I recently lunched with a Young Eager Author (YEA) who'd just published her first novel and should have been riding high on the excitement of her achievement. Instead, she bemoaned the fact that sales were disappointing, less than she expected after all her hard work.
Being a Weathered Older Writer (WOW), I was sorry she didn't have a clearer grasp beforehand of the profession she was entering. She certainly studied up on grammar and spelling, sentence structure and punctuation, she had a story to tell and told it well. Shouldn't that have been enough? Where were those readers with outstretched hands rewarding her work with $$$$?
I responded by asking about her marketing efforts. She assured me she had everything in place: a website, Face Book page, newsletter, Twitter account and blog. Not that anyone was commenting on her blogs or replying to her posts. I discovered that she didn't attend to anyone else's FB page, respond to the blogs of others, tweet back or read newsletters. She “didn't have the time.”
This is the point where I should have smiled, backed off and ordered dessert. Instead, I said, “How much interest do you have in the people you want to become your fans? You're asking them to pay attention to you and buy your books, but you're telling me you don't have time for them.”
I shouldn't have to explain Social Media to her. It's been around for over a decade, long enough for us to unravel the mysteries. I call it a two-lane highway but too many authors continue to see it as a one-way road. They are so busy shoveling promotion out that they don't realize they've come to a dead-end street.
Mixing metaphors, let's pretend this author “friended” a stranger and invited the person to dinner. Over appetizers she extolled the excellent prose of her novel, even read a few passages to her captive listener. Throughout the meal, the author gave out her opinions on a wide range of subjects, never allowing her guest a chance to contribute to the conversation. She showed photos on her IPhone of herself at her recent booksigning and gave her new BFF a list of places she would be appearing next. Then she stuck her companion with the bill and ran off saying she had more important things to do.
This is what I see authors do on Face Book.
I don't know, maybe it's me being a WOW. I've learned to be realistic about my status in the marketplace. I make more sales than I expect, less than I want but enough to be grateful to every person who spent money for a book. They had choices and they chose mine.
And maybe because I live in a small town and my world has become even smaller due to medical problems tethering me close to home, I have time to learn all about those new friends on Face Book who communicate with me. I click on their pages and look at photos of their pets, pictures of weddings, grandkids, funny jokes. Rob's recovering nicely from surgery, Kathy K. seems taken with rhubarb (250 recipes? Really?), Linda S. has a thing for owls. Every time we post back and forth, I learn a bit more. I've also learned I'm not the most interesting person in the room and the only one worth listening to. We all have incredible stories; only some of us get to write them.
I hope the YEA realizes how scarce and valuable fans are and begins to cherish them. Right now she's focused on the upward trajectory of her career and has little time. I can't guarantee investing in others will result in sales but she could make a difference in their lives. And, if she allows it, they could make a difference in hers.