And here lies the conflict.
It is a well known fact that the marketing of your books is important, and without it you cannot get to the next level. But you see the reason I didn’t go to the London Book Fair proper this year was because, it felt like I would be better off using that time to focus on my craft and building my back list – so I had something to market. More importantly I had a real ‘kick-ass’ book(s) to market. One I believed in, which was me, which fit the genre I was writing yet is true to my voice.
It has been a dawning realization over the past few years that while I ‘try’ to parallel fast-track the marketing piece, it’ infinitely more important to get my ‘craft’ building blocks correct. So this is what I have learnt.
1. Get your basics right
The shift for me came when I figured out ‘Why I write.’ This is so so important. And a question that worried me often. I maintain that every book ‘genre’ or ‘mainstream’ must have a fundamental reason to exist. And for this to manifest, you need to figure out why do you write? Me? I write to understand myself. To peel back layers and help answer existential questions which was bothered me since I was small. And while I have always written, it’s only as I have written, more and more and begun to really search inside for that real me that I can filter through my words that I stumbled across this answer. That I write so as to help people find their own motivations in life too.
2. The money piece
Yes I believe in the long term my writing will pay my bills. Till then I plan to keep working, so I don’t put pressure on my craft even as I race to finish the next book. And so I also have money to buy good quality covers, editorial services and paid ads. Even experiment with FB ads for which you need to be willing to invest to learn. So I have a minimum 5 year timeline. But to have more time to put into the writing I have tried to contain my day job projects to compliment my writing rhythm. The middle path you see is boring but with age I have learnt that’s the most effective way to move forward without having meltdowns. This is my solution. What’s yours?
It’s really important to know who you are writing for. And this only paradoxically comes with writing more. I first wrote what I thought was epic fantasy, moving to YA dystopian fantasy … all of which didn’t feel totally right.
Yes I have always written fantastical but it’s not completely sci fi, or totally fantasy. In fact it’s grounded in today and yet not. It’s only when I banded together with a few other authors as part of a Paranormal Romance boxed set that the penny dropped. I write a cross between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Romance. Fast paced speculative romance if you want to call it that. And this was a real breakthrough for me. To understand where I fit.
More importantly I faced this ‘fear’ I had of holding back from saying I write romance. For you know romance = Mills & Boon in my head, but that’s not what I write. My books are fast paced adventures, with a fantastical thread running through them, and intense love angles. But yes ultimately romance and relationships are a big part of them. Relationships between men and women, men and men, between women, between mothers and daughters and fathers and sisters and brothers and with nature. With the universe.
3. Staying true to my voice
With the genre in mind when I write now, I find myself not holding back. Now that I know where I fit, I can dial up the romance and the erotica too if needed. And this is hugely freeing for me. Well I did say that this was the year I would face my fears. So there you go. Fear of being known as a ‘romance’ writer – DONE. I write urban fantasy romance with a twist of the paranormal, and that’s that.
At the same time my themes are the same as what I had in my epic fantasy days. Searching for home, for love, for a place to belong, searching for oneself. Yeah, it’s always about the search.
The search that finally changes the character. And this is what satisfies me the post. Going through that arc as I write and seeing how the external events, bring about internal change. Understanding what my characters missed and sought for only to realize sometimes it was something else they were looking for.
Also doesn’t matter what genre I write (trying contemporary romance now) I find the rhythm of my writing is the same. Slightly surreal, almost magic realist, intense, fast paced. I think my readers are savvy enough to realize how I write by now and what to expect from my book.
Yes, this is the real high for me.
Knowing my genre means I can position myself better, cue the right flavours and emotions through my books and my social media platforms. Hugely empowering.
5. Writing rhythm
This is a muscle. You have to keep at it. It’s taken me three years but now I know I can still work a full day and come home and write 2000 words. I know if I stay off alcohol and eat fresh food and exercise well, I can last into the night. Indeed for someone who needed to be in bed by 10 pm, I now last till 2am writing, and am back up and on the go at 7am. Astonishing. But this has been possible only because I know myself and my rhythms better. I know now when I write best, and to look for warning signs when I am exhausted and can stop before I get there. I cannot emphasise how critical this is. The corner stone I think of becoming a productive author.
The elephant in the room. Straight off I have to say – I have been marketing and media marketing for 15 years so I understand how the content marketing piece works. I understand the need to be authentic on social media. Indeed it’s one of the reasons I’ve always been attracted to social media. Because I can express myself unhindered. I love Instagram, twitter, FB in that order. And have experimented with snapchat, YikYak, Whisper, Medium, have had a blog since 2007. So I have a sense of how this works.
All I’d say is most important for marketing for an author is
- Get that newsletter started, in whatever form.
- Get your Amazon profile up ship-shape
- Try to choose one social media platform that you like and develop that first and don’t always talk about your books. Talk about what interests you. As if you were at the pub and talking to your friends, that’s the tone.
Rest of the time is best spent writing the next book(s). When you need a break, lurk around FB groups, not necessarily to be heard but to hear and learn. The Indies are magnificent, generous people and they always share their knowledge, so tons you can pick up here. In your ‘off’ writing time.
Very important for sales. Best focussed on at the time of launch of a book. Then move on to writing next one quickly.
8. On a need to know basis
Which raises the question – there’s so much out there, what should you listen to. Well I’ve learnt it’s a strictly need to know basis. eg. I know at some point I’ll have to switch from Mailchimp to a more economical provider, but that is when my list gets big enough for that. So the day that happens – ie my newsletter list is big enough, and the weekly cost of subscribing to Mailchimp is too much, that’s the day I’ll ask fellow Indies in groups to suggest options
So that’s it, something I had to put down because this has been bugging me for so long and I had to get it out.
Now, back to writing.