Last year I published my first novel. After thousands of hours over the course of four years, researching, writing and editing, I finally put myself out there, sharing my hard work with the world.
Sharing. Yeah, about that—
The first place to start is always with friends and family. Some are incredibly supportive, buying books and spreading the word. Others act as if they are offended—yes, offended—that you have the gall to follow your lifelong dream, work hard and put your heart and soul into starting what will hopefully become a career, and then expect them to support you by spending a few dollars to buy one copy of your book.
What is funny about this concept is that if you had knocked on their door to sell candy for the school, they would most likely buy it. Or if you went out with them for coffee, they might buy it for you. Yet ask them to buy the book you slaved over, and their gut reaction is to be angry. Later on, when they begin selling make-up, bags, pots and pans or some other product, they invite you to their parties. Or they want you to contribute to their charity, which is often a charity to pay for them to post political information on social media, something you might already do for free, along with most everyone else.
Some time back, I read an article entitled, “Sorry, Your Buddies Won’t Buy Your Book.” It wasn’t the “aha” moment it should have been at the time. Oh sure, I understood what the author wrote but was still hurt by friends who refused to buy my creation, my dream, my love, for a measly few dollars.
Reading a book is not such a big commitment, is it? Authors aren’t asking for donations for charity. If you buy the book, you’re paying for a product, only that product happens to be someone’s lifelong dream and the result of hard work, not some piece of plastic manufactured in China.
The truth is, while some of us are lucky enough to have a handful of extremely supportive friends, most of our expanded network (and even certain close friends and family) are really fair weather friends. They know us personally and see us as those idiots they know, or those kids who used to ride their bikes around the block. Will they ever be able to see us as serious authors? Perhaps only if we make it to J.K. Rowling status. By that time, we would no longer need their support. Thanks a lot.
So it’s about strangers, reaching those people who actually read and who read our genre. And how exactly do we go about doing that? Twitter? I don’t think so. Facebook is a little better but not much. Blogging? It doesn’t seem likely.
After over a year of engaging with potential readers and fellow authors, reading countless advice columns and trying different things, I’ve come to the conclusion that the market is saturated, most things that used to work no longer do, (that means that you can typically ignore advice from back in 2013), and beginning a writing career is like starting a new business—only harder. What it comes down to is, you have to invest and keep investing as long as you have the means to do it.
When a new movie comes out, what happens? The studio invests millions of dollars in advertising. There are commercials, billboards, print ads, and the actors go around visiting every talk show they can in order to promote the film. Do they care about annoying friends? No. They simply get their names and their movie in front of as many people as possible. And no one complains about it. No one is offended. They accept the concept of the rich and successful to continue to get richer and more successful. It is only the poor, struggling artists who get kicked around.
My advice is to keep writing, even if no one is buying. The average successful author has written over 13 books, I guess. That’s a statistic I recently read anyway. Yes, it often takes that long to get things going, unless you are miraculously discovered by someone big and important or rich or famous. Otherwise, as the saying goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
So I, along with all the other independent authors trying to get noticed, will keep at it, knowing that I’ve written something special and waiting for the rest of the world to realize it.
And while we’re on the topic of marketing, did you hear I’ve got a new book coming out? Don’t be upset if I try to sell it to you. It’s not some costume jewelry you don’t want or need; it’s only me, my words, and my heart. If that offends you, then so be it.
D.M. Miller is the author of the interfaith “Heart” series. The product of an interfaith marriage herself, Miller’s work explores the difficult themes of religion, politics, ethnicity, culture, family, ancestry and love. Her books are available on Amazon.