(a hearty thanks goes out to the wonderful K.D. Grace, on whose blog this piece first appeared)
I'm not just talking about the need to be a marketing genius and a publicity guru – spending, it feels too often, more time tweeting about Facebook, or Facebooking about tweeting, than actually writing – but that authors really need to be creative when it comes to not just getting the word out about their work but actually making money.
A lot of people who claim to be marketing geniuses and publicity gurus will say that talking about you and your work as loud as possible, as often as possible, is the trick ... but have you heard the joke about how to make money with marketing and PR? Punchline: get people to pay you to be a marketing genius and/or a publicity guru. In short: just screaming at the top of the tweety lungs or burying everyone under Facebook posts just won't do it.
Not that having some form of presence online isn't essential – far from it: if people can't find you, after all, then they can't buy your books. But there's a big difference between being known and making everyone run for the hills – or at least stop up their9 ears – anytime you say or do anything online.
Balance is the key: don't just talk about your books or your writing – because, honesty, very few people care about that ... even your readers – instead fine a subject that interests you and write about that as well. Give yourself some dimension, some personality, some vulnerability, something ... interesting, and not that you are not just an arrogant scream-engine of me-me-me-me. Food, travel, art, history, politics ... you pick it, but most of all have fun with it. Forced sincerity is just about as bad as incessant narcissism.
Okay, that's all been said before – but one thing a lot of writers never think about is actually getting out from behind their computers – or out of their garret to tie in the opening to this. Sure, writing may far too often be a solitary thing but putting yourself out there – in the (gasp) real world – can open all kinds of doors. I'm not just talking publicity-that-can-sometimes-equal-book-sales, either: there's money to be made in all kinds of far-too-often overlooked corners.
Not to turn this to (ahem) myself: but in addition to trying to do as many readings and appearances as I can manage ... or stand ... I also teach classes. One, it gets me out of the damned house and out into the (shudder) real world, but it also, hopefully, shows people that I am not just a writer. Okay, a lot of what I teach – from sex ed subjects to ... well, writing – has to do with my books and stories but it also allows me to become more than a virtual person.
By teaching classes and doing readings and stuff-like-that-there I'd made a lot of great connections, met real-life-human-beings, and have seen a considerable jump in book sales. Now don’t let me mislead you that this has been easy: there are a lot of people out there who perform, teach, lecture, what-have-you already so often it means almost starting a brand new career ... scary and frustrating doesn't even begin to describe it. But, in the end, the rewards have more than made up for the headaches.
Now you don't have to read, or teach, or whatever: the main point of this is to think outside of your little writing box. If you write historical fiction then think about conducting tours of your city and it's fascinating secrets and back alleys; if you write SF then think about starting a science discussion group – or even joining one. Like art? How about becoming a museum docent? Write mysteries? Then organize a murder party – or just attend one.
You don't have to make you and your work the focus of what you are doing. As in the virtual world, connections can come from all kinds of unexpected directions – which can then even lead to new opportunities ... both for your writing but also as a never-before-thought-of-cash stream.
My classes and lectures and whatever have not just brought be friends, booksales, totally new publicity venues, but also ($$) cash!
It's also a great way of balancing my inherent shyness with the need to get out there and be a person – which always helps not just sell whatever products you happen to be selling but can also be extremely good for (not to get too metaphysical or something) the soul: sure, we all might want to be left alone in our little garrets to writer, write, write but the fact is that writing can be very emotionally difficult .... to put it mildly. But thinking outside of your box you can not just reach new, potential, readers but also possibly find friends and an unexpected support system.
Teaching may not be for you, readings may not be for you ... but I'm sure if you put your wonderfully creative mind to it I'm sure you can think of a way to not just get the word out about your work but also enrich yourself as a person. It might be painful at first, but – believe me – it'll be more than worth it.