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?