An Indie friend of mine once told me that for me, writing would only ever be a hobby. The reason for this is that I still have to do a ‘proper job’ in order to make ends meet, and that’s likely to be the way for the foreseable future. Being independant he spends at least as much time marketing and selling his work as he does writing; a prospect I regarded with dread since I can’t sell my way out of a paper bag.
I can write though. I have ideas that are queuing up to spill onto the page, manifested in the antics of characters who are more interesting and sophisticated than most stereotypes I read in other’s work. My spelling and grammar is okay too. All right, so I’m no Dickens or Tolstoy, but my first novel is at least average…
There, right there is a marketing faux pas! No, no, no, my novel is truly groundbreaking and you absolutely must read it! (sigh)
And this is my point. A writer should focus on what he or she is supposed to be good at – writing – leaving all the selling and marketing to the agent and publisher, who should own that particular skillset.
I was told that a publisher ‘can’t do it all’. Why not?! After all they are getting the lion’s share of the revenue from your work. Financially it does them more harm than it does the writer, not to.
And yet the current culture seems to be to dump more and more of the workload onto the writer, encouraged in part by the rise and rise of the Indie writer.
My argument is that this is destructive because it undermines the overall quality of books being produced, with writers being forced to focus on things they are not necessarily good at, and therefore ultimately the profitability of the whole enterprise.
Okay, so things are never that cut and dried. People always like to hear a writer talk about their book and the process of writing etc. etc., and only the writer can do that. I have no problem there. I have an ego like everyone else, and I’m more than willing to stand on my hind legs and tell a bunch of adoring fans my philosophy of life. Of course there has to be some overlap. I am however a little nervous that such things (and posting blogs like this one) can do more harm than good, and for that reason I won’t be giving up the day job just yet.
So what do I think about Indie writers? I haven’t been kind to them in this peice, so far!
First, there are some that can’t write but are superb at selling themselves. They have hundreds of 5 star reviews and ratings, and the poor old reader ends up being swamped with dross. These people just get in the way, and I hate them – especially when they outsell me!
Then there are those who can write and who also embrace the selling aspect. I hate them too, but that’s just jealousy. In fact, I wish them luck, and I have some very good friends who do just that.
Finally, there are those who have simply decided to go it alone because they don’t want the publishers taking such a massive cut of their work. Very often these people already have good brands, and don’t have to tweet ‘read my book!’ every five minutes. Good luck to them too, I say. Maybe one day I’ll be up there too, and I’ll have a yacht in the Bahamas and will spend my days studying the flying pigs.
I was quite pleased to land a publishing contract with Endeavour Press, because they promised to take all that marketing and selling work off me. All they want me to do is maintain an author website, like this one, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page (which I have no idea what to do with). Given that my original ambitions were modest – just to get a handful of readers to buy the book, and consider the time and money well spent – I believe they have helped me more than achieve that. Having done that, of course, I want more – that’s just human nature isn’t it – and I begin to wonder if they have done/are doing as much as they could. A little more effort should benefit both me and them
In my opinion the best thing a writer can do to help their marketing is to write more books. I’ve just spent my morning doing that, and now, far too long writing this!