Thursday, 20 June 2013

Can you spare any change?

Sadly, #BuyMyBook! is an ever-more-frequent and insistent message to be seen in the social media, and the screen shot from Twitter, shown below, really is a classic example of how not to hawk one's wares:

a tweet

Old school marketing

This kind of approach, which you could call legalized spam, is based on old school marketing, the erroneous belief that one is in competition with tens of thousands of other authors, and that the only way to have your message heard is to shout more loudly and more frequently than all the others.

Things are not made any easier by a minority of authors who shamelessly abuse the new linebreak feature at Twitter (which is great when used in moderation) to post multiline "display adverts" so that they stand out in the crowd. Nor are things made easier by authors invading or hijacking hashtags used by genuine readers, such as #amreading, to advertize their books when they have so many hashtags of their own that they could use, like #kindlebook and #99cents.

It goes without saying that adopting this approach, the "tweet-readers' experience" can only go from bad to worse, and that for the tweet-authors, there will be a rapidly diminishing rate of return. And there is sure to be an angry or frustrated backlash, especially from the old guard of traditional publishing, who just love to crow about the failings of the unwashed masses, the hoi polloi and the dire threat posed to civilization by latter day "vanity publishing".

Building friendship and trust

A more modern approach is based not on competition, but on cooperating with one's fellow authors and, wherever possible, being altruistic. It is not to demand or to play on the concocted fears of consumers or to create hype, but rather to offer to fulfill genuine needs, to tempt and to provide some kind of free sample by which the author may be gauged and by which a friendship and trust may be built up between the reader and the author.

For example, an author might provide free, quality, entertaining or informational content online, on a web site or a blog. Or they may network with and contribute to sites run by other authors, reviewers and readers. This free "value added content" allows the readers to decide for themselves if they like the entertainment, the information, and the author's writing style and credibility. And if they like what they've read, they may be more likely to have a look at what else the author has to offer, such as his published books. There's no hard sell and the author is not constantly "in the reader's face".

This interest may not happen immediately, but may come some time later, when the reader has become better acquainted with what the author has to offer, with the author's general outlook on life and his or her pet interests, and has become more trusting in the author.

It can be tough going

It can be tough going on an indie author, hoping that their work will be noticed amongst the million other works on offer at retailers like Amazon. Many indie authors (like me) loath pushing themselves on others and marketing their wares, but it's something that authors really do need to embrace. Yes, it is an awful cattle market at times, but an indie author can't afford to be put off by that prospect ... unless they wish to end up "out on the streets" and "destitute", as it were, holding out their hat to passers-by and (like the archetypal starving artist) begging: “Dear friend, can you spare any change for a starving indie author?”
can you spare any change?

The chances of an indie author being discovered at random, and their offerings going "viral" in the social media, propelling them to overnight success, are very remote for all but a talented and fortunate few, for the occasionally untalented but fortunate few, and for those who already have celebrity or cult status.

Don't give up

Other than enjoying as rich, varied and balancing a life outside writing that an author can, there really is no substitute for digging deep; plugging away at marketing; continuing to write; and reading others' work ... day in and day out; come rain, shine, hell, high water and rejection slips.

And one day -- who knows? -- the author might have a small army of wonderful, devoted fans eager to help carry the load. Then the fun can really begin.

• By Etienne de L'Amour ~ Google+

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