Marketeers say the key to promoting a book is to take off your writer's hat. But, argues Orna Ross, that makes indie authors vulnerable to crass self-promotion. The key, she says, is to connect your reach-out to readers with your deepest motives for writing the book in the first place.
As soon as Michael came into the party, it was obvious he had no interest in anyone but himself. If somebody else was talking, he was clearly waiting for them to stop, so he could speak.
He moved around the room to as many groups as possible, crashing his way in with no real interest in the people there, and leaving abruptly once he'd said what he wanted to say. Acting the peacock, showing off his display, expecting attention and oohs and aahs from all.
Want to spend time with Michael? Didn’t think so. But are you emulating him on social media?
Social media is one big Internet party and if you want to do it well, you need to genuinely connect with your readers, not just see them as prospective buyers.
But how, is a question members often ask? What should I write? Where should I post? That confusion arises from a conflict of creative intention. We write the book wearing our writer's hat (creatively motivated). Then we try to sell the book wearing our publisher's hat (business motivated).
But when it's a book we've just written, we're not really detached enough to be business-like. So we default to saying: Buy My Book, Please Buy My Book, Won't You BUY MY BOOK!!!!!
It's a universal conflict of interest for self-publishers. And – unlike most of the marketeers – I don't think the answer is in becoming more business-like. Rather I believe you should trust in your reasons for writing when you reach out to your readers. Your reasons for writing in general, and for writing and publishing this book in particular.
What was your Motive in Writing your Book?
“To become a kindle millionaire,” you may say, or some such, but these outer-driven reasons are only part of the story. That energy may have taken you through some of the time and effort it took to get your book written and published.
Underneath, whether acknowledged or not, was the real fire, the creative energy, coming from a deeper place.
Creative motives for writing a book fall into three categories. Wanting to:
- inform or educate;
- inspire or motivate change;
- display or entertain.
Each of these creative intentions has service at its heart.
Underneath the worldly motives, the ego trips and personal wants, we write to assuage a need in ourselves, a need that is shared by those who are attracted to our words.
This is what I call the ‘point of service', and it is there that you go to reach your readers.
Writing As Service
Question 1: Do I write chiefly to inform, inspire or entertain? (The better the writing, the more it contains all three, but which is your chief motivation?)
Question 2: Whom do I most hope to interest, inspire or entertain? (Again, the better the writing, the more it will move beyond our core cohort. But who is that core cohort? Which sex? What age? Nationality? Income? Interests? I urge you: don't just think the answers to these questions, write them out. Also answer this: what other books do these readers read? What are the meeting points between those books and yours? If you were to overhear one of your readers saying, “I love x's books because they…..” how would you like them to complete that sentence.
The members of ALLi who do best are those who understand their readers best.
Question 3: Where are your readers online? You are an indie author. Most of your sales will be ebooks and many of your readers will not be in your home territory. So you must reach out to your readers online. Where are they on the internet? No point in you being on Facebook if they are largely on LinkedIn or GoodReads or Pinterest. No point in addressing a forum of females if you write action-based, spy thrillers.
You're an indie author, you've got writing and publishing to do as well. Your time is limited. So make the Pareto Principle work in your favour. Forget about 20%, concentrate on the majority, the 80%.
And you must set out with the intention of enjoying the social dimension of social media.[Important Note: if you don't, if you can't, enjoy social media — and lots of writers don't and can't — then forget about it. Truly. No matter how many times you're told you must do it, there's no point if you're temperamentally disinclined. It will just be a massive waste of time, and immensely frustrating. You're much better to put that energy into writing your books and trust that you will eventually break through, using Amazon's tools and suchlike. Social media does provide a strategy to increase the odds in your favour (and every book is working against the odds), as something you can grow and progress over time. But it is absolutely contingent on you being able to enjoy it. It can't be faked, any more than a book can be faked. You have to be you.]
For the socially inclined:
- Go where most of your readers are most likely to be found. Find their forums and blogs, the largest ones, where most of them hang out.
- Listen in on their conversation. Take your time with this phase, as long as is necessary for you to understand these people. Don't be a Michael: no need to speak until you've something worthwhile to say. Listen. Enjoy their chat. Hone your understanding of their concerns. You love them already, right, or you wouldn't be writing for them. Deepen that respect. Learn from them. How might you be able to help? Inspire? Entertain? Amuse? Inform?
- As you listen, think of your book, of its deepest messages, of its raison d'etre. When the time feels right, make a comments or initiate a conversation that arises from the same impulse. Not with the intention of flogging your wares, but with the intention of serving these people in the same way that your book serves them.
- Have a link to your book or website , so those who want to know more, or to buy your book, can. Make it easy for them to do so.
That's it; that's the key to social, I believe, having observed a thousand indies at work. As you connect and chat, hold fast to the same intention that prompted you to write your book — of being interesting, informative or inspiring in your particular way (or all three, which is a lot easier in a short comment than in a long book, is it not?).
If you follow take the trouble to go where your readers are and reach out to them regularly, they will spontaneously want to share with you, learn from you, hear from you, grow with you.
You will organically develop that indie author desirable: a strong author platform.
And, hey, you'll have fun. And make new friends. All the while knowing you're simultaneously serving your own deepest needs for self-expression and service.
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