Sunday, 3 May 2015

Love story - Nick Green

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…

13 comments:

Bill Kirton said...

I enjoyed the post a lot, Nick, and I'd love to leave a comment that does it justice but I'm afraid all I can do is admit I'm in exactly the same position and mindset as you, probably with added laziness. If you ever do find that elusive 'someone else', please give me their contact details.

Barbara Lorna Hudson said...

Went to workshop on self-publicity at Stratford Lit Fest yesterday. My cousin Lorentz Gullachsen was there with pop-up photography studio. I passed round his card with a little speech about him. As was mentioned in the workshop it is easier to advertise some other person's work than one's own. So that's the value of making friends with other authors. You can publicise each other.
Do I sound like a sly selfish person? Oh dear...

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I think word of mouth is always the best way. The problem now, of course, is that even traditionally published authors are expected to do almost all of it for themselves. I remember a time when you didn't want to tread on the publicist's toes. Now, there probably is no publicist. You'll be lucky to get an intern sending out a few review copies. I agree with Barbara that it's easier to promote somebody else. I do it much better for my artist husband than I do for me. And vice versa. I think the trick with social media is to engage with people about all kinds of things that are not necessarily your books. I like doing that - probably too much - but if it's not for you, it's difficult. I have a hugely successful trad published friend who has taught me a lot about promotion. She never does the 'buy my book' stuff, but she uses topics that are related to her fiction and finds readers that way. I did something similar, and with a reasonable amount of success, with The Curiosity Cabinet - there are a lot of embroiderers and textile nuts out there if you can find them! And if that's what interests you as well, it becomes much less of a chore.

Lee said...

If you* enjoy running a business -- or can at least tolerate it -- than go ahead. If not, find another way to support your writing.

Not everything we make has to be commercialised i.e. promoted.

*generic

Mari Biella said...

I'm in the same boat as you, Nick. The publicity and marketing side of the whole thing bores me to tears, and I suspect that quite a lot of it probably doesn't work anyway. That elusive 'word of mouth' thing is probably best, but nobody knows how or why it happens, or how to reproduce it. I kind of think that the best thing to do is just keep on writing...

Reb MacRath said...

Wonderfully frank post, made even glummer by the lack of an illo. I wonder if there is any magical single thing required--or perhaps a relentless, maniacal--even egomaniacal--storming of the gate. If you think of the early Madonna, or Lady Gaga, or 50 Cent--or other musicians who Made It, they all had that relentless: they slept/ate/body functioned Self Promotion...non stop. For those of us who lack the time or inclination to sleep with who needs sleeping with, or tout on the 24/7...the only 'answer' that makes any sense, imo, is to write with a vengeance, tout when we can, and give word of mouth a nudge as best we can.

Reb MacRath said...

line 5 should have read: they all that relentless drive

Wendy Jones said...

Loved this. You've hit the nail right on the head.

Pauline Chandler said...

Great post, Nick, reassuring me that I'm not the only one who finds promotion tricky (embarrassing, depressing, cringe-making, unrewarding..) A friend has done quite well by employing a marketing guru to promote a book online. It cost just into four figures, but he made that back quite quickly in sales. Still not sure it's worth it though.

Lydia Bennet said...

yes great post Nick. I enjoy performing and doing readings and like using social media but the need to promote and market and think about how and chase sales is actually spoiling being a writer for me in some ways. I honestly think the methods that worked no longer do now there are so many competing.

Reb MacRath said...

Val, more than ever the best tactics may be toughness, longevity...and productivity. As we've learned in another post, either here or on the private page, mystery readers in particular don't want to 'waste their time' on writers of only a handful of books.

Dennis Hamley said...

Thank God you wrote this, Nick. Now I don't feel so lonely.

Fran B said...

It's just terrible job design, cobbling together such disparate aptitudes into one person's remit. This dichotomy always makes me think of the job of vicars/ministers/priests. One half of it is for the showy performer type (preaching to crowds from pulpits and stages) and the other half is for the sympathetic, one-to-one listener type (pastoral care). In the same way, writing is a solitary, introverted affair whereas promotion is a public ratmatazz affair. I feel fairly sure I am a good writer; I know I am a hopeless publicist. Impasse!