As I am about to send my second novel, The Art of Survival, off to the lovely Charlotte to be copy edited (http://charlottecoleeditorial.com/), and I continue to attempt to market my first novel, The Art of the Imperfect (http://goo.gl/z7HFgz), I pontificate (once again) on the meaning of success.
The Art of the Imperfect has had some lovely reviews and feedback from readers for which I am very grateful. Plus it was long-listed for the Crime Writers Association debut novel award. I am still very proud of it and my achievement in indie publishing. However, I shrivel at the kindly meant enquiry, ‘How are sales?’
When I started out, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of sales, but expectations were, nevertheless, obviously lodged in my brain. For my lovely novel, my first-born, has not sold as many copies as I thought it would.
I am lucky to live an era where I have access to the free marketing potential of social media. I realise that. Yet I have still to work out how social media sells or, indeed, whether it does at all. There is an interesting symbiotic relationship between traditional and social media which I have yet to fathom. Yes, it seems more and more, traditional media will pick up on what is #trending. But the #trending has to be massive and, in general, I believe, social media promotes mostly what is already being heavily promoted in the traditional media.
And what does traditional media endorse? What is already well-known. Is it news that JK Rowling publishes novels? Really?
Perhaps there are just too many books out there? This thought has occurred to me more than once in recent months. Maybe I should go back to writing for my own pleasure? What is this compulsion to share my words, my stories with others? Partly, at least, it is about knowing I have been touched by what I have read, and I hope others will be moved by what I have written. Partly it must be about ego.
The other perspective which came to me recently was on watching Wimbledon. One hundred and twenty-eight men start out in the singles competition. Only a small minority have a hope in hell of getting a sniff at the second week, never mind the final. Why do they do it? Because they love tennis, they want to be in the game, in the championships. And, it must be added, they are already far better at tennis than any of us watching from our couches.
I love to write. I love to talk about writing, about stories, about books. I know I wouldn’t give up even if I had zero readers. It is a part of me as much as breathing is. I don’t have a hope in hell of being a Federer, but I am in the game, and (and this is difficult to type, let alone believe) I am more skilled than many.
So what have I learned in the last eight months? Marketing as an indie is not easy. Social media is a great place for meeting people and making contacts but not necessarily for selling. And, most crucially, the meaning of success comes from within, from the joy of writing, of telling stories, of the imagination. And, please, if you care, don’t ask me about my sales.
What’s your measure of success?
A gratifyingly honest read, Kate. I enjoy the immersive mental experience that the process of writing gives you (except when it makes me want to punch my laptop, which is often). But I also crave readership. I’m far more motivated to write when I think my work is going to be read… consumed… (not literally) by someone. Sometimes it’s hard to be spotted on the ocean of voices that are out there. I’m sure we’ll continue to find ways to distinguish ourselves. And I’m looking forward to reading The Art of the Imperfect!
Thanks Paul. It was good to meet you and hear your ghost story the other night. Looking forward to hearing more about your vaults project later this year. Not sure I will have the nerve to come along, I am easily scared!
Thanks Kate! Great to meet you too. I’ll be in touch about the forthcoming spookiness!
Yes I agree with you Kate about social media and how to rate success. I’m not even about sales!
At this stage. No book. At least not yet. Even with thousands of words which allow me to experiment with blogging and watching how many readers are drawn to my web-site. Success feels a few. If I reach and touch one or two readers I feel pleased. I give up on thinking many and think few. It keeps me going as I love writing as I do. That’s what I know how to do. And do it. Come what may.
Thanks Monica. There’s a certain elegance in being niche!
Thanks for sharing the reality, Kate. I do like your analogy with the tennis – so many of us / most of us have no chance of reaching the final, but it’s still worthwhile taking part. Good look with the second book.
Thank Anne. Looking forward to meeting you in the flesh soon. 🙂
Very enjoyable piece, Kate. Even with a small publisher, as I am, it’s a hard lesson to learn that you are a very small fish in a very overcrowded pond! I wondered whether I should change what I write to suit what appears to sell – but in the end I’d sooner write something I love and am proud of than something that sells a lot of copies. I’d rather be remembered by a few people for writing a wonderful book than by lots for writing a best-seller!
Oh, absolutely, trying to please the ‘market’, that way lies insanity. And who knows what would sell if were all given an equal bite of the media apple! Readers can only buy/read what they know about and can find. Good luck with it all. 🙂
I think we both published our first books around the same time, so I understand how you are feeling. I have bounced back from “Yes, it’s done.” to “Should I be doing more?” in terms of marketing. And I’ve also done crazy sprints and marathons on marketing and none at all. I’ve also reminded myself that this is my first endeavour and hey, I need to build my audience, resume, etc before I can expect any real results – I mean, most authors don’t hit it out of the park (if they do at all) until their 2nd or 10th book…and like you, I’m here for the love.
Success has to be measured internally, external factors always change. I look at it this way, I’d rather be striving than a big smashing hit at the beginning and never living up to it ever again.
Thanks Lani for your thoughtful comments. I think knowing when I’m doing enough on marketing is very hard to judge. Good luck with all you are trying to do. 🙂
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Very interesting, Kate. It’s made me think about some of my own motivations and to reassess them
Thanks Marie. Good luck with your writing.
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