I bet you spend a lot of time, and maybe money, too, marketing (or thinking about marketing) your books.
You’re not alone. A glance through your writing groups will reveal more conversations about marketing than storytelling.
It makes sense. After all, despite those who say “I only write to have written,” and “I would do this even if I knew no one would ever read my work,” a book is not really finished until it’s read by someone other than the writer. So, we worry about how to make that happen. We want people to buy our books!
There are times when it’s appropriate to push hard for those sales. On a day-to-day and even long-term basis, though, it’s not where your focus should be.
Build Relationships, Not Audience
As a creative professional, your focus must be on building real connections with your community of readers. Those relationships have greater value than any ad run or blog hop, and you’ll be personally enriched as well.
If you're now thinking “I came here to learn how to sell more books!”, let me give you the cold, pragmatic, bottom line.
As primates, we’re more inclined to look after our own before we invest interest in strangers. We thrive in our tribe. We want the people in our tribe to thrive, because stronger individuals make a stronger group. You must build a tribe around your creative endeavors.
Spelled out for the people in the back: you’ll sell more books to people who care more about you than care about your books.
Back To The Touchy Feely Part
As you wade through the unending razor-grass prairie of independent author marketing advice, phrases like “build an audience,” “permission marketing,” “author platform,” and “personal brand” will pop up like chirping velociraptors.
Just remember: the real velociraptor was about the size of downy dachshund. It's important to understand all of those phrases (except for the first, as we’ll see in a moment), so long as you keep them in perspective.
Don’t make more out of what marketing “gurus” say than their words are actually worth (including mine), even for the sake of good drama.
“Build an audience,” though? That one, I want you to reject entirely. An audience is group of people gathered to receive a one-way transmission from you to them. It’s not a relationship; it’s not a conversation.
In the Conversation Age in which we live and work, you don’t want an audience. It’s far better for you and for them to participate in an exchange. Much better to know, as far as possible, who your readers are as people, and for them to know you as more than just the person who wrote that thing.
Sound like a lot of work, Salinger? It doesn’t have to be. In fact, you can build your reader community in concert with all that ad-buying/blog-hopping busy-work. Just be accessible, be transparent, and be who you really are, whether you’re online or in person. Be a human being.
It’s more work to not do these things, really. Your community will gather, by accretion, around the core of your authenticity.
Meanwhile… what do you think? Would you rather have a dedicated, evangelical, committed community of readers who support all of your creative endeavours with their voices and their wallets, or is it enough for you to simply know there are some faceless people out there who really enjoyed that book written by that one author who also wrote that other thing I can’t think of right now? Which approach has a better chance of bringing you a life-long, sustained career as a creator?
Tell me what you think by posting in the comments. Extend the discussion by sharing this post with your own communities to bring in even more opinions. I look forward to the conversation!
If you enjoyed this Opinion post, you might like these other provocative pieces:
- Why Amazon Bestsellers Don't Impress My Dog by Michael N Marcus
- If Indieland Must Have Gatekeepers by Dan Holloway
- How Indie Publishing Compares to the Indie Music Scene by Jessica Bell