Whenever I write a short story and send it off to a publication, or rattle off a dozen blog posts during the week for my freelance clients, I sit back and think about if the work I’m doing is worthwhile.
Do I enjoy my writing? Am I remaining true to myself? Is my work making a difference in the world, or am I just adding to the clutter that is the endless internet lists and cliched stories in the publishing industry?
Even when I know I’m on the right track, when I work on a book that pulls from my experiences and references stories I loved growing up, the dreaded plights of the real world come into play. I’ve been writing a science fiction novel over the past few months, approaching 80,000 words and loving every minute of it. The only problem is that I truly want to make a living as a writing. Well, I do already make a living with my freelance work and blogging, but I also crave a certain sense of recognition for worlds that I build out of nothing.
I sink into my chair and run through this fantasy world filled with swans as big as dragons, lost monk-like warriors who fought only with stealth and silence, and personal IDs that were stolen from the monks, wiping their memories and leaving the world in the hands of an oppressor.
It gets me pumped, but every now and then I remember that after all this work I put in, all the sitting and brainstorming and clacking away at my keys for free, I still have to market my work. If I don’t market the book then it might still explode onto the best seller list, but this is silly thinking. At the same time, the marketing might not even produce results.
Yes I plan on marketing my books, just like I market my blog and freelance services to tech companies, but a friend of mine told me that he had no interest in that. He finds it terrible, wasting time learning about social media and list building techniques, when all he wants to do is create great art.
I often feel this way, and I’m certain plenty of other writers do as well. That’s why I wanted to put together some solutions for people who are more fond of shunning those marketing experts and consuming themselves with writing.
Learn How to Ration Your Works
Are you writing a 100,000 word epic fantasy? When you pump out this masterpiece there’s a good chance you’ll feel quite disappointed when all of that time and effort is not recognized on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
The problem here is that you have to allocate enough time to finish your writing, leaving huge chunks of time in between. Your readers get bored waiting for you or you don’t have the capital to support your craft.
Consider breaking your giant book into a serial novel. Take from the likes of Hugh Howey and other great self publishers and give people bits and pieces of your work. This way, you eventually create a novel, but there aren’t huge slots of time that are left without you delivering a story. It’s also helpful in terms of the Amazon recommendation system. If you only have one 100,000 word book then Amazon can’t recommend anything else to customers. If you have four or five smaller books then you create an ecosystem without taking away from your writing time.
The same goes for blogging and freelance writing. Use your old blog posts to create an eBook, or think about breaking up your longer blog posts to create a series for more content. These are the things that turn your writing into money.
Narrow Your Niche and Stick to the Market
Even great artists like Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway knew the power of the market. They managed lists of freelance clients to deliver contract work or overseas reporting. Sure they made some money on their passion projects eventually, because of their names, but they were truly in it to make money.
The Beatles were notorious for joking about how they would never play unless they received a paycheck. It’s all fine and dandy to have a hobby, but even mad artists need to eat, and they eat by picking a niche in an already established market.
Write your novel about the calculus teacher from Gary, Indiana who gets abused by his wife who’s also an alien, but understand that the market doesn’t want this ill-defined genre. You always hear about movie studios pumping out regurgitated crap nowadays, but the truth is that most people don’t go to see the Indy flicks they create. They understand that actors and directors want to complete passion projects, but the summer blockbusters pay for all of it. Stick to genre tropes and do them well.
Become a Sharer
Writers are often introverts, but to me this is often used as a cop out for people who don’t want to spend the time blogging or posting on social media.
I’ve said in the past that social media is not all that helpful for writers starting out, because you don’t have the following to really generate a buzz. However, a blog is a must, because you give yourself a chance to practice your writing and potentially gain followers who find your work interesting.
This is an interesting area, because blogging and posting on social media sometimes feels like work. That’s the worst thing that can happen, and you’re readers will notice.
The solution? Share your life. Share your story. Talk about the daily struggles you go through with your writing, or ask for advice from people in your network. If you stumble on something that helped your writing, share it with everyone. If you learned from a mistake, put together a quick list and post it on your blog. The best writing is personal, and using your blog and social media accounts to share your personal stories, even if you’re a nobody in the writing world, is enough to connect with others, or at least vent when you are frustrated.
Whore Out What You Love
I’ve heard a few people say that they don’t want to “whore themselves out” when referring to marketing their writing. I never really had a response to this, but I started thinking about some other things I have been proud of in my life, besides my writing. When I finally landed a lead in the high-school musical I told all of my friends to come see me in the production. When I made a movie in college I sent in a press release to the student paper so that people would come to the screening. When I started dating my girlfriend I couldn’t wait to make it Facebook official (I know, lame.)
The point is, whenever I’m proud of something I want other people to know.
You whore yourself out when you are ashamed of your work, but still sell it to make money. How can an author who just spent months of her life think that chatting with fans on social media and sending out a few emails to book bloggers is whoring? Be proud of your work and share it with the world. In my opinion the whore excuse is just a bit of masked laziness.
What do you guys think? Are there other ways to get the word out about your book when you just want to write and not market your writing? Let me know in the comments section below. Have you ever said, “I want to write, not market my writing?”