When I was first published about six years ago I knew close to nothing about the world of authoring. My then publisher was less than helpful with a “sink or swim” type of attitude toward rookie writers (which always baffled me because you would think they would want their authors to succeed, right?).
My first heartbreaking and discouraging experience with marketing my books was shortly after the book was published. The book was released in January and when I found out there was going to be an all-female Valentine’s Day event at a local wine shop, my inexperienced self thought this would be the perfect occasion to try to sell my book: what could be better than Valentine’s Day + women + wine?
I spent about three hours standing awkwardly in the middle of the store by my pretty display, surrounded by groups of women who couldn’t care less about me or my books. I was so out of my element and comfort zone I’m sure it showed. I tried to “pull” the audience in, I made a little speech, I went from table to table offering chocolate and free bookmarks which were turned down because “I’m on a diet” and “I don’t read physical books.”
It crushed me. It is probably no wonder that my worst bout with depression started shortly after this. But, pain aside, I learned something: I was not made for this kind of event. Similar experiences in the future just reinforced this notion and I eventually quit trying to set up events where I was the focus. I am too shy and too much of an introvert (with zero gab) to be successful at this no matter how much I tried or forced myself to do it.
First lesson learned.
Many other lessons followed, but more recently I learned another one that may very well be the one that saves me from going insane.
Social media is a mixed blessing at the best of times. I’m so grateful it exists so I can be in touch with my family and friends overseas, but I am also often frustrated and irritated by weird algorithms that favor only those who don’t need much exposure while keeping those of us who are vastly unknown hidden.
For years now I have been driving myself batty following the advice of the experts in the field of marketing: post every day, interact with the audience, post in as many social media sites as possible, don’t slack. I just about burned myself out. My Sundays were, until very recently, spent scheduling social media posts, taking pictures for said-posts, racking my brain to create and/or find interesting graphics that would incite interaction from the audience. This on top of lesson planning for the week, cooking lunches for work, and other things I don’t have time to do during the week.
My efforts paid off in my Facebook author’s page for a very short time. I was actually getting good interaction, but it was very short-lived. For the last year or so my author’s page is pretty much dead even though I post everyday and spend hours preparing materials for it. I’m not even sure anyone is seeing the posts much less interacting with them.
My reader’s group has also been on the decline. Even though my following has grown, interaction has not. I have a handful of amazing readers who faithfully interact with my posts, but I’m not certain the rest even realize the posts exist. Not their fault. I’m pretty sure it all has to do with that infamous mysterious algorithm that only helps those who don’t need much help anyway.
I’m so proud of my Instagram account. I followed the advice of not posting only about my books. “Post other people’s books,” they said, “make it look pretty”. Well, I did and even though my following has grown steadily, the interaction has not. Just like with Facebook I have a handful of followers who interact, most don’t.
A few weeks ago I was at the end of my rope. Between being sick with COVID, craziness at work, family problems, and a crushingly disappointing new release I’d had it. I wanted out. I did not want to spend hours of my remaining years of life working on something to show no results for it. I even considered quitting writing. For someone who’s been writing since she could put words together, this is very telling of how frustrated and tired I was.
Then someone in one of the many webinars I have been attending said something like, “You don’t have to post things everyday as long as you’re consistent” and “Post only promos on your author’s page and focus on interaction in your reader’s group”.
Or at least, eureka-ish. It didn’t solve all my problems but it did give me the “permission” to lighten my burden. I made a decision then to post very little in my author’s page. In fact, my wonderful PA does most of my promos on that page and that’s how it’s going to stay. I wasn’t getting any traction there even when I had an established “schedule” for my “highly-engaging” posts.
Then I decided to cut down the quantity of posts on Instagram as well, from six days/weekly to only three or four. That right there opened up a nice window in my Sunday workload.
So now I want to instead focus on my reader’s group and on interacting with authors I have met online and come to love. I want to network, something I suck at. I had a great new release (thank you all who made it happen) that made me feel better about myself as a writer and gave me the strength to carry on the business of writing.
I am not young anymore. As I enter the silver years of my life and my body starts to remind me of it every second of the day, I want to enjoy life and writing instead of stressing over posts and follows. I want to focus on the people who enjoy my stories or those who potentially could come to love them. Yes, I want to be a successful writer but not at the cost of my sanity. For now I choose to take it easy. Juggling two full time jobs is not a picnic and I have been doing it for far too long.
Right or wrong, it’s time to take a breather.