Socializing, Platform, and Actually Talking to People: What’s an Author Supposed to Do?

It’s been a while since I posted! So, first off: sorry for vanishing off the face of the Earth like that.

Mostly, I’ve been busy. Busy-busy. Work’s nuts. Long hours. Overtime. Craziness. There’s barely been time to write, and if I don’t have time to write, then I definitely don’t have time to blog.

But that’s an understandable excuse. One you might even empathize with! And believe me, I have far worse excuses for vanishing. Like this one: I’ve been querying, and querying always rocks my world. I prepare myself emotionally, I write posts about how you shouldn’t care about rejections, and then I get sad anyway. That’s right, I’m a hypocrite!

It always takes me time to accept that I’ll never one of those authors who sends out their first 5 queries and end up drowning in offers of rep 2 days later. It takes me a few dozen queries to transition into “querying is methodical, unemotional busywork that I never expect to pay off in any meaningful way.” So. Yeah. I’m not there yet.

It also doesn’t help that I’ve been reading marketing books again. And that just makes me realize how little I know what I’m doing.

And since that’s the less depressing topic, let’s talk platform. A little. Kind of. This post is kind of scattered.

The basics of marketing aren’t too crazy.

Cover of Online Marketing for Busy Authors.
Image from Goodreads.

Goodreads had an author newsletter about marketing a few weeks back, which included Online Marketing for Busy Authors by Fauzia Burke. It’s a nice, simple step-by-step guide, and it includes all the stuff you’d expect:

  • Know your brand and your audience. Tailor everything to them.
  • Make an author website.
  • Maintain a blog.
  • Be an active participant in online communities, where you act like a real person, produce useful stuff, and help other people out.

…I mean, there’s a lot more to the book. Those are just the fundamentals.

But whenever I think too hard about this kind of thing, I realize how unfocused I am.

This blog is fun, but it’s not really my target audience.

I like writing about writing. I like thinking about process. I like trying software and different techniques. I really like writing huffy posts because someone on Reddit said something absurd.

But I’ve made a silly mistake: the people I should be marketing to–the people who want to read my books and who I should, nominally, be trying to build a marketing community around–are not writers.

I write action-adventure fantasy novels for teenagers. And if you made a Venn diagram showing the overlap between “people who want to write novels” and “people who read YA fantasy,” you will have… some, but definitely not enough to say hey, this is a super awesome marketing decision! I should totally be ignoring the rest of the pie!

Unfortunately, Online Marketing for Busy Authors doesn’t have a good recommendation for this, because it’s primarily written for non-fiction writers. And they have no problem finding a niche to write about: if you write cookbooks, you have a blog about cooking. If you write about leadership skills, you write about psychology, workplace dynamics, whatever.

But if you write about fantasy, what the heck do you do?

I don’t have fans who want to see my maps or my bad drawings. You all don’t want to see the playlist I wrote Justice Unending to. (No, really.  You don’t.) And I change my mind so much, and so often, that I really wouldn’t want to post short stories or snippets until everything’s pretty much done.

This is why so many genre authors go the “Stock image + Random quote from your book” things. (I think they’re kind of cheesy.) Or “hey, here’s a Pinterest board I put together about my main character.” (I think those are kind of fun, actually.) But otherwise… ehhhhh.

I don’t know. I can talk endlessly about writing. But I have no idea how I’d write constantly about my writing without it sounding self-centered and arrogant. I mean, no one knows who I am. Why would anyone explicitly seek me out? At least “How to do stupid formatting tricks in Word” is useful.

So that’s a question mark. Am I focusing on the wrong things?

I’m also kind of terrified of socializing.

OK, so I don’t know what to do with my website or blog. But what about social media?

Online Marketing for Busy Authors (and every other marketing book I’ve ever read) makes one thing clear: you need to be part of the online community. Talk to people. Say hi. Participate. Be online. Have a presence. Do this well before you have a book to sell.

It’s not even that horrible sounding: just sit on social media, say hi, and talk to people. Be known.

But know what? I have crazy social anxiety. I suck up my courage and try to get over this about once a year. It always goes terribly.

I overanalyze everything I post. I’m posting too much about myself! That sounds arrogant. How do I be friendly and social? I’ll find writing-related tweets and say I agree with them! Wow, that’s so shallow and cheesy. You know what? I’m sure the internet will forgive me for being stupid if I just vanish for 2 or 3 months, and then everyone will have forgotten about how awkward I sounded. Whoops! That’s not what I wanted, was it?

So, yes: another question mark. Well, kind of. I know I need to do more of this. I know I need to try. Heck, the worst that could happen is I make some friends, right? Or enemies? Or make a total idiot of myself and do nothing productive and regret it forever, and–

Uh

Okay, yes, this stuff is hard.

In short, there’s a lot I’m not sure I’m doing right.

The sad thing is, nothing I mentioned above is about the hard parts of marketing–you know, the actually selling books part? This is just the background noise: the “have some sort of useful online presence so people know who you are when you put out a book” part, which is the barest of bare minimums to being a person who produces anything these days.

I really need to sit down and think this through seriously sometime.

2 thoughts on “Socializing, Platform, and Actually Talking to People: What’s an Author Supposed to Do?

  1. I share your niggles.

    I too was told by gurus that I must have a blog: and I too realised that most fiction doesn’t lend itself to a blog (certain historical or hard science types can be advertised with “here’s some snippets of research related to the book”).

    And I too was told that I should just have conversations on Twitter. So, I tried: I don’t – as far as I know – have anxiety, but I also don’t feel comfortable just randomly interjecting into conversations with strangers without having something meaningful to add. Which means I can occasionally get into a conversation, but get lost in the noise of people who have no issues posting without reading every previous comment first to see if their point has already been made.

    And I don’t have a mobile phone – let alone a smart phone – so I can only be on social media when I’m at my desk with the program open; which means conversations can stall because I’m not able to just quickly keep them going with a few burst of a few seconds every hour.

    So, my strategy has become almost pure “interesting person”: I blog about what interests me and post/comment similarly, and rely on people seeing that, deciding they find it interesting too, and wondering if someone with their interests will write similarly interesting books.

    It might not be the most effective strategy, but I don’t have to suffer the vague sense of being dirty that I get from repeatedly tweeting thinly veiled (or even overt) requests to buy my book.

    1. Ha! I know, right? I could certainly brainstorm a few fun, general, fantasy-novel related posts for my blog, but not enough to do it every week. And as a complete nobody, who has no fandom and no visibility, there are approximately zero people out there who want to read about my worldbuilding, my creative process, or what I’m working on right now.

      And you know, that didn’t even occur to me, but I also tank my chances for social media by not engaging on my phone. I do have a smart phone, but I’m weirdly determined to not hook it up to my Twitter. But that means that my “social media time” is when I decide to sit down once or twice a day and check my Twitter feed. Ha! Of course I can’t keep a conversation going.

      Blech! It’s such a mess.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s