My Marketing Sabbatical and the Blog Merge

– where I am these days
– where I am these days

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 blog related to publishing, and this one here. That’s at least one too many. So I’ve decided to close 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!

LDW w glasses

Visit for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

I’m Not Hip Enough

ldw-pondersI finally figured it out.

I’m not hip enough.

Oh, I’m good enough – and I say that with complete humility because “good enough” by today’s standards is completely relative. And by that I do not mean your relatives think you’re good enough – that’s a given – I mean that in the world of instant reality show stardom, digitally perfected perfection, inexplicable and arbitrary fame, self published/self promoted… well… everything, what, really, is good enough? I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure I’m at least it.

I’m just not hip enough.

I was thinking about Rock+Paper+Music. Ever since I started writing for Huff Po, this blog here, my very own lovingly created, carefully managed and artistically designed forum for “sass and sensibility,” has become the slightly ugly stepsister overshadowed by the behemoth that is Huff Po. I try to find the balance: I keep my Huff Po stuff what is is – analysis and commentary on political, cultural, religious, and artistic issues –  sometimes articles overlap, but this blog is more personal, with more pictures, a warmer tone at times, often about non-famous people I know who should be famous, what my latest familial challenge is, that sorta thing. And despite the fact that I don’t obligate myself to write in just one genre (parenting, writing, photography, etc.), I do create a through-line with my brand of commentary, my voice, so to speak, so it is thematic enough…right?

Oh, hell, it probably isn’t buttonholed enough and that’s probably as unhip as all get-out and the very reason why Rock+Paper+Music remains a smart, thoughtful, but unviraled and slightly flatlined creative endeavor. I want it to be bigger, better, more OUT THERE, but either I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing in terms of proper 2.0 Internet promotion (likely), the title is too benign (I thought it was clever…what do I know?), or it’s too hard to…well…buttonhole. I insisted on taking liberties with the “blogging mandate of buttonholing” and look where it got me: writing about how I’m not hip enough. And saying buttonhole a lot.

This whole stew session was set off by a blog I was made aware of today. People I Want to Punch In the ThroatIt was implied by the poster of this blog link that it’s really funny. Or at least the posted article was. I immediately swallowed (with some difficulty) and clicked the link. I will refrain from commenting on the visual (there is none) and only read a bit, trying mostly to find out who “Jen” is (suggested by her bio, which is aptly named “Who is Jen?”), and it turns out the person who came up with this rather aggressive title, Jen, also writes for Huff Po (but, really, there are thousands of us, how hip can that be??), has been interviewed by NPR (shoot…I hardly even listen!), she’s witty, snarky, funny, and says things like, “All of a sudden I’ve got lots of people who want to know who I am.” and “I think the title sums it up. If you can’t figure it out, then go away before I punch you in the throat.” Sheesh. So I did go away…but not because I couldn’t figure it out, more because my visceral reaction to the literary violence of her title made me dizzy with hip-envy, which is really the downfall of a person like me. Because even after exhaustively social-media’ing, cyber bush-beating, virtual stone-unturning, and all my other various marketing ministrations, I lack Jen-like “virality” (I made that up…a play on virility and viral…come ON, that’s kind of hip!!).

Nah. Not really.

I’m so unhip, in fact, that I had an old friend – one I hadn’t spoken to in years but who’s on my mailing list – send me an email in response to a new blog notice with one line: “Please remove me from your mailing list.” No signature; no, “hey, how you doing?” Just that one line. Stunned, I wrote back, “We haven’t spoken in years, odd that your one communication in all that time would be this request.” He wrote back chiding me for “taking it personally,” adding the supposedly assuaging explanation that he “just doesn’t like blogs.” I took him off the list. He’s a pretty hip guy. You do the math.

But let me make this clear right now: I’m not a slacker. I know what’s what and I’ve got myself social media’d all over the place (personal page, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and I work those puppies like nobody’s business (just look at how I active-linked them all!). Maybe that’s the problem…nobody’s making it their business. Well, not nobody, but it can get bleak out there. Let’s take Twitter, for example. Despite my rather articulate, occasionally thought-provoking, sometimes self-promoting, but always 140-character Tweets of substantial pith, I’m pretty much ignored. While everyone’s tripping all over themselves to get “followed” by Benicio del Toro (who was officially on Twitter for all of two or three days) or retweeting some disgusting genital/masturbation reference by one famous actor or another, I’m clearly not high-profile enough for consideration by the Twit-verse. Frankly, they’re a hardy bunch and it’s likely I just can’t keep up. That feed scrolls off the page so fast that I can only presume the people who are constantly present, wit and parrying away, are sitting at a computer 24/7 with nothing better to do than desperately attempt to one-up each other or incite conversation with a Tweeting celebrity. Though Roseanne Barr did retweet one of my tweets once, I can only ride that train for so long. And I’ve now just said “tweet” or “Twitter” more in one paragraph than anyone should.

