Monday, 23 August 2010

Publicity Fatigue

This post is a continuation, after my guest post here on Strictly Writing.

It's the "look at me" thing again, and how it relates to being a writer.

I used to rather enjoy saying "Look at me," but it has become less enjoyable since I've been trying to get published. The main thrust of my guest blog was that I like it less because I'm not successful at it. I said "Look at me," and nobody did.

It's not just that though. This brilliant piece here is by Liane Spicer, and is about how readers can help writers. But she has inadvertently highlighted the other reason I don't enjoy look-at-me so much any more. The main way readers can help writers is by spreading the word about their work, and there are a gazillion ways of doing this. These days they mostly involve online tools such as Facebook, Twitter and book recommendation / review sites like Amazon. But none of that will work unless the writer or their publisher has opened up those avenues in the first place. Sadly the main effect Liane's article had on me was to have me fretting about how my book isn't listed on Amazon. It's technically possible, as I do have an ISBN. But I'm not planning on holding books in stock, which would make it hard for the Amazon thing to work. And I can't afford the kind of cut Amazon would demand on sales. And anyway I'm probably too small an outfit, and and and...

The main reason is that I find it all so exhausting. Each little bit of online tomfoolery takes up even more time and adds even more soul-destroyingness to the number of places you have to check for feedback, and then sigh at when there is nothing there.

There is a distinct "Oh, sod it" element to the way I'm publishing this book. There's a part of me that wants to make it deliberately hard for people to get hold of it. And then I can cite that as the reason, when sales are inevitably low. I can also throw my hands up when people say, "But haven't you tried..." and I can reply, "No, I haven't, because this is a necessarily small enterprise and can never be anything else."

And although I keep being pulled in the direction of Sales Maximisation, Publicity Saturation and all that jazz... even though I secretly dream of my book suddenly Going Large... there's a large part of me that thinks, "Sod it. Only a handful of people will ever know my book exists, and it's worth it for the peace."

Still. Ahem. [cough] The only way my book will ever sell is as a result of word of mouth. So, er. You know. The power is in your hands. If you've ordered a copy... if you enjoy it when it arrives... if you happen to hang out in any of those online places and you have a moment to spare... feel free to do my publicity for me. But if, like me, you get a pain in your left ankle at the very thought of it, then hide the book under your pillow and keep it as a very special secret, which is for you and nobody else. I really won't mind.

...and I also promise to stop moaning and whingeing, starting here.


Dandelion said...

:-) Have you thought about therapy?

Liane Spicer said...

Thank you for linking to the How To Help a Starving Author post, Squirrel.

I'm unlike you in that I've never been a look-at-me sort, and now that I've entered the publishing arena I have to do it. It goes against the grain, plus the promo takes more and more time and energy while the actual writing suffers. On top of all that, no one can say how much, if at all, any of what you do works in terms of selling more books.

What's an author to do? Do your best and leave the rest. Readers can and do make a difference by doing their small part to promote books they like. At the moment, I'm focusing on letting them know how they can help.

Alice Turing said...

Dandelion... Oh noes! People think I need therapy! Something else for me to angst about. ;)

Liane... it really does quite silly how much time one can / is expected to spend on publicity. I think you're right though, the trick is to just do what you can and forget about the rest. And it makes a lot of sense to rope readers into helping. Part of my problem though is that I'm a bit crap at asking for help and always feel guilty when I do - like I'm being an annoying burden.

But in fact there's nothing new there. The success of a writer has ALWAYS depended on readers responding positively and spreading the news. Word of mouth has always been a major factor in whether a book will sell or not. People recommend it to each other, buy it for each other. And there's that old saw about broadsheet reviews having surprisingly little impact on sales, and how a reader will typically need to have a book recommended to them several times before they will buy it, and ideally by people they know.

Interestingly though, my partner and I were having a debate about whether to put something in my book encouraging readers to spread the word if they liked the book, and he reckoned I could only ask them to contact ME with favourable impressions, as any other suggestions would be patronising. I'm not sure if I agree with that, but anyway we ran out of time and ended up putting nothing in at all. I might not be able to resist including some kind of leaflet as an insert though.

But that reminds me, I overlooked the part of your post where you talked about readers feeding back to the writer. And you are very right in saying what a difference that makes. The positive feedback I've had from readers to things that I've written has always had a massive impact, and if I do nothing else I always try and contact the authors of books I've enjoyed.