In this week's Bookseller magazine, the trade paper of the British publishing industry, Sarah Shaffi writes:
“Authors should feel comfortable with any digital activity they are asked to undertake, using tweeting, blogging, and other online platforms to build an audience, rather than explicitly becoming a tool to sell books.”
While her article focuses on the relationship between trade publishers and their contracted authors, I believe the same applies to self-published and indie authors. While acting as our own publishers, we can be even harder taskmasters. I think it's time to cut ourselves some slack, folks!
Just because we can tweet/Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram etc around the clock, it doesn't mean we should. Too many of us believe that if we don't put in a significant amount of time, effort and budget into doing so, we're failing.
Drop that thought right now. There are now so many ways to (try to) influence our book sales, if we did nothing else for the rest of our lives, we'd still go to our graves clutching a long to-do list. I say, let's focus on writing our books, and pick and choose what marketing we positively want to do.
Terror of Twitter
So, if the idea of staging online conversations in fewer than 140 characters makes you cringe, avoid Twitter. Twitter might be good mental exercise for any writer wanting to polish up his precis skills, and it might be a fabulous way of identifying readers that you couldn't reach in any other way, but if it feels like torture, it'll do you more harm than good.
I'm personally rather fond of Twitter, and am enjoying Ian Sutherland's new book, Advanced Twitter Strategies for Authors, on how to become an “advanced” Twitter user, but this week, pressed for time, I'm using it only frivolously, as comic relief to myself, because I have other priorities. (Key topics of today: my bad habit of sitting on my foot while I'm writing, cooking rhubarb in a slow cooker, and my talent for falling over.)
Fear of Facebook
If you're going to be irked by people posting cat videos and games requests in front of you every day, forget Facebook. On the other hand, you may find that a bonus!
Again, I like Facebook, especially the ALLi forum and the various pages that I manage, but I find it much too easy to spend unproductive time there. For example, I've just done yet another personality test that's doing the rounds. By my age, I should have worked out who I am already. By the way, the test told me I'm a “Protagonist”, which made me feel like I should be featuring in my own novel, and reminded me to get back to writing it.
When I set up a book blog earlier this year, I found that the pressure to add affiliate bookstore links every time I mentioned a title put me off posting at all. So I've ditched the links. When I started using the Amazon affiliate links, I thought the facility was fabulous: if someone clicks one of your links, you get commission on anything they buy in the store for the next 24 hours, not just on the item that they clicked. How cool is that?
But then I started to feel bad that I wasn't also adding affiliate links to all the other online retailers, in the interests of fairness. I didn't want to upset Kobo, for example, if they saw my website full of links to their rival, nor bricks-and-mortar stores who saw me driving all my readers to online stores. On the other hand, I'd worry that I'd only added the UK and US links – would that offend friends in other countries? I didn't want to come across as xenophobic.
Actually, as a reader, a blog full of multiple store links distracts me from the content of a blog post. I recognise that by turning my back on these opportunities, I may be reducing the number of books I sell, by not making it as easy as possible for a visitor to my site to hop over to buy a book. But frankly, if someone lacks the wit to remember my name or my book title long enough to paste into the search engine of their favourite retailer, they're probably too dim to read my books. It's not as if my name or my book titles are hard to spell or remember.
Doing It My Way
Some online tricks and widgets I'm happy to stick with, e.g. the ALLi Affiliate badge, which you input only once to your sidebar or footer and it's there forever, earning you 30% of the first year's membership fee for anyone who joins the group after accessing the website via my link. I've done nicely out of that, thank you very much, sometimes earning commission from complete strangers.
Equally, I was happy to set up the “find your nearest bookshop” widget in my book blog's sidebar, in the interests of supporting bricks and mortar stores, but there's still no way I'd put it on every post.
So from now on, I will try not to feel the need to justify my actions every time I turn my back on a marketing trick. Instead, I'll take inspiration from the eponymous character from Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener, who, as I remember from high school, quietly declines opportunities with the refrain: “I would prefer not to”. My English teacher, Mr Campbell, (who I think quite often fancied using Bartleby's line in staff meetings), would be proud of me. Even if, in the story, Bartleby does eventually die of starvation.
OVER TO YOU
Does the pressure to “do it all” get on top of you, or do you think I just need to get a grip? Do you have pet hates that you feel obliged to accomplish? I'll be glad to hear your views, though I reserve the right to carry on as I am!Want the excuse to ignore Twitter for a bit? Here's why @DebbieYoungBN does Click To Tweet