It could be my age. I don’t make a point of throwing actual numbers around but it’s not hard to extrapolate. In any circle of contemporary hipsters I’d be considered seriously OLD and being considered OLD in the world of the considerably YOUNG is about as effing unhip as you can get. You don’t even have to do stupid shit like wear white stretch pants, say “anywho,” or keep complaining about Facebook Timeline. Despite the inroads made by Betty White and Cher, and despite the fact that we’re all sort of grossed out by the epic damage being wrought on older faces by cosmetic surgery, the fact is, if you don’t know why Kelly Osbourne is feuding with Xtina (or even who Xtina is), who/what is trending on Twitter, or how Vodka and feminine products have become linked (sorry…it is viral), you’re not only OLD, you’re terminally unhip. Which might mean I’m slightly hip for being able to reference any of those things. Probably not.

Basically you’re unhip just by virtue of having lived longer than the much hipper younger people who are now running the world on the sheer heft of their buying, downloading, clicking, viewing, sharing, texting, tweeting, stumbling, or YouTubing. Any hip quotient I could ever possibly muster pales in comparison. Though I have a smart phone and still wear black jeans. Not enough. Not near.

But I get the young thing. I do. It’s a great time of life. I had an amazing experience as a young artist. I did have all that stuff – the slavishly devoted managers and producers, the band members who happily hitched on my ride; good Variety reviews, people who said they’d make me a star, backers and financiers and agents and publicists and fans and all that head-swirling stuff, some version of which our girl Jen is probably reveling in when she isn’t punching someone in the throat. But, truth be told, even when I was young I wasn’t so hip. When an unknown Madonna and I met with the same manager at the same time (she and I didn’t meet at the same time, he was considering us both at the same time…and I was the one there on a recommendation from the legendary Kim Fowley of Runaways fame…how hip was that?!), that manager passed on me, took Madonna, and while I kept singing and writing songs about interracial relationships and the meaning of life, she was dry humping gay dancers and making millions (and, yes, admittedly, recording some great pop songs I dance to even to this day!). She was hip. I was not. Dammit all to hell.

Here’s the thing: when you do what I do – freelance writing, photography, music – and you’re not hip enough – as we’ve established I’m not –  the burden of wrangling all that creative output falls squarely on YOU. You don’t get a manager drooling over your “potential.” People don’t rush the door to get you viral and trending. No one’s setting up conference calls to “discuss the trajectory of your articles.” NPR ignores you. We’ve discussed the Tweeting. Basically you’re on your own. You market and media and bush beat and try not to annoy the shit out of the few people who actually respond to those mass mailings or Facebook links, and hold tight to the notion that you remain worthy despite it all. You write a few articles that do go (sorta) viral and that ticks up your hip quotient for a second, but it’s a “what have you done for me lately?” world out there and you’re Sisyphus; every single article, query letter, photography posting, and attempt to put a band together is a new effort that requires rolling that rock up the hill each and every day.

Rocking and frikkin’ rolling.

Did you ever see The Flight of the Conchords, that hilarious 2007 HBO show with the New Zealand music/comedy duo, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie? One of the funniest bits on the show was the ubiquitous appearances of their “one fan” (played by the very funny Kristen Schaal), who made it her business to be the very best fan she could be and, since she was their only one, they were grateful for her (most of the time!). Sometimes I feel that way about my small but very loyal group of friends and fans who always take the time to click, leave comments, re-post, pass on, and generally show a little love on a regular basis. Hipness notwithstanding, they are there, a small but mighty group, and what I lack in “virality,” I have – in spades – in some very appreciated loyalty from them. They’re like my “one fan,” though happily more than one. But just a little more! I’m grateful for them.

The truth is, I love what I do…my creativity lends tremendous purpose to my life. It always has, even when I was younger and hipper and not writing about either. But if it appears I’m now too sincere, too earnest; if I’m not snarky enough or funny enough for the times; if I lack cutting enough edge or just the right touch of verbal violence, so be it. I discovered long ago that you not-hip-enoughhave to be who you are, who you truly are, and if that doesn’t bring them to their feet, again, so be it. To feign something or attempt to be someone else just to match the zeitgeist in hopes of greater acceptance or more success is pure folly. It never works. You always get found out. Look at Milli Vanilli.

So as Popeye would say, I am what I am. Thank you to those who get me. I love you guys, I really do. Which is a long way from wanting to punch someone in the throat.

Yep…definitely not hip enough.

LDW w glasses

Visit for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.