with many different variations, my heart starts to beat fast. I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. I get antsy and short-tempered. It’s why when growing up, I purchased most of my books from the drug store (“pharmacy” to some).
I now have an author’s page on Facebook, and I try to post regularly. I’m not the “please buy my book type” as I just don’t feel comfortable with asking for sales. Instead, I’m posting things that resonate with me. I don’t know if it’s an age thing or a life thing, but I’m into mindfulness and meditation. I like to spread kindness.
Until recently, I have rarely used Twitter because I find the constant streams of consciousness overwhelming. It’s like a bombardment of thoughts and ideas that swallow up anything but the bombastic. When I first started on Twitter, I would get confused about what part of the post to tap to see the comments. Then I would get confused by the links and the many many #s. It was all highlighted in red and everything I clicked on was a tangent I didn’t want to take. So Twitter and I quickly parted ways, even though I never closed my account.
But I’ve come back to Twitter and discovered that it’s an author’s playground. There’s a lot of useful information there if you know how to look for it. There are a lot of gatherings and connections to be made with fellow writers. I’ve seen the fun in it, and find myself engaging there a lot more than I ever thought I would—mostly about gardening.
and Instagram. Oh My!
But then I discovered Instagram, and as a writer, despite the image nature of that platform, I think I’ve found my home. On my personal account, I’ve created a curated audience of those I have a deeper, more personal relationship. But my author’s account is open for all to follow. It’s not as busy (convoluted?) as Twitter, and because most of my followers I don’t know (unlike Facebook where it’s still family and friends), I feel freer in this space. Most of my #s are about gratitude and mindfulness or gardening and life’s journey.
Will the Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up
I’ve often said that the words on the page will speak for themselves, but even I can now see the folly in that. The truth is I’ve spent years toiling away in quiet spaces and open, crowded spaces as I wrote this book. That’s become my comfort zone. I feel comfortable and confident writing. But now I’m walking into a larger arena where other writers have written many more books than I have. They’ve got thousands of followers on Twitter to my paltry 246. They’ve got hundreds of reviews and I’ve got zero. They’re on their eighth book and I’m just showing the world my first one.
Fun Fact #3: The task of building a readership feels so… impossibly daunting.
Some days I grab hold of that discomfort and I face it by learning more about book marketing. I’ve got three books to read on this subject. I get in the proverbial arena and post a question or an image on Twitter and I get three hearts (you know who you are!). Or I write another blog post and share it on Facebook where a handful of people “like” it, but very few of them have actually read it.
I try to remind myself that we’ve all got to start somewhere. That the lessons are found along the journey and do not reside at the destination. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither shall my readership be.