Boy meets girl. They’re made for each other. They laugh at the same things, love the same bars and restaurants and clubs, share a passion for films and concerts and going to the theatre and roaming for hours through fascinating little shops in far-flung corners of the globe, and they read the same books and discuss them at length, and if their opinions ever differ that’s great, they can talk about it over red wine long into the night. Everything, in fact, is as good as it can be – because not only do they both love doing all that stuff, they love it even more when they can enjoy those things together. They are in love. So, naturally, they get married, and they have children, thereby ensuring that they can never do any of those things together ever again.
Is that a fundamental flaw in human relationships? I’m just throwing it out there.
Imagine if it were a job application. 'We need you to have a degree in physics and astrochemistry, and your daily duties will involve chicken farming and translating Swedish poetry.' All the skills and qualities you need to be a good boyfriend or girlfriend may have little or no overlap with the skills and qualities you need to raise X number of babies from the howling stage to the catatonic teen stage. You decide that you love someone based on certain very specific criteria and circumstances, which are promptly whipped away like a magician’s table cloth to leave you frantically mopping up spillages for the rest of your life. It’s a classic bait-and-switch. Vicars up and down the land must have to bite their tongues to stop themselves laughing, when brides and grooms say ‘I do.’ Surely some must be tempted to complete the sentence: ‘I do… not have a clue what I am letting myself in for.’
Don’t get me wrong, boys, if you read this one day. You’re terrific and I wouldn’t change you for anything. But, y’know, some warning might have been nice.
Readers with a passing familiarity with my blogs will have guessed by now that I am slowly working my way up to an analogy.
This is very much like being a writer. Of course now I sound like Swiss Tony from The Fast Show, who compares every one of life’s experiences to making love to a beautiful woman. But falling in love really is very much like being a writer… because then you discover you have a baby on your hands, and you may have very little idea about what to do with it.
Writers write things – the clue is in the name. But these days we’re also largely responsible for promoting the books too. If you’re an author electric, change ‘largely’ for ‘wholly’. So it’s no longer enough to be a writer. You have to be a writer-promoter. But you may have very little skill or inclination for the latter job that has suddenly fallen in your lap.
For me, promotion generally consists of doing a blog tour or two (much less useful than of yore; most bloggers have massive waiting lists or fees nowadays, and it’s questionable whether anyone reads them except for other writers anxiously waiting their turn to market to each other…), free giveaways on Amazon, promotion on book sites (sometimes helpful, usually expensive, rarely profitable), buying high-coverage tweets from Fiverr suppliers (the jury’s still out on those) and seeking reviews from fellow writers. Other than that, I tend to trust to word-of-mouth and organic sales… which frankly doesn’t work at any detectable level. I’m sure it is possible to promote an indie book to achieve decent sales, but whatever the trick is to doing that, it eludes me. Partly, I suspect, because I’m really not that interested in discovering it. I have little enough time for writing; I have no time for promoting.
How have you handled the ‘promoter’ part of your job? Did you discover an unexpected flair for it, or do you wish you could just delegate it to someone else? I know which camp I fall into…