Dear Fellow Writer,
Happy 4th of July!
We often like to believe that the Net is home to everybody out there. We think that the web reflects all of our realities...
But, when you begin to rely on cyberspace to jump-start your writing career, it's worth remembering that not everyone uses the Internet, many more are ambivalent to its allure, and still more don't use it because they see it as irrelevant to their lives!
Apparently, I read recently on Google+, it's possible to have a full life without ever going online. I must check that out sometime...
To Blog or Not To Blog - That Is The Question
Everywhere you look on-line, a legion of writers - and writing gurus - extol the necessity of social networking as a crucial foundation for the aspiring fiction author's career.
But is this right?
It's like the emperor's new clothes.
We've become convinced that something is essential because everyone says it is, without ever questioning the validity of the original premise.
We need to answer this crucial question:
Does blogging, Tweeting, Google plussing and Facebooking actually sell fiction?
The short answer is: No, not really. Once in a blue moon maybe. Mostly never.
There are thousands of successful writers in the world who sell crate loads of books every day - but who never indulge in social networking at all.
There are professional writers who write consistently and get paid royalties from publishers and who rarely use the Internet - except perhaps for research.
And despite the hype, the fact is there are millions of readers and book buyers in the world who wouldn't know a dotcom from an aspidistra.
When was the last time you saw JK Rowling tweeting a dozen times a day, even once a day? Once a month even? She leaves all that to her publisher, her publicist or her fans.
The majority of writers in the off line world only ever have an Internet presence at all through their publishers and seldom, if ever, have a blog.
So what's the big deal? Does having a fiction writer's blog put you ahead of the game? Short answer: not really.
But the fact is, it's better than nothing.
Just in case.
Someone may ask if they can look you up on the web. Or a publisher might want to see you have a website. Or maybe you're selling a lot of non-fiction - which does much better on the Net.
Of course, amidst all this nay-saying, I'm neglecting to mention that there is a whole new breed of fiction writer emerging. Those that have no 'real world' success - yet - but sell an awful lot of digital books on-line.
Authors and publishers of traditional cardboard and paper books may scoff at the digital author. To them, this success is not real. They believe that fiction downloads are at worst, fluff, and at best, irrelevant to their core business.
On-line authors know better. Because if money in the bank is a good definition of a writer's success, then selling digital files is just as good as the real thing.
And of course, the only way to sell books on-line is to have an on-line presence. So all the advice you hear about putting out regular blogs, building a relationship with your fans and generally maintaining a solid author platform is useful. Up to a point.
It depends on what you're promoting. Fiction is a hard sell on-line. Always has been. Maybe not in the future - we live in hope.
As a fiction author, the main drawback to social networking is that you remove any sense of mystery about yourself. You become just another fiction author, touting your books.
What can you offer that's different? Not much that anyone cares about before you're famous.
You should heed the first rule of marketing:
"You can't make people want what they don't want already."
Doesn't matter how much you shove things in people's faces by tweeting, blogging, linking, shouting or repeating yourself.
Because really, as a fiction author, what can you do except constantly bleat about the books you write that nobody yet wants to read?
I mean, if you were selling as many books as you wanted, you wouldn't bother promoting them so much, would you? And the savvy Internet user knows this.
Subliminally, surfers suspect that if you're promoting your own books, they can't be any good.
Because if they were any good, they'd hear it from their friends or they would sell in shops without one word from you, wouldn't they?
So, in some ways, social networking is counter-productive. It makes you look desperate.
Of course, as a writer, you can get a huge number of followers to your blog. But your list will usually be made up of other writers who also want to sell their own books. And, if you're an author reliant on book sales, this is not helping you much at all.
What authors need is readers and book buyers - most of whom are not online anyway!
When readers do go online, what do they do when they want a book?
Either they already know your name (from hearing about you off line) and they look you up - or they browse for books at Amazon or on their iPad. And whose books do they see? Yep. The bestsellers - and usually the off-line bestsellers first!
So - should you promote your fiction twelve times a day for the rest of your natural born life?
Sure. If you enjoy it, go ahead.
Get a blog and update it at least once a week. Tweet all day if you want. Release your books through Amazon, Kobo, CreateSpace and anyone else who will list you. Sell stuff from your site. Join Goodreads and participate in every forum that will have you. Just don't expect any of these activities to sell more than half a dozen novels a month...
I'm not trying to put a complete downer on social networking. I get involved in it myself. Mainly because it's fun - not because it sells books. Because it doesn't.
So don't feel bad about not having a blog.
To be honest, for wannabe fiction writers, they're probably overrated.
If you're a fiction writer, the most important thing you can do is write fiction. Get the books under your belt first.
And worry about your on-line presence later - if and when it becomes necessary for you to have one.
The Easy Way to Write
The Easy Way to Write
THIS WEEK'S WRITER'S QUOTE:
"The tale is often wiser than the teller." Susan Fletcher