I’d studied the writing blogs, so I knew when my novel released it was time to get busy. I lined up guest blogs, interviews and book reviews. I advertised on every social media site I could think of. My new website was up and running and I’d had a personal blog going for a few years. I spoke of the book to everyone I came across. I even hawked my book at a nearby fair. You want platform, I’d give you platform.
After a few months, I was exhausted. My introverted self felt raw after all of the exposure. And despite some great reviews of the book and a ton of five star comments on Amazon, the book hadn’t soared to the bestseller list. Actually, while it definitely had some fans, it hadn’t picked up a lot of notice at all.
I wondered why I’d signed up for a writing career in the first place. I had a busy life with a full time job and a family. Who had time for all of this marketing, which by the way, was definitely not my forte? Marketing had taken so much of my time, I’d forgotten about the joy of writing fiction. Because of course, I wasn’t writing fiction. I didn’t have any mental energy after all of the marketing was done.
I began to study some of my favorite novelists and surveyed what they’d done as far as platform, and the answer was surprising. Almost nothing.
They all had websites of course. Lisa Samson started a blog, but stopped, saying the blog was stealing the creativity and time she needed to write. Dale Cramer and Athol Dickson blogged, but were invariably inconsistent, sometimes going a couple of months without a post. Davis Bunn’s blog posts were regular, but were strictly announcements about his book events and reader praise.
Sure, most writers did online interviews and some guest pieces when a book came out. They did a few bookstore signings around the release and a few scattered speaking engagements in between books. But they focused the bulk of their time on what they were best at: writing amazing novels.
Because they were single-minded and purposeful about their fiction, they had output. They improved their craft. They built a readership.
No press in the world will help you if you’re not writing new material, right? Can you just resign from marketing? Of course not. But like the experts, you can confine yourself to a few intermittent things that have the best odds of garnering attention, and leave the bulk of your time for writing novels.
In the end, most novelists are not natural social media experts, bloggers or speakers. We create story worlds and characters. We play with words. We edit what we’ve written until it’s the book we’d want to read. It’s what we’re good at and it’s why we do what we do.
For most novelists, the first book in print doesn’t make a huge splash. Over time, with each new book, they gain new readers. They build reputations. Many household names started off small and their name grew. Donald Maass says, in fact, that getting five books out there with regular timing and consistent quality is the magic bullet.
So this is the best marketing advice I’ve got, as backwards as it might seem: write more, write better.