I read this excellent article “Why Comparing Yourself to Other Writers Doesn’t Make Sense” and wanted to pass it on.
The article fits in with the topic of this post which is why we’re not all called to promote books the same way.
Is there really only one way of doing things?
I get weary of hearing marketing gurus insist that their way of doing book promotion is the “correct” way of doing things. This sets up the idea that every author who doesn’t follow their advice to a “T” is somehow a failure.
Imagine if I were to write a blog post over here telling you that every writer must write romance. Then, I not only told you the genre you must write, but I also told you the plot you must use and the type of characters you must include into that plot. And if you don’t do it my way, then you’re not writing correctly. Such a thing would be silly, and yet, this is what I see a lot of marketing people tell writers. They must do X, Y, and Z, and it must be done in a certain way. If you don’t do it exactly as they think it must be done and you don’t sell enough books, then you have contributed to your own failure.
Nature testifies to the value of being different.
Think of this world we live on. Is the landscape the exact same across the globe? Are we in a world that is only mountains? And more than that, do all the mountains look the exact same? Of course not. We live in a world that is full of variety. Some places have mountains that are covered in snow. Some have mountains covered in trees. Some have mountains that have rocks in them. And there aren’t mountains all over the place. The mountains are in certain places. In other places, you have oceans, the plains, hills, deserts, etc. So the world itself suggests there is no one way of doing things.
Writers’ personalities are just as different as nature is.
Now let’s consider something else. People have different personalities. And as writers, we have different interests. Not everyone writes romance. Thank goodness for that because I like reading a variety of genres!
If you break down the genres, you’ll find a whole list of sub-genres that narrow things down further. In romance alone, you have historical western romance, Regency romance, Victorian romance, Highlander romance, contemporary romance. If you want to break it down further, you can add other niches like paranormal elements like vampires and werewolves. There are so many divisions within fiction that a person can get very specific. More than that, not everyone writes fiction. Nonfiction also has it’s assortment of variety.
Expanding on this, not everyone writes the same length of book, either. Some write short stories. Others write novellas or novels. And some even write more than 100K words. If someone were to tell writers they must write in a very small niche with X, Y, and Z requirements, they’d be laughed at.
So why are we pigeon holing writers?
This is what I feel we do with book promotion. We box writers into believing they must engage in certain activities online in a certain way if they are to be successful. (Success often means money, of course. The intrinsic value you bring to a reader’s life or the passion you had as you wrote the story rarely get factored into “success”.)
What marketing gurus often fail to take into consideration is that each writer has a unique personality, and what works for one personality type is not going to work for another. Yes, there might be some valid things to consider, but not everyone has the same talent. For example, speaking engagements is one way to promote a book. The idea is that you talk and generate interest for you book that people might then buy. I tried speaking. I was awful at it. Believe me, you don’t want to hear me give a speech. So that type of technique would be all wrong for me. I’ve also tried doing those newsletters where you update your readers on something every week or so to remind them you exist, but honestly, I have no interest in trying to email people that often. I’d rather do blog posts and send out an email when I have a new book out.
Instead of trying to put writers into a little pigeon hole, I think it’s time we embraced the fact that book promotion is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.
Below I’m going to throw in some examples of why I say this:
1. Not all writers need to do the same type of social networking promotion.
I keep hearing every author needs a blog. I blog because I love it. I may not be blogging as much as I used to, but I do still blog. However, I would not tell writers they must have a blog if they want to be successful. Blogging isn’t for everyone. Not everyone wants to write posts. I know authors who are much happier engaging with readers on Facebook and Google +. They have no idea what to talk about on a blog, nor do they have the interest in maintaining one. They’d rather writer a couple of sentences and engage directly with readers. Some even prefer Instagram or Pinterest. Some like the forums.
My point is, the choice of where a writer spends time needs to be a good fit for their personality. To tell someone they must be doing a specific social activity or aren’t promoting right is not helping that person. Instead, it would be far better to tell writers that they ought to pick the things that are the best match for their personalities and focus their time and effort on those things. Yes, they might lose potential readers by not doing a certain activity, but they might gain readers when they do another one.
2. Not all writers have the same amount of time to devote to book promotion.
Some of the tips I hear from marketing gurus would take far too much time than I personally have, and I know other writers who are even more strapped for time than I am. Maybe the marketing guru has a lot of spare time to devote to a certain activity. Maybe they aren’t working a full-time job. Maybe they aren’t trying to write new books. Maybe they don’t have children and a spouse at home who need meals prepared and a house cleaned. Maybe they don’t have an adult child with special needs still living with them. But some of us do. And we’re trying to get more books written so our current readers and prospective readers have something to buy. Some writers make book covers or edit to make money, which adds another reason why their time is so limited. My point is that life is busy, and sometimes it’s just not possible to do everything we’re told we “must” do.
Again, I want to emphasize that sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day to do it all. For certain writers, they might have the time. But not every writer does. So it’s not fair to tell a writer who is strapped for time that if they aren’t spending X amount of time doing Y, then they are hurting their chances of success.
3. Not all writers have the same amount of money to throw into book promotion.
I know writers who are living on social security. I know writers who are in debt. I know writers who are struggling to make ends meet. Not everyone can buy a Bookbub ad. Not everyone can pay $600 for a marketing guru’s course. I even heard of a writer who spent $1500 in one month on book promotion. My eyes nearly popped out of my head on that one. I don’t have that kind of money to throw into ads. I’m too busy digging up money for the IRS so I don’t accrue a penalty for not paying my quarterly taxes on time.
For some of us, even $100 can mean the difference between eating for the month or not eating. I know the topic of ads is a popular thing, but not everyone can afford them. So to suggest that a struggling writer is a failure at book promotion just because they aren’t buying ads is putting them through needless guilt.
Now, this isn’t limited to placing ads. Other examples could be writer’s conferences, online marketing courses, or giveaway items. There are others, but this post is long enough as it is.
The bottom line is that writers need the freedom and relief of knowing they aren’t failures just because they don’t promote books a certain way. I know authors who have written excellent books who have done ads, mailing lists, newsletters, blogs, Facebook, and other things very well. And yet, their sales aren’t showing it. You’d swear by the lack of sales that they aren’t effectively promoting their books or that their books suck. Things couldn’t be further from the truth. They are doing everything right, and for some reason, they aren’t selling as well as they should be.
Whether marketing gurus will ever admit this or not, there are forces outside of our control that impacts our sales. We have no control over which reader reads our books, likes it enough to pass it on to others, or even if a particular reader has a high level of influence within his/her circle. All writers can do is control the product (book) and the type of promotion they choose to do. From there, it is out of our control.
So take heart if you’re a struggling writer. You’re not alone, even if you might feel like it. No one can guarantee your success if you follow their formula. They can only give you strategies that might help. But they can’t promise you anything. Take their advice with a grain of salt and apply that which fits your personality best.