2011 was a good year for making new friends. Lots of travel, supplemented by a fair amount of time online, trying to get out there, to keep my name and Dark Vengeance in front of readers and book buyers, brought me into contact with bunches of new people.
One of my favorites is Red Tash, who is also an author, with a vested interest in keeping her name in front of the same sorts of people. We've played some blog-tag this fall (that's a new game I just now made up, but it sounds like fun). And now, I'm turning the floor over to her. Take it away, Red!
Hi. I'm Red Tash. I write dark fantasy and scary stories. Before that, I was (am?) a professional journalist and PR gal.
The thing is, being a new author in today's climate is pretty much a full-time job. If you're one of the lucky folks who received or treated him or herself to a new Kindle for Christmas, then you're probably already aware there are so many ebooks available to read for free or cheap, that you don't know where to start. (Incidentally, if you're looking for a starting place, I've got a series of blog posts that might help you pick, right here: http://LesleaTash.com/Fire I digress, already!)
As I was saying, I was/am a professional journalist, but being a new author on the scene is a remarkably time-consuming job. So time-consuming that I'm not sure if I'll have time to go back to covering news and features again, let alone ever write a column, like I used to. As Jeff touched on in his guest post, there's a lot of promotion to be done, even for someone such as himself with over forty titles to his name. In a virtual online bookstore growing exponentially every single day, I confess there is a frenzied stress among the herd, as each new author tries to differentiate himself from the crowd. They do so by cross-promoting at times, working together, and trying to surf the tide of attention and/or sales to leverage solo projects.
Frankly, right now I dread logging into Facebook, because of the “Buy my book!” posts. Ditto Twitter. Likewise Goodreads. I've even had an author hit me up while I was reading my email—he just popped up in Google Chat, and I kid you not, he asked me to buy his book! It's inescapable, brazen, and let's face it—tacky.
If you've read Jeff's post on my site or had a look-see at his website, you know he's accomplished. If you've read Jeff's guest blog on Konrath's site, you know he's honest and willing to talk straight about his journey in the publishing marketplace. Although Jeff has blazed a trail for himself in traditional publishing, he's also keeping a foot in the indie scene, for fantastic reasons that he lists in that post.
I'm going to take a page from Jeff's book here and be really straight with you—as much as I understand the indie scene, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to market my peculiar first book, myself (rather than let it gather dust in the desk drawer), I'm really getting kind of sick of the infancy of this movement. I know that's all it is—an early stage of a very big game—but, still, the amateur tactics of many indie authors are driving me nuts.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not confusing “indie” with “amateur,” nor am I saying “published” means “pro.” I have been in business for myself for several years, having run a successful business, while managing freelance gigs on the side. Some of those gigs were ongoing PR campaigns for clients as diverse as musicians, to household cleaning brands, to a roller derby team. Selling books may be a bit different than selling allergy alert wear, but building a brand and connecting with people who want to be associated with your brand is pretty much the same, no matter how you're making a living.
Universally, this is a thing creatives don't always “get.” I see authors squandering opportunities for fan-driven promotion, while still others alienate fans by spamming them non-stop. “Amateur” or “pro” status as a writer has nothing to do with whose hand is clicking the “publish” button, when it comes to promotion.
If you think selling anything, from writing, to yourself as a writer, to insurance, to a new roof, to a spit shine job on a passer-by's shoes, isn't about relationships, you are wrong, my friend. Very wrong. Selling is all about relationships, and it feels to me like the relationship side of the publishing business is in a wild state of chaos thanks to the new model.
In the absence of established etiquette for this new frontier, there's a saying I fall back on, repeatedly. It has served me greatly through the years: “It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.” If I could guarantee you that this is a multi-million dollar marketing formula, then the world would already be a nicer place, but the truth is, “nice” doesn't fit everyone's needs. However, it does fit mine. I remember nice people—people who are kind whether they have to be, or not.
That is why I remember Jeff Mariotte. He's rubbed shoulders with giants in our industry, and he never has an unkind word to say about anyone. He's neither pushy nor rude. Jeff maintains relationships with people like me to whom he doesn't owe him a thing, and he's quick with a kind word and a laugh. A man like Jeff can tell an industry leader on the man's own blog that he once thought him full of shit, call him a bastard, and not piss him off. That's a professional, my friends.
When you pick up a book by a professional writer, you may or may not like it, depending on an entire host of unforeseeable variables. A pro knows that a “not for me” doesn't equate to an insult. A pro knows that sales are one measure of success, but not the complete picture. A pro has goals, and if they don't get met, he or she evaluates and tries again, because a pro writer doesn't put junk out on the market for sale.
Jeff Mariotte is a professional—so am I. I think that's a big draw between the two of us. I hope you will peruse his latest work and share it with your friends. I know I am, and I shall. And if you're in the mood for something a little more likely to be described “instant cult classic,” I'd love for you to check out my book, as well. It is weird, but worth it, if weird is your kind of thing. Your feedback is quite welcome, always, on my blog or Facebook, or Twitter.
Jeff again. Red is right on target with these comments. Professionalism is about making money at whatever it is that one does, but it's also about attitude and approach. I try to approach my readers with respect and appreciation, in hopes of getting the same back. Obviously, Red does too. That's one reason you should buy This Brilliant Darkness today and read it tomorrow. Or today. Whichever. The other reason is that it's awesome.
Finally, here's an article that showed up in today's USA Today that touches on some of these issues. It's a feature on Michael Prescott, a thriller writer who is a friend of a friend and who has done very well with self-published e-books. I'm glad for him, as I am for any writer who breaks through and achieves a large readership. I hope Red and I both can report the same sort of success over the coming months.
Whether we do or not, though, won't affect what we bring to the work. The work--the stories, the paragraphs, the words, the characters--that's what counts. And, of course, the people who willingly fork over hard-earned cash to read our stuff. Thanks to you, dear readers. Always, thank you.