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I attended my first writers conference back in the late nineties.
This particular conference had two tracks: amateur and professional. To attend the professional workshops, you had to have had two pieces published. Well, it just so happened that about five years earlier I had sold two short stories (to Sunday school publications).
That qualified me as a pro.
When I arrived at the conference I looked down my nose at all the poor “wannabe” writers who had to attend the amateur workshops, all the while knowing that I would be hobnobbing with other professional writers. I was eager to learn all the writing secrets of the pros that would guarantee great success and launch my career as a bestselling author.
When I went home, I was probably the most discouraged “pro” who ever walked the earth—or at least who attended that conference.
Instead of learning writing secrets that were going to take my prose to a stellar level, I learned that publishers expected authors to market their own books. I learned the ins and outs of author marketing, how much work it was, how expensive it could be, and how frustrating it could be.
I walked out of that conference with my rose-colored glasses lying shattered on the floor.
And I’m very grateful.
Granted, at that point in my writing career, I should have stayed in the “amateur” track and gone to workshops that would have helped me develop my craft. Nevertheless, the marketing workshops opened my eyes to an ongoing reality in publishing: Authors are expected to do most of the marketing for their own books.
We may not like it, but that’s how it is.
Author marketing was important back in the late ‘90s; it’s essential now.
We are expected to come to the table with a “platform”, a marketing strategy, an awareness of social media and how to use it. We are expected to not only write our books, but also to sell them.
At first, I complained.
I am a writer, not a salesman. If I had wanted to be a marketer, I would have gone into marketing. Besides, I don’t know anything about selling. On top of that, I’m an introvert. If I tried to make a living at selling, I’d starve to death.
After I ranted for a while, I realized that all my complaints hadn’t changed a thing (except perhaps my blood pressure).
If I wanted to be a published author, I would have to learn how to market myself and my work. That’s just how it was.
Now, six books later (with a seventh on the way), I’m still not a great marketer—but I’m learning.
That’s the key.
At least it was for me.
When I decided that I wanted to be a writer, I studied. I read books on how to write fiction. I read and studied novels. I read more books on how to write fiction. I wrote novels. (Do you see a pattern here?)
And that’s what I’m doing now. I’m learning.
I read books on marketing and platform-building. I keep up to date with the latest blogs. I’m learning how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. I’m learning how to blog effectively (got a long way to go on that one).
The point is, you can complain and be frustrated all you want, but it doesn’t change a thing.
If you’re going to be an author in today’s publishing world, you absolutely have to market. You need to build a platform. You need to learn how to effectively use social media.
So, if you’re like I was and don’t know how to do these things. It’s time to start studying.
If I can do it, you can do it.