All Blogged Out: A Rant (Fair Warning)

Scream--Annemarie BusschersThe other day a fellow writer from way in my past—semi-famous, author of many highly regarded books—friended me.

It was so exciting. To be remembered by someone I had admired long ago but hardly knew, someone whose books I have on my shelf.

As soon as I accepted her friendship I was invited to like her author page. Then read her blog. Which explained everything.

I don’t want to be a partypooper here about the self-promotion mandate. Really I don’t. I know that publishers these days demand that writers have author pages and blogs and followers and all that. I try to be, in fact, dutiful, in my way. But it must be said. Something about all this facebooking and author-paging and blogging just stinks.

It reminds me of how, at my university, some colleagues and I used to convene every year to plan women’s events. Multiple times, meeting upon meeting, to schedule and scheme and come up with funding and talk about decorations and cookies and such. Then, when the day came for whatever it was to happen—the reading group, the tea, the birdwatching we had so arduously planned—there we’d be again, the five of us, the only attendees.

How does one find time to write books when there’s forever a blog post due? Not to mention reading all the other writers’ blogs that I say I’m following—and that, if I were  truly friend-worthy, I would be commenting upon. Confession: the only blogs I willingly visit are the ones I land on after a Google Images search for a very specific recipe, one that looks like a dish I remember from my childhood, or some stew of lentils I’ve been fantasizing about, or some bizarrely complicated goodie I said I’d cook up for one of my ever ravenous daughters.

All this to say—am I the only one who feels this way?—that blogging, which appears to be de rigueur in the world of publishing these days, slurps up my writing time like an old dishrag, and sometimes I fear that the only ones who read what I write are fellow writers (more generous ones than I am) obliged, as I am, to squeeze it out when I should be working on my current writing project and between all the other things I do to actually support myself. (That sentence doesn’t work, I fear…) Those who follow me—I’m sure of this—do so for the same reason I follow that writer acquaintance of mine: because I was asked. I’m not going to buy any more books of hers than I’ve already bought. Having heard an interesting writer interviewed on Fresh Air, I’ve never gone to his author page or read her blog. If I’m interested enough, I ask for the book in Barnes & Noble. And when they don’t have it—they never do!—I order it for cheaper anyway on Amazon.

Here’s how it goes with buying books and me. In the ideal world that used to be, I heard about a book or picked it up from a bookstore table or shelf, I read a few pages, I bought it and brought it home, eventually it made its way to my bedside table and into the stack to wait its turn, and then, one happy day, I turned over and reached for it and started to read. In that perfect world, it is a perfect book, and I can’t stop reading till it’s finished. Then I tell my sister, off in Colorado, about the book on the phone. And in a few more days I lend my copy—though it has a swollen edge from my having accidentally let part of it sag into the bathwater—to one of my colleagues. Then I assign it in one of my classes. No blogs or author-pages or anything like that. Just hear about it, buy it, read it, lend it.

I’m not feeling very encouraging today, I’m afraid. Maybe this post will generate some useful discussion among us writer-blogger-authorpagers, though.

(Feel MUCH invited to chime in if you’re not a writer. It would cheer me immensely.)

Selling More Books

Selling more books, and spreading your message is the ultimate goal. For months extending into years, you work to build a writing career. By the time your book releases, you hope your efforts pay off — and people actually buy it.

But you must help folks find it, or else they can’t purchase and read your Faberge -- And So Onmasterpiece. This takes a whole new kind of effort. I think we all hope for something akin to the old Faberge Organics shampoo commercial. Remember? “If you tell two friends, they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on.”

As a debut author, I knew I needed to find creative ways to tell my first two friends. So I went to the experts, and scheduled a cross-country trip with Michele Cushatt and Michael Hyatt. Okay, so I drove cross-country to a speaking engagement, and took their voices with me via audio recordings. But  their amazing presentation of Get Published gave me some fantastic tips for getting my book noticed.

First Hired Last Fired BookBecause I follow their blogs, I’d already done some of the things Michele and Michael outlined in their program. Like building an online media kit. Mine still needs tweaking, but it’s good enough to have garnered some attention.

But there were plenty of extras I didn’t know about in Get Published. One of the things I learned was to create a Briefing Book, so I could give confident interviews. It was a good thing I did, because the day after I finished it, my publicist scheduled a radio spot.

Another way I spread the word, was to make sure my family and close friends knew I would appreciate speaking leads. It so happens one of my sisters works for a large hospital chain. So she mentioned me to a woman in charge of signing speakers for the New Mexico Staff Services Medical Association Conference. The woman researched my website and online media kit, then voila, booked me.

After that, two other prospects from the medical community called. And so on, and so on.

One of the most fruitful things I’ve done is follow the leads in Sell More Books, Book Marketing and Publishing for Low Profile and Debut Authors. J. Steve and Cherie K. Miller’s marketing manual is chock full of practical applications and lesser known resources. I especially like the access I’ve gotten to state and national associations for potential speaking engagements.

These are just a few ways I’m attempting to spread the word. I don’t know how my various efforts will affect final sale figures. But I think they are making a positive difference. Suddenly likes on my author/speaker Facebook page have increased, and my web traffic is growing.

Cattle on HillsideBut one simple thing has made the biggest difference of all. All along on my writing journey, I’ve prayed about this scary platform thing. A few months ago, I blogged about my reliance on The Platform Builder.

In reality, I know little about book marketing, except to trust and obey. And yet, I truly believe trusting is a secret to selling more books — IF it’s God’s will and my motives are pure. One of the hardest prayers to offer is, “Not my will, but yours be done.” After that, it’s completely in His hands. If He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, I know He owns the pages in a thousand books. I can’t sell a thing if He doesn’t help spread the message. And so on, and so on, and so on.