Monday, 13 January 2014

The marketing machine, social media, and why I'm taking a step back from them both...

Sometimes, as a writer, it's best to take a step back from what you think you should be doing, and concentrate on what you actually feel like doing. So I'm doing just that.

Over the past few months I have been putting enormous pressure on myself in terms of trying to think of clever, new and interesting ways to market my books. Yes, I might have a publisher now, but that doesn't mean I can sit back and think someone else is going to do all the work. Far from it! If anything, having a publisher piles on the pressure even more because, all of a sudden, it's not just yourself you're selling books for. You have to make sure you sell books for them, too. So my job just became twice as difficult and doubly important. 

But in saying that, sometimes, when you try too hard, the sum total of bugger all gets done! You end up dissolving into panic attacks when you see what other authors are doing in terms of getting their names known and their books out there. You spend nights lying awake thinking you'll never be able to match that as the ideas just fail to come. You end up having to watch the Season 5 premiere of Justified twice because you couldn't concentrate fully on Raylan Givens and that hat for the stress of worrying. Actually, maybe that last reason was just a convenient excuse... Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah... and then the panic takes over and everything spirals into something it really isn't. Or something it shouldn't be, anyway. That old marketing nightmare is never going to go away, and as more and more books hit those virtual shelves, the job of making sure your name is known and your book is read becomes harder and harder. But I'm sure that, somehow, I'll think of a way that is achievable to me in terms of promotion and publicity. I can't afford blog tours, and even though I would love a Street Team of my own, I'm not sure I have enough of a backing or a following to build one just yet. So, maybe that's what I need to concentrate on at some point. 

I'm also a bit of a loner, which is why I love writing. I like my own company, with nobody but my characters and me to think about. Sometimes, anyway. Other times I crave a decent conversation with another human being, but on the whole I'm a loner. So, when you suddenly realise that that has to change, too, if you want to succeed as an author, well, that old panic rises up again and you begin to wonder if you're really cut out for all this.

But then I remember that I have actually written bestselling books. Books that have hit the Kindle Top 200 UK chart in their time. And practically every one of my books has hit a bestselling slot in their particular sub-categories, with Striker and Extra Time both regular visitors to the Sports Fiction Top 100. So I can do the easy bit. I can write the books. But, even though I've been writing seriously for over three years now, I still have a lot to learn as far as that marketing machine goes. I'm not a natural salesperson, and I don't suppose many writers are. I love the creating part, the sitting down and involving myself in my characters' lives. I adore that side of things so much I can't even explain. But when it comes to climbing out of that writing bubble I put myself in, I freeze. I become a novice all over again. And that's when the pressure builds and the fun stops.

So, after putting way too much pressure on myself, over Christmas and the first few days of the new year in particular, I've decided to take that step back. I'm going to try and forget about the marketing and the selling and all the ways in which I can be better at that side of things, for now, because trying too hard isn't working. And that includes social media - I'll be giving that a little bit of a break, too. So, if any of my author friends are reading this, I'm not ignoring you this week. If my retweets and Facebook shares are thin on the ground over the next few days, it isn't because I've gone all selfish on you. I'm just taking a little social media break. Just a short one. Because I need to slip back into that writing bubble, remember why I'm doing this in the first place, and enjoy the writing part of this job again. If I lose that, if that disappears, then I always said I wouldn't do this anymore. And I really don't want to stop doing this. This is my life now, it's what drives me forward and keeps me going. It's what I have wanted to do all my life. And I don't want the worry and the pressure of marketing to take this dream away from me. I don't want that side of things to make me hate the writing I love so much. 

I don't want the pressure of marketing to make me feel like this...
So, I've made some new playlists, cranked that music that inspires me so much up to a reasonable volume (I like it loud, but not so much as it rattles the keyboard!), and centred my mind to where it needs to be this week - I'm writing. As much as it can be, the next few days are going to be me and my characters, alone yet together as I spend time with people I know better than anyone. Sound weird to you? I'm a writer. I am weird. I've just watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy where a writer refused an operation on a potentially fatal brain aneurism because she wanted to finish her story first. And I didn't think she was weird! 

Anyway, like I said, sometimes we just need to take a step back, take time to think about our own personal limits. What we, personally, can achieve. What level we can work at, because everyone is different. What works for someone may not work for everyone, and even if it could, we just might not be able to achieve it. For whatever reason.

... when THIS is how I'd rather be feeling!
Sometimes taking a step back can make your thinking that little bit clearer, rather than clouding it with what you think should be happening. Worrying about what isn't happening also stops you from moving forward. But maybe it's because I want this so much that I'm piling the pressure on myself to succeed. Like I said, this is my dream. And I don't want that dream to end.

So, I just need to try and think of something that will make things happen for me, and maybe those ideas will come - I have a few in mind. Maybe, after a week of just letting myself do what I love, maybe after that my head will be clearer and those ideas will start to form. But, let's not forget, if I'd wanted to be a salesperson I would have gone into sales. I wanted to be a writer. And that comes first and foremost. Writing.

Now, I just have to make sure I can keep off Pinterest for a few days, too. I think my Justified board has enough pins on it to be going on with... 

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