When is a fiction author just an author?
An author writes to be read.
If you want to be read, it's not enough to have a lot of stories and books lying around the house.
You've got to publish, distribute, and promote.
You've got yourself a business to run.
Many aspiring authors and raw beginners learn this and throw up their hands in disgust.
"I don't want to do all that marketing stuff. I just want to write."
I feel you.
Many years ago, Your Host had the same mental blocks. Anything to do with marketing, selling, self-promotion, publicity, or the logistics and operations and economics of business were all stupid and no fun and anyway it's distracting me from the REAL SERIOUS WORK that I'm here to do.
Boy was I wrong.
The key concept in that paragraph is the term mental blocks.
Nothing was wrong with business.
The problem was in my own head
I didn't understand the game.
I thought that my job was over here, at the keyboard, working as a serious artiste to create my masterpiece.
Those other people over there, they did the hyped-up promotions, writing the cheesy sales copy, interrupting everyone with their silly advertisements and email ads and long-form sales pages that would never work on me.
I bought all those myths. I internalized them, made them into my own rules.
That was the world as I understood it.
I didn't even know what game I was playing.
If you think that serious art and mass entertainment are like oil and water...
If you think that marketing and promotion and publicity get in the way of your creativity...
I have some news for you.
Some of it's bad news.
But there's a real silver lining for the optimists.
Great art and great marketing are the same thing
Ask yourself this. Who are the "movers and shakers" of the culture?
I don't mean that to ask who is in the Billboard Top 100 this week. Not what movies are popular, what's streaming on Netflix. Forget that stuff. Flashes in the pan.
I'm talking about the bedrock foundations of our common culture, right now.
Who is going to last for 100 years? Who do we still talk about from 100 years ago?
Have you read a Stephen King book?
Have you watched an Alfred Hitchcock film?
Have you ever seen references to King or Hitchcock in other works?
What about those Marvel MCU films everyone's gushed about for the last decade?
That's only scratching the surface.
This is all popular entertainment.
And what do they have in common?
Lots of marketing. Lots of publicity. Shameless self-promotion. Ruthless cultivation of reputation and public image. Appealing to large audiences.
You don't have to like these people or their works. That's not the point.
In fact, that kind of self-absorbed narcissism may be the Number 1 source of your problems in selling your work.
Engrave this into your flesh:
"I am not my reader."
What YOU like, what YOU would do, what YOU would think?
Nobody cares. Forget it.
If you want an audience that buys your stuff, the only thing that matters is what makes YOUR IDEAL BUYER respond.
The willingness to show up and be out there, relentlessly, is one feature that makes for memorable work.
There's another angle which is even more important, and even less understood by creatives.
Your job is not writing
You aren't in the business of producing words.
If you think so... stop.
Anybody can grind out words. If you don't believe me, head over to Fiverr or Upwork or the outsourcing platform of your choice and see for yourself.
While fears of job-killing AI are (in my humble and correct opinion) overrated, the robots are very likely to gut the market for commodity vendors sooner than later.
You don't want to be a producer of words when that happens.
Fortunately, as an author of fiction, you've got another job (even if most writers refuse to see it).
That job is to...
Entertain your readers with a unique and compelling experience
Seth Godin explains this with his usual clarity and wisdom in This Is Marketing:
Ideas that spread, win.
Marketers make change happen: for the smallest viable market, and by delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages that people actually want to get.
Persistent, consistent, and frequent stories, delivered to an aligned audience, will earn attention, trust, and action.
And this gem:
Most of all, marketing begins (and often ends) with what we do and how we do it, not in all the stuff that comes after the thing is designed and shipped.
Your tactics can make a difference, but your strategy -- your commitment to a way of being and a story to be told and a promise to be made -- can change everything.
If you want to make change, begin by making culture. Begin by organizing a tightly knit group. Begin by getting people in sync.
Culture beats strategy -- so much that culture is strategy.
Marketers make change happen.
That's worth printing out and hanging over your writing space.
New writers and old writers confused by the transition to NewPub -- independent publishing without the IP-looting NYC publishers as mediaries -- find themselves confused and often distressed by the new realities.
The other side of this mass disorientation is: you are responsible.
That's a curse in the eyes of some. I prefer to see it as a liberation.
If I am responsible, then I can act to change.
Sulk and moan and complain that "it's so hard and confusing".
Or get up, assess the challenges, and take the first step toward solving them.
Totally your choice. Only one of those options will move you toward the result you want.
But here's the kicker.
As a teller of fictional stories you are already a universe creator
The RP newsletter and community are part of my own little project to cultivate and curate a Created Universe.
My obsession with the horrors of deep space, synthwave music, the crushing conflicts created by technology, and the realities of self-promotion all weave together into a reality like none other.
Love me or hate me, this is what I am.
When you learn to flip your expectations and see this way, the line between fiction and nonfiction blurs into nothing.
The stories I write about space opera, weird happenings, and cyberpunk action/adventure with an existentialist edge...
That's all blended together with the nonfiction articles I post on this newsletter each day. I talk about the inspiration for fictional characters and settings. There's a synthwave video at the end of each article. I talk about process, creativity, and how to sell and promote.
These topics all reinforce one another.
This is not just a "blog" or "email newsletter".
This is my media and my platform. I own this. It can't be taken from me.
You're playing in the rogue planet universe now.
The marketing I do -- which will expand in the near and distant future -- does not take away from the writing of stories.
Forget about this week's latest hype that "everybody's talking about" on social media. Should I run ads on Amazon should I do a Bookbub should I...
That's not marketing.
That's total collapse into confusion, chasing tactics, trying to keep up with the herd.
Here's something to think about: if chasing this week's fad worked so well, why aren't all those people turning into success stories using them?
Flip your context. The fashion-chasers out in the herd don't get anywhere because they have no focus. They have no vision, no mission, no high-level strategic goals or measurable objectives.
They just buzz around like wasps, chasing the next sensory stimulation.
No vision, no mission, no marketing.
Assuming my long-range goal is to transform this community into a real business, which is enough to sustain me through full-time writing...
The marketing IS the writing. The writing IS the marketing.
You're building a universe. A universe around yourself and your brand as well as your stories.
And if you want to make a living at it, you're doing this no matter how well... or how badly... you pull it off.
Control your image, or you're letting others control it for you.
The best way to market your writing is to drop the false limiting belief that marketing isn't writing
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