Over the years of bumbling through this or that rough draft, participating in writing communities, and puzzling through the process and business of writing my focus has skittered about. At the center of this is was the idea: “Where to start?”
Originally, the idea was with a rough draft. But after the first few were shelved, or overhauled, I worried what the next step would be when I was pleased with a rough draft. I got caught up in the idea of “the next step” and it made me resistant to finishing things.
This had happened due to a few things. One: the writers’ group i had been a part of that I very nearly turned into a non-profit before succumbing to my own self-doubt and hanging there, useless, submitting resumes via monster, watching the bank account dwindle and in such a haze I couldn't finish reading a book--much less writing one. But before that settled upon me, I had drive and ambition, and a willingness to change and respond to the environment around me.
We self published an anthology of short stories and I learned the entire process of the thing. The process taught me that marketing was central to making a book successful. Generating community, and rising to communicate internally to a particular niche.
Quality is essential to attracting the eyes of the uncertain. A good cover is not just money, it is a demonstration of the seriousness of the writer. There are a lot more steps to the process of producing the cover than CreateSpace and other formula-generating self-publishing options generally lead an author to believe. Not that good covers can’t be produced through CreateSpace.
Working where I do, I also know that a good cover is not guaranteed when going with a traditional publisher. In fact, it seems that the better covers are reserved for titles that expected to make more money, which means that the author has likely already demonstrated their marketability by reaching out inside a community, in some fashion. They have been marked by the publisher as an individual with the connections to bring in enough money to make the whole system stay afloat.
But quality has to be carried through the whole of the book to make certain the sale builds the sort of customer and brand loyalty that can generate a lengthy writing career. As someone interested in being a full time writer--that’s what I’m after.
Working in a bookstore, and knowing the limitations and shopping patterns of the book-buying populace I see why marketing is key. Our store is relatively small--when compared to a box store--and insanely large when compared to most independents. But there is no way that we can stock the sheer thousands of books published each year.
So whether you’re on a major book tour with your publicist plotting your stays, making arrangements with the stores, or if you are on your own, hauling self-published books out your trunk, it is about marketing.
Realizing this has actually freed me. You see, I was so stressed out over “perfecting”: my novel and wondering about timing and how to get an agent and a publisher while also understanding that the system… well, it isn't the same as it used to be.
If it is all about marketing, it isn't about writing to your audience, it’s about identifying who is already prone to like what you want to write. If it’s about niches--the direction that successful marketing is going-- then it’s about being you. Because when you market successfully it isn’t just the book--the author becomes a greater presence on the scene.
And if that is the direction I need to go with my career, than the real thing to do… is write. not copying the methods that work well for other authors, not harping on what has proven successful before and making it my own-- but generally writing my own thing.
I am free to explore the form and craft the way that I, hidden under all the uncertainty and insecurity, have always wanted. I have enough sense, after that, to work it all out. I have learned enough about the business and about marketing, about the book industry itself, to have a few ideas of just how to go about making a business of it--but first, I’m off to complete a novel.
Complete a novel, my way.