The Marketing Struggle Is Real
Whenever I dreamed of being an Actually Published For Real Author, I always imagined the fun results of all my hard work: secretly reading fanfiction of my books, squeeing over fanart of my characters, reading and rereading the reviews of readers who talk about having fallen in love with my novel (which, okay, I have been doing that last one a lot, especially recently as loneliness and quarantine get to me).
But I never stopped to think about all the work that came after finishing my book, turning in copyedits, and knowing I had done everything as best I could. What more could there be once the book was completely finished, right?
Except that there is the small challenge of finding readers for your book. Because unless you’re one of the few debut authors with a six-figure book deal or an already established author with thousands of readers in your fandom, chances are, you’re not going to get a lot of funding for marketing for your book. That’s just the way the business is.
And I being the socially anxious, social media-avoidant trash can that I am, this stresses me out a lot. I constantly feel like I should be doing more, doing better, figuring out how to take high-quality pictures for Instagram, posting witty one-liners or anecdotes on Twitter, keeping up with book Twitter and Instagram and talking about my favorite stories and characters with everyone. I want to be the sort of person who can do all that and be genuine and have fun with it. But I’m not.
Instead, I focus on the kind of marketing that I actually enjoy—the kind that feels less like marketing and more like fun for me.
1.) I make posts on social media when I want to or when I have something big to announce, and I don’t put pressure on myself to post any more than that. I want to do more eventually, but honestly? I’m a full-time graduate student in my thesis year teaching two undergraduate creative writing courses, an active author, an officer on two writing organizations at my university, and I do try to see friends and family every once in a while. It’s just too much for me right now and I’ve learned to tell myself that that’s okay.
2.) I go to local literary events to talk to other writers and readers! Not necessarily to market, but to have fun with people who love the same things I do. And if my book happens to come up in conversation, well, then that’s great! If not, I don’t try to force it. I’m more interested in finding friends and colleagues at these events, and just enjoying being a writer/reader.
A (very belated on my part) preorder/library request campaign! I’ve always wanted to hold one of my own, and things have been so crazy lately that it came together pretty late, but who doesn’t love swag? It was the sort of thing I enjoyed putting together—especially commissioning the character cards. Seeing Mars’s beautiful illustrations of my characters nearly made me cry. They really caught the essence of Lai, Jay, Al, and Erik’s personalities and made them look badass as heck. I mean, look at my beautiful hot mess of a team??
(Remember how I said I still haven’t learned how to take high-quality photos yet?)
The thing with marketing is, I think it comes down to doing it in a way that makes you happy. The stuff I talked about are things I want to do, so it doesn’t feel like extra work on my part. Which, when you have so much on your plate, I think it’s important to find that balance. Where’s the fun of being an author if you’re always killing yourself over how you could being doing more? (A lesson I’m still struggling with weekly.)
So, while I’m terrified that no one has ever even heard of A Soldier and a Liar, that no one will read its sequel and conclusion An Outcast and an Ally, that the latter’s release in two weeks will go unnoticed to all but my friends, family, and Swoon Squad (who are the BEST, by the way), I also know that I’ve written a book I’m proud of. I’ve had an amazing journey with these characters over the last eight years. I’m incredibly grateful my books are being published and that there are people reading them (no matter what my anxiety tells me), no matter how few they might be in number. And I am so, so beyond excited to share An Outcast and an Ally with everyone.