The Business of Writing

After the fun of crafting amazing new characters, the excitement of signing that contract, and the joy of that first royalty cheque, comes the hard reality, and for me, the most difficult part of writing: marketing and promotion.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m somehow moaning and groaning and being forced to blog, but I’ve never been very good at self-promotion, at standing up and saying “look at me”. Even under a pseudonym it’s still challenging. Each year at work when it comes time for the annual performance review process, I cringe, because that’s all about self-promotion. As an introvert, I’m happiest in the background, getting things done, and if other people notice, great; if not, well I know I’ve done a good job. But in the writing world that doesn’t always work, especially if you want to make a living from it.

When I first started seriously writing two years ago I had a full-time job. Writing was a hobby, an escape from my hated day job, and a personal milestone of mine. The very fact of just getting something into print was enough for me. I put my stories out there, no Facebook, no Twitter, no blog, and waited to see what would happen with no expectations. The nice emails and reviews from readers were unexpected bonuses. I was thrilled with the reception to Inseparable. I’m embarrassed to admit it went to my head and I got a little cocky with my colleagues in IT land. But unlike performance appraisals, where I’m told how I rank against my colleagues, I have no way of measuring my success. I can’t tell if my sales are below average, average or better than expected. I don’t even have any real idea of the size of the market other than some internal “guesstimates” based on the number of members in the Goodreads M/M group. So the only thing I can really compare myself against is… myself.

I am my own worst critic, so my personal goal is to continually improve with each new story and try new things. But hey, sales and readers are important too! I’ve enjoyed the last two years, writing short stories—it’s been fun, and because I’ve only been “dabbling”, the pressure is all of my own making. But lately, now that said full-time job is disappearing, I’ve been considering moving onto the next phase and making writing a more serious pursuit. Like a character in my upcoming novella Rebound says, maybe it’s the Universe sending me a sign. But to become a Writer (with a capital W) means I have to stop thinking of it as a hobby and more as a business. And that means coming up with a marketing plan. I have two novellas coming out with Dreamspinner Press in the next few months, and it will be interesting to compare the sales for those against last year’s. Will it be better? Worse? I certainly think that these two novellas are technically better than my others, but will that translate to readers? I’d love to show some growth, but to do that, I will finally have to bite the bullet and get out there and do some virtual cheer-leading.

I am still torn about the whole thing. As a reader, an author’s marketing doesn’t affect me much at all; I don’t “follow” anyone, I don’t routinely check author’s blogs or websites, and yet I consider myself a serious reader. I still buy quite a lot of books. I suppose of all things, I am most inclined to be swayed by reviews, but even those have limited impact on my reading habits. So there is a part of me that wonders how much value do these things really add? At the same time I’m savvy enough to realize that times are changing, and independent authors especially, need to get themselves out there, generate buzz and spread the word. Readers aren’t going to stumble across my stuff by chance in the bookstore; they need to know I’m out there and how to find me. This blog was the first step, but now it’s time to go further. It’ll be a learning process for me, and I expect some ups and downs, but I’m ready to start. Prepare for Operation Get Noticed. 🙂

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