This Little Piggy Went to Market: by Jane Thornley

I just launched a new book and it was horrible--not the book, the process. Launching a new book used to be a thrill that naturally followed months of hard work tangled in bouts of magical thinking. This time the entire event fizzled. Actually, it hit me more like a punch in the gut. 

Blame too much marketing. Though the launch itself was no better or worse than any of the previous five times, my response was not—no virtual fireworks, no sense of accomplishment, no kudos, either internally or externally. In fact, I was a mess, sinking into growly misery. For weeks leading up to the launch, I hung a sign on my door warning my friends that I was not suitable for human consumption and, afterwards, I just moaned as I studied my stats. All the joy from what should be for any writer a momentous achievement, simply evaporated. 

And now, weeks later, I finally know why: it's because this little piggy went to market forgetting that it's not all about bringing home the bacon and thus got roasted alive. I tried too hard. I'd been chewing off huge chunks of marketing advice while listening to a legion of experts (and believe me, the experts are proliferating almost as quickly as ebooks on Amazon) until it felt as though I was choking on a giant hairball.
Everyone had suggestions for maximizing a new book’s first days in the world—how to get it noticed, how to get it read. Hit the bestseller list! Make readers buy your book! Multiple gurus are capitalizing on strategies for marketing this or that to indie authors, from Amazon ads to Facebook strategies. These experts promote courses and webinars and newsletters. They chatter away about blurbs and covers and self-promotion. Crow now, write later. 

I bought it all, literally, and crowed my throat raw. I flaunted my book in all venues possible using all the technigues learned. On the advice of one copywriter, I tried his blurb that better describes a comic book character than my protagonist  ("...she scales tall buildings.") while applying the BUY ME NOW labels to all all my ads. Really, it was nauseating. I was nauseating. Why couldn't I market while still being true to my own voice the way I used to? Because I'd amputated that voice in the name of the latest (desperate, competitive) marketing expertise.

Finally, I woke up--I mean, really woke up--and scaled it all back. I couldn't stand myself. It's not that all the gurus are wrong--their suggestions are valid and we are all struggling with the same issues--but that doesn't mean I need to swallow everything whole.  

Now I'm starting to breathe again. The book is doing fine while, more importantly, I'm doing much better. I've regained my equilibrium. I'm back to writing with that old magic and excitement streaming back in. I still market, of course, but more slowly and in a more measured fashion. These days, I apply my brain as the default position and only sprinkle in the advice of others.

And what have I learned, you ask? How about that marketing books is not the same as marketing cornflakes and that this little piggy doesn't have to get singed to bring home the bacon?


Bill Kirton said…
I've never had the energy to commit in the way that you did, Jane, but I understand completely the experience you're describing. The person/name/entity that is the writer almost becomes a fiction in her/his own right, unrecognisable even by her/himself. I still haven't found the answer but it sounds as if you may have.
Fran B said…
Totally empathise. I set aside this year to learn more about marketing and experiment with different ideas. Some have worked, others haven't and lots I have no idea about. They are still out there in the cosmos with no sign of any bacon yet. It's like preaching from a pulpit - who knows what effect or lack of effect it may have. If it all goes wrong, is it the fault of what you said/did or didn't? If it is a roaring success, how much is down to your preaching/marketing? Do you claim marketing result/success every time you sell some books; do you blame bad/lack of marketing when you don't?

I find it does malice to my soul. I don't like the person I am when I am marketing. I hate the person who count writing success only by book sales (so many now classic authors/artists sold very little of their work when alive).

I like the writer, cozied inside a fleece onesie with big fisherman's socks and fingerless gloves, so absorbed in writing that she hasn't noticed how cold she is or how late it is. My much-preferred doppelgänger.

So looking forward to retreating back into her shell soon.
Umberto Tosi said…
I feel for you! Marketing is hard. Who knew? It's hard even for those who make it their career, much less we ink-stained wretches. Buck up. I'll wager that your energetic efforts will not have been in vain. As digital publishers with nearly unlimited Internet shelf life for our efforts, the much touted (and still basically relevant) "long tail" works in our favor. The best revenge: Keep writing! :)

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