Well hello, dear reader! I’m still on the road and have now been gone from my compound for twenty days and counting. Thankfully, I’ve been sitting still in the same spot for more than a week, so even though it’s not home territory, it’s home, and I’m ramping up productivity by 100%.
In addition to reading a lot of submissions, I’m also reading my first Western novel—Max Brand’s, Silvertip—an experience I’m really treasuring because I’ve somehow managed to tap into a former life of mine that gathered around the old Philco with the rest of the family to listen to the Lone Ranger or Gunsmoke sixty years ago. Is there anything better than getting into the reading groove that reminds you what it was like when you first started picking up books as a kid? If there is, I don’t know what it is, and I’d rather you didn’t remind me.
Also! (in case you haven’t figured it out yet, my attention span is razor thin today) I wanted to share something with you. Maybe it’s Controversial~! Maybe it’s not (now I have the itch to make another one of those lists, stay tuned to see if it happens).
Last week when I was speaking at the Cape Cod Writers Conference I sat down with a room full of attendees to talk about the current state of publishing. I was feeling particularly spirited, caught as I was by a rather rambunctious side of myself that likes to talk, when a question was put to me about social media.
It went something like, “What’s the best way to use Facebook and Twitter to build our author platform?”
I’ve probably discussed this before on this very website (but, per my usual stance on things, I’m too lazy to look it up and while I’ve got attention on this subject I should stick it out), but it’s really, really hard for me to do anything other than roll my eyes at questions like the one above.
I think the emphasis on an author’s social media footprint of being any corollary to an author’s sales is specious. I thought the same thing about book trailers. Bookmarks. Posters. Candy with cute handwritten messages on it. Business cards. Balloons. Tote bags. Stress relief balls. Letter openers.
You know what sells books? I mean really, meaningfully sells books? Buzz. Organic buzz.
People read your book, they love it, they tell others about it, and the spider web shoots out in so many directions. All of the penny ante bribery with cheap plastic bric-a-brac (there’s a word I don’t get to use often) didn’t work five years ago, in much the same way that simply standing on your digital pulpit and screaming, “I HAVE A NEW BOOK FOR SALE. YOU CAN BUY IT HERE,” isn’t going to do anything either.
Social media is effective at helping you, Earth Citizen #6,593,503,301 be able to erase the geographical limitations of car travel and long distance phone charges to make friends with strangers all over the world. But just like in for real life, that means working at it a little bit. That means showing up to a party and instead of just whipping out your wallet and showing everybody pictures of your kids, you have to ask others about what it is they do, and you have to remember those details (as opposed to nodding politely while trying to figure out how you’re going to work in the fact about your son’s triple in the Little League championship game that got him in position to be the tying run). And, unless you’re currently waiting for your English 101 class to start in a week—life isn’t all about parties. You take a break. Sometimes—and if you’re a bitter old man like me, it is often—you need time to yourself to do your things.
But, if you checked out the lessons that some others are telling you that you need to be sounding a constant bellow from the lighthouse of your writing career (that has now becoming a selling career with a writing hobby) to let people know that you’re out there and you have a book they can buy right now.
Going back to this whole party analogy. You ever meet somebody at a party, hit it off really well, and know that the person is likely to be a part of your life for a long time? Great feeling, right? Have you ever gone back to that person a day later and said, “Hey, remember me? Yeah, I’m awesome, right? You should get on the phone and tell all your friends how awesome I am so they’ll know.”
Of course you haven’t (and if you have, click here). It might take a few months, but later on you’ll run into one of that other person’s friends and he’ll be all, “So, you’re Steve Doeswellatparties? Heard a lot of great things about you.” And then you’ll shake hands and you can ask that dude if his son plays baseball.
Let your legend grow through the organic actions of others, and not by guilting or compelling others to be your sales guy. You write a good book, if it strikes somebody as something special, they’ll talk about it. I promise. That’s how buzz starts. If it could just be manufactured, all books would be best sellers because the formula would make it easy to guarantee.
Quick math—your part of that equation is writing a special book. Not an ok book. Not an adequate book. A special book. You know what that takes? That takes time having your ass in the seat writing and exploring your characters, not updating your Facebook status every hour to talk about a new five star review you got on Amazon from a dude who gives five star reviews to every book he’s read, but doesn’t ever seem to talk about plot or anything else specific in the book.
If you believe this journalist type (and I do), it’s all a tech-bubble ready to burst anyway.
(Can you believe I wrote more than 500 words just so I could give you a link to an article that somebody else wrote?)
I just remembered that I mentioned something about making a new list earlier in this post, but I, for the life of me, can’t remember what the hell I was hoping to do with a list or even what the subject matter was going to be, so I’m going to have to let you down in that department.
Maybe next week.
Anyway, that’s it from here. I love you all and hope that you have a great week writing and living in these times.