Happy Thanksgiving! Oh, but I forgot: due to our irrational consumerism, I saw all kinds of ads on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, announcing that “Black Friday Starts Today.” Crazy enough that we line up all night after a rare day of gratitude to fight over cheap toys and televisions. Now we have simply replaced Thanksgiving with Black Friday. And after last Friday the 13th in Paris, can we please change the name from Black Friday? Oh my aching, American, global-consumer, human heart!
I have been meditating about consumerism a lot these days. Primarily about the last four months of self-marketing my literary fantasy series, 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles. Oh hell, let’s get it all out of the way. Book Two: The Qaraq and the Maya Factor is now available on Amazon! Sign up for my newsletter, 1001/Qaraqbooks News, and win a signed copy of Book One: The Qaraq! Phew, that’s done. That’s what I’ve been doing since the summer. And what has it gotten me, besides a sneering, post-Marxist attitude toward Black Friday? That’s what I’ve been contemplating.
I met with my marketing coach last week (yes, I have a marketing coach), the eternally calm and wise Jason Kong. Jason had bravely weeded through my long email describing my efforts, analyzing stats from Facebook ads and newsletter sign-ups, and looking toward the future. Like a chef making a fine roue, he reduced my endless detail to a few clear courses of action. I have been looking at his shortlist in terms of priorities, what I can stand to continue doing business-wise, and what attracts me the most.
But in figuring out my next steps, I wish to get a bigger picture than the necessary tasks at hand, perhaps an emotional or even spiritual picture of what it all means. So here’s an attempt at what I took away from my first serious bout with being on the business end of consumerism. It’s not prescriptive, there are hundreds of business books for that, but reactive.
7 THOUGHTS ON COPING WITH SELF-MARKETING, AND RESPECTING YOURSELF IN THE MORNING:
- Don’t despair. Even if you’re a miserable failure stats-wise. Or maybe despair for a few days, then move forward. For all practical purposes, my hours of indentured marketude were a bust. Facebook ads reached 350,000 people! 7600 people went to my website. But only two subscribed to my newsletter, and later unsubscribed or opened nothing I sent. I can count the number of books I sold to strangers (versus friends or colleagues I know) on one foot. But it was such a fantastic failure that it had to MEAN SOMETHING, and something important, not just that no one likes me.
- Look for the solution in the problem. This is old school Niels Bohr-quantum physics philosophy, but it’s a good antidote to despairing over the problem. For me, I learned that even when I accomplish a huge, global reach, readers don’t go for my book in an instantaneous, recognizable gesture. It defies genre. If you peek at it it should look complicated and hard to penetrate. Even its obvious draws, a theme of reincarnation, or the allure of the Arabian Nights, aren’t immediately accessible through a synopsis, blurb, or sample. But that means my book is special, as we say to children with strange brains. I’m not going to market it in any of the given ways that are out there within easy reach, and expect results. So I need to think outside the box, maybe eschew some of the social media paths, and really define my narrow niche and audience. That also means it’s a long game, not an overnight sensation. Five years or five books until I see results? Maybe. Probably. Which means patience, experimentation, and creativity, all the things I’m doing as a writer of 1001. Okay, maybe it’s not a concrete solution arising out of the problem, but I now have hope it will and see a way forward emotionally.
- Understand and expand on the tiniest successes. Opposite the dismal failure side of the game board, there were some cool things that happened. I made my first connections with people in India interested in the books. Pretty sweet for a book of reincarnation stories. And Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil. Gotta love the Internet. It wasn’t much, quantity-wise, but the fact that I did get a global reach means that more of that could happen, that it’s something I can grow.
- The same goes for finding your tribe: it can start with a handful of readers, a writing group, or a kindred Facebook page. For me, I kept coming back to the Visionary Fiction Alliance, My way into self-marketing was Jason Kong’s excellent course on guest blogging, which was a soft entry into the business side since it primarily involved what writers do first and last, write. During the year afterward I became lost in the sea of social media and email newsletters, but the VFA kept recurring as a positive light. Struggling with a book that defies genres? The VFA promotes Visionary Fiction, a newish, but ancient and very real category that embraces many genres while positing work that focuses on the evolution of human consciousness. Need a place for a new idea or post? The VFA could not be more welcoming and helpful. Going crazy with links not working, digital learning curves causing night sweats? The VFA’s site is user-friendly, not to mention the admins themselves, all wonderful people and writers going through the same stuff. Need a fresh idea or a friendly stroke during that despair? The many ancillary pages are full of writers sharing marketing ideas, queries, and shares. By the end of my four months of pretending to be a businessman, the VFA had gone from a cool site tucked away in a huge list of bookmarks to the closest thing I had identified as a tribe. I could probably stop all my other social media interactions and have enough support and information there. So again, if one little thing works or feels right, blow on that ember and build the fire. And find a tribe, if not your ideal readership at first, then kindred artist spirits.
- Don’t stop writing. This was my first crisis with self-marketing, and will continue to be a juggling feat. But if you can continue any kind of work regimen, no matter how minimal, you’ll feel better about yourself in the morning. I was proud that I chose a relatively easy set of chapters to work on during the four months of campaigns. I had written material for most of the chapters, so it was more editing than writing from scratch, and yet it was a considerable chunk of pages. I could work on it minutes at a time, attempting to get a paragraph done before I checked an email or stat. By the end of the period I was relieved I had done thirty chapters (they’re shortish), and had left myself a few more of the easy ones for the transition back into more hours of writing. I didn’t have to spend the weeks getting back into shape or reminding myself where I was at in the book.
- Think campaigns. My very first marketing effort was a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the first book’s publishing costs. It had a 30 day period, with a couple weeks of preparation and clean-up at either end. I learned that a more intensive campaign period (hopefully with some writing going on, as mentioned above) was beneficial and practical emotionally, too. You focus on it, but then it goes away. It’s important to continue all this madness at a regular pace, but you can save the bigger pushes for a few times a year. One of my self-critiques for the four month period was that it was too long for my sanity. I loaded too many tasks into it, including re-designing a website. I should have only done the actual tasks for the launch of The Qaraq and the Maya Factor and have accomplished all other tasks in an earlier campaign. It was not possible given my life-flow that year, but for the next launch I will make sure I’ve done everything else I need to do in a preparatory phase. All of this thinking is good for my psychological health, too, not feeling overwhelmed or frantically stressed (as opposed to just stressed, right?).
- Finally, try not to get addicted to the Internet. That’s the most negative consequence of my four months of virtual capitalism. I’m just starting to figure that one out, so I’ll save that discussion for another post. And really, if you liked this, sign up for my newsletter, 1001/Qaraqbooks News, and win a signed copy of Book One: The Qaraq! Phew, that’s done.