At the end of 2015, after four-plus years of relentless and seriously focused book marketing and promotion, I took a step back to assess. I looked at the results of those many efforts — the sales stats, reviews, editorial coverage, contests, book shelves, etc. — to determine if they’d netted the desired results.
In some cases, they had; in others, not so much.
Now, I’m proud of my books, thrilled with the responses they’ve received, and, at least up to that moment of revelation, had been willing to do whatever it took to properly feed and nurture them into being. But I couldn’t deny it: something had changed. I wasn’t enjoying the process; the unceasing demand for self-promotion had become off-putting, making the books I created, the books I loved, feel like demanding children around which I ran ragged in the effort to keep happy.
Well, not them, but the great big world of book marketing, that swirling cauldron where hundreds of thousands of beloved creations go to get lost in the morass of self-published product. I’d lost my jones for that thing. Not the writing thing, the self-promotion thing.
While traditionally published writers have a team, a village, a circle-of-wagons —of agents, publicists, publishers, managers, etc.—the indie writer has… well, only themself. And “themself” has to do it all: the endless tweeting and Facebook posting, the free/bargain giveaways now demanded by readers; the listing on every indie book site one can find, the entering of countless (and not necessarily cheap) contests, the chasing after book stores, editorial reviewers, any reviewers; the exploring every which way to gain new and loyal readership, the—oh my God, it exhausted me just writing that!
It can be fun, yes; to some extent, and certainly in the beginning when you’re all positive and gleeful with certainty that you’re cracking the code and people are gonna LOVE what you’ve created. And surely it’s an education in the world of building a business, learning how and what works or what doesn’t. It’s a good practice to experience, to work, to absorb. But over time, at least for me, it can also become a slog.
And, I hate to say it, it’s become a slog.
I’ve also noticed this: people get tired of book promotions. They get desensitized to them. They don’t care after a while. Sometimes, they even find them annoying (as a few have mentioned while asking to be removed from my emailing list!). Because, unless you can can corral an endless supply of new readers via book tours, regular in-house readings at bookstores, book Meet-Ups, festivals, social media, etc. — the rest of ’em, the ones in your Facebook or Twitter circles, the ones who’ve already read your books or aren’t going to read your books, well, they’ve already heard about them. They’ve seen your posts, they’ve read about your promotional campaigns, they appreciate your efforts but they’ve grown tired of hearing about them. And not just mine…everyone’s. Because book promotions on social media have become RELENTLESS. And people have largely stopped paying attention.
I’ve not only heard this from quite a few writers who’ve experienced the same, but have noticed it as a tweeting, Facebooking, Pinteresting, Google+’ing person myself. It seems we indie writers come in such prodigious numbers that our bombardment of readers, other writers, and social media followers has ended up inuring them to the message. They see a book promotion — a “read my book,” a new book review, an interview with so-and-so — and other than the most loyal of fans, or the most commiserating of fellow-writers still paying attention, interest is less than one would hope. It’s gotten to the point that even some who’ve championed, say, Twitter as a go-to place to promote indie books have come to notice the downward trend. Derek Haines of Just Publishing Advice writes:
“My Twitter accounts that are directed more at readers have plummeted from around 120 new followers per day a year ago, to struggling to attract 20 to 40 now.
“What this means is that new self-published authors are still clearly flocking to Twitter to talk to each other, but general interest users and potential readers are not. While this can be blamed directly on Twitter failing to attract new active users, it could also be a signal that the supply side of the ebook market is now outweighing demand.” [Emphasis added.]
That’s kind of how I see it myself. Because, the truth is, as much as I read, I rarely find my books via Twitter or Facebook. I find them perusing Amazon, reading an article in Entertainment Weekly, or getting recommendations from friends. In fact, I tend to ignore most book promotions on Twitter or Facebook, weary, like everyone else, of bad cover art, unappealing quotes, and reviews that sound like Mom wrote them. Mostly, it’s just too much, the onslaught of book promotions… it makes one shut down rather than get inspired.
But I get it! We indies have no choice but to do it for ourselves. Unless we don’t. Unless we just decide to take a marketing and promotional sabbatical to reassess the marketplace, to carve out a little breathing room, maybe create a vacuum so interest can be re-stirred later. Maybe write another book. Maybe spend some time finishing that photography project or doing a play. Maybe just replenishing by reading some ozark trail cooler reviews to take with me while walking on the beach.
That’s what I’m doing right now, for those who’ve written wondering where I am and why I’m not posting much. I’m taking a sabbatical. Doing a few other things. Dealing with some life events, immersing myself in other projects, gently stirring my third novel, and generally NOT marketing and promoting my two already-published books.
Has it had an adverse impact? I don’t know… I’m not paying much attention at the moment; I’m hoping interest in the work will sustain while I’m living my life along other avenues for a bit. If not, they’ll have to wait until I’m ready to rumble again. In the meantime, oh, do I enjoy the feeling of not obeying the obligation! 🙂
And a last, related thought: I realized I had too many blogs. I’ve got one up at The Huffington Post, my AfterTheSuckerPunch.com blog related to publishing, and this one here. That’s at least one too many. So I’ve decided to close AfterTheSuckerPunch.com and merge it with Rock+Paper+Music, which has always had a fair amount of focus on the arts and other human interest and cultural focal points; publishing stories and book pieces will fit in there quite nicely.
So here we are now, fully merged. Having downsized my blogging world, I hope to be more active here. I hope you’ll join me when you can!
Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.