Writer as Multi-Level Marketer?

I was talking to my husband last night about book marketing and he had an insight that set me back on my heels a bit. He said that it seemed to him like a first-time author is a lot like a recent multi-level marketing convert who’s been instructed to hustle up sales from among their friends and family first.

He has a point.

The wonderful thing about having been in the publishing world for a handful of years is that I’ve had a chance to develop some perspective on the appropriate role of friends and family in growing your reader audience. When I first started out, I was rabid for readers. After all, if you get a book published and no one buys it, does it even matter? And I desperately wanted my book to matter.

It wasn’t until Wes stopped me one day and gently told me how incredible it was that any of my friends and family even bought my book in the first place that I stopped thinking of them as potential sales ranking boosters and began gaining my perspective back. It was incredible that any of them bought my book. Even more amazing was that some of them read it, and then went on to tell me they enjoyed it!

I think that was the moment I redefined what success as an author means to me. Every single person who puts a book out, whether it’s self-published or through a publisher, wants it to be a runaway success. Did you know, though, that according to Bowker more than 700,000 books were self-published last year? And well over 300,000 books were traditionally published.

That’s over one million books published. IN ONE YEAR.

I don’t care who you are, that’s depressing. It’s overwhelming! If you believe some of the contradictory figures produces by informal surveys, readership of books is declining. Whether that’s true or not is tricky to find out, but what is true is that book sales figures are down, and look to be in continuing decline.

What this means is that there’s a deluge of new material coming onto the market, and fewer people are buying it.

So what does this mean for authors? Are we peddling wares that will soon be obsolete and irrelevant?  Are we the ice deliverymen and women of our generation?

Maybe. I’m convinced the world will always need compelling and entertaining content, but the form it takes may change. That’s okay. Because I’ve recently decided what success as an author means for me:

I want to entertain people, and encourage developing writers. I’ll keep writing my books for the people who enjoy reading them, but I’m not going to pull my hair out trying to lure a wider audience who isn’t interested in being lured. I’m going to take every opportunity I can to teach, equip, and encourage developing writers, because the world needs quality prose, and because I enjoy teaching.

So that’s it. I’m officially hanging up my MLM desperate-for-sales hat, and putting on my I’m-just-here-to-tell-stories pj’s. And if you’ve bought one (or several) of my books? Thank you, sincerely and heartily, for supporting my dream. You’re a kind and wonderful person and I deeply appreciate you.

Wishy and Also Washy

I don’t know what to do, you guys. Please, allow me to spill out my insecurities for you all like so many insubstantial packing peanuts.

The source of my angst is my writing. Or, rather, what to do with my writing. Did you know that Amazon has become a kind of publisher all their own, making it possible for writers to publish their own stuff and sell it on Amazon, without going the traditional self-publishing route of paying to print 1,000 copies of your book and hoping they all sell?

Well, they have really stepped it up. The Internet is making the democratization of publishing possible, and I’m vacillating between riding that wave and sticking with making traditional publishing work for me.

The Amazon thing is mighty tempting. People could buy my book in book or eBook format, and it would have a cover and ISBN number and everything. The only drawback is, I’d have to do all the marketing. Whether my book sinks or swims is entirely dependent on how well I market it and whether or not people want to read it.

And therein lies my angst. I’m not averse to pounding the pavement, spreading the word to anyone and everyone that my book is out there. What I am averse to is my book being out there…And no one caring.

Oh, I have nightmares about that. Of being self-deluded enough to think my writing is ready to be made public only to have most people think it’s Amateur Hour. Of my book mouldering away on Amazon with no one buying it. Of having concrete, absolute proof that my writing sucks.

If my insecurities were packing peanuts, I have reason to believe I could fill a reasonably large swimming pool with them providing it wasn’t too windy outside.