I have reluctantly come to the conclusion, recently, that I have a self-promotion problem, one that is potentially insurmountable. That problem, in a nutshell, is me; or more to the point my personality. I am what is known as an introvert. (People frequently mistake introversion for shyness, which is incorrect. For a more accurate insight into the psyche of an introvert check out this Huffington Post article.) One of the consequences of this character trait is that I really dislike being the centre of attention. In fact, I go out of my way to avoid bringing attention to myself. Now you’re probably beginning to see my problem.
When making the decision to forgo the traditional publishing route in favour of going indie, I was fully aware that this would mean taking on another role in addition to writing books; I would be responsible for marketing them. Almost two months after publishing my debut novel, I am now realising that my assumption that writing would be the more challenging of the two roles was wishful thinking. As it turns out, it’s one thing to write and publish a novel, but it is another to get people to buy and read your book.
I’m sure those of you who have self-published will be aware that there is no shortage of people online who claim to possess the secret to sales success. I’ve even received spam emails guaranteeing me X number of glowing book reviews, as well as X number of weekly book sales…for a price, of course. Fortunately, I’m not naive. I know there is no magical formula or template for success; what works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else, though it does demonstrate that indie authors can take steps to increase the odds of finding an audience for their work.
The most plausible idea for achieving success that I’ve come across is the 1000 True Fans theory. This idea seems to have originated from a 2008 blog post written by Kevin Kelly, in which he posits that an author (or creators in general) only require a thousand dedicated fans in order to make a living. These “super fans” not only buy anything and everything an author produces, but by virtue of their enthusiasm for an author’s work they also end up doing the bulk of the marketing legwork for them. Non-fans can be made aware of authors who were previously unknown to them by the cheerleading of the 1000 True Fans, and subsequently be persuaded to purchase their books on account of their positive word of mouth.
It’s hard to disagree with the thrust of Kelly’s essay as it is rather easy to observe it in action. The appeal of this scenario to an introverted writer like myself is obvious. Having a a small legion of rabid fanboys (or fangirls) promoting me and my work would mean not having to worry about putting myself out there and engaging in time consuming, shameless self-promotion. But, obviously, I need to acquire my 1000 True Fans first, and as things currently stand I’m not sure that I have even one, yet. And so I find myself in a catch-22 situation. No reader becomes a fan of an unknown author before reading one of their books. But, by the same token, very few readers will take a chance on such an author before another reader gives them a reason to.
I am not naive enough to believe in the notion that the cream always rises to the top; it doesn’t. It gets buried beneath copious amounts of crap that most people have neither the time nor the patience to go digging through, in order to unearth the rare gems. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about what an unknown author, who doesn’t have a thousand devoted fans, needs in order to persuade readers to buy his book. The obvious answer, unless someone can prove to me otherwise, is lots of good reviews. Unfortunately, I now know that a book sale doesn’t guarantee a review any more than the giving away of a free copy does. So, until such time as I have accumulated enough reviews, I need to up my game on the self-promotion front.
I have spent the last few days contemplating how best to tackle my self-promotion dilemma, and I’ve come up with a few ideas that I’ll be implementing in the coming days and weeks. However, I’m still open to suggestions, so if there is something I can do that would persuade you to read my book (and better yet, turn you into one of my 1000 True Fans), please let me know in the comments below. But keep in mind that I will ignore any of the following advice:
– Spamming social media.
I’m not going to waste time with “please buy my book” messages every five minutes on Twitter and Facebook. Not only is this behaviour annoying, it makes the person doing it look desperate and needy, which I have no interest in being.
– Adopting a fake online persona.
I’m not going create an alter ego for myself to interact with readers online just so they will think that I’m cool. I don’t give a flying you-know-what about being viewed as cool.
– Brown-nosing successful authors.
No! I’m not going to try hanging on to the coattails of other authors with large online followings in the hope that some of those followers will notice me. I have too much dignity for that.
Thanks for reading,