Welcome to the last post of Mousetrapped Madness Week!
Three years ago last Friday I self-published my first book, Mousetrapped, and set off on this misadventure. To mark the occasion I’ve made a hardcover edition of Mousetrapped, and if you leave a comment on this post by midnight tonight, Tuesday April 2nd, you might win a signed copy of it. (OR you can have a copy of Self-Printed 2.0, if you prefer.) If you really want to win you can increase your chances by leaving a comment on every Mousetrapped Madness post I’ve posted (that’s all the ones that have gone up since Friday and make some mention of the Mousetrapped giveaway), but only one comment per post will count.
Today is also the last day you can download Backpacked for Kindle for free.
While I’m on the subject, someone on the Mousetrapped Facebook page asked if there’s anywhere you can see pictures from my Central America trip. Well, my lovelies, there IS. Here, AKA The Backpacked Gallery. There’s a gallery for Mousetrapped too. Count the many hairstyles of Catherine’s Past…
Anyway, onto today’s post.
‘Tis the season of speaking engagements, when I get to crawl out of my writing cave and see what’s happening in the 3D real world of self-publishing. One thing, I’ve noticed, never changes.
One of my favorite spots in the world, the rocking chairs by Celebration Lake in the “town that Disney built”, Celebration, Florida. It’s okay to be lazy on these. It’s mandatory, actually.
There’s always an exchange that goes something like this:
ME: “In the last three years, I’ve gone from crying myself to sleep over a 9-5 job that was slowly blackening my soul, to being a successful self-published author who makes a comfortable living from book sales, speaking engagements and social media consulting; who has a blog with over 10,000 followers and an average of 30,000 hits a month that I love writing posts for; and who gets to do whatever she wants whenever she wants, because my hours are entirely flexible and I can do almost all of this from the comfort of my own home, in sweatpants. What I don’t do at home has led to the making of new writer friends and valuable publishing contacts. I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing my books occasionally hit #1 in their (obscure!) categories on Amazon, and of reading mail from strangers in faraway places who’ve happened upon one of my books and enjoyed them. My job is now something I enjoy; I’m getting paid to do what I love. And although I’m still a ways away from my ultimate goal of getting published, I feel as if I’m closer to achieving it than I’ve ever been. So while I don’t think self-publishing is the be-all and end-all, it’s easily the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s brought me the life I’ve always wanted, and the opportunity to do what I’ve always dreamed of.”
[Someone in the audience raises their hand.]
THE HAND-RAISER: “But this is all you do. Like, this takes you all day every day. Blogging and being on Facebook and [flash of disdain] twittering. I mean, [looks around at fellow audience members; rolls eyes] who has the time for all that? Especially when there’s no guarantee it’ll work. And books sold before all this, you know.”
ME: “Yes, I know books sold before this, but we’re talking about self-published books, and potentially tens of thousands of sales—”
THE HAND-RAISER: “It just seems like a lot of effort, and it could all be a total waste of time.”
At this point almost everyone in the audience breathes a sigh of relief, because they were thinking the same thing: that’s all well and good for her, but it isn’t suitable for me, because who has the time? What she did is just one way of doing things; there’s probably another way that’s less time-consuming that I can do instead…
The same thing happens whenever somebody tells self-publishers—and writers in general—what they want to hear: that you don’t need to blog, tweet or Facebook to be a successful writer. On a recent post on Writer Unboxed, 5 Industry Trends Requiring Every Writer’s Attention, Jane Friedman wrote:
“If you’re a totally new, unpublished writer who is focused on fiction, memoir, poetry, or any type of narrative-driven work, forget you ever heard the word platform. I think it’s causing more damage than good. It’s causing writers to do things that they dislike (even hate), and that are unnatural for them at an early stage of their careers. They’re confused, for good reason, and platform building grows into a raging distraction from the work at hand—the writing.”
Now I actually agree with what Jane said. I think if you want to get published, you should only be focused on one thing: writing your book. How I wish I had nothing to do tomorrow except add words to my novel. But prior to all this, I wrote my first book in a house with no internet access. As in, back when I started writing the book that started all this, I wasn’t blogging, twittering or Facebook-ing at all.I wrote first.
But then I self-published, so I have to sell my books. I have to sell my books because the alternative is to get a job doing something other than writing. And because my books are exclusively for sale online, than means my promotion needs to be online too. So now I do need to blog, tweet and Facebook, but Oprah isn’t on my Contacts list.
But luckily, I really enjoy doing these things too.
One of the highlights: seeing Mousetrapped adorn the shelves of a real, live bookshop. At my launch party in May 2010.
My point here lies in the reaction to what Jane said, and the reaction to blog posts, articles, etc. like it: a collective sigh of relief that’s practically audible. Because someone who knows what they’re talking about said I didn’t have to blog! Thank fudge for that; I wouldn’t have a clue what to blog about. And Twitter doesn’t sell books; I’m not surprised, it’s full of rubbish anyway. And Facebook is for teenagers; I thought as much! Phew, because I just want to WRITE.
Building and maintaining an online presence isn’t for everybody. It certainly isn’t for every writer—it isn’t even for every self-publisher. My number one piece of social media-related advice would be don’t do it if you don’t want to, because this isn’t an area where reluctant toe-dipping is going to work.
But if you greet this news with a sigh of relief, ask yourself:
- Is it because you genuinely fear you won’t be any good at “the Twitter thing” (which, let’s not forget, is simply connecting directly with readers and other writers), or that the type of book you write isn’t a suitable candidate for the methods you’ve seen work for others (e.g. you’re writing literary fiction)?
- Or is it because you’re just plain lazy, and don’t want to put in the effort?
Because nine times out of ten, that’s what “I don’t have the time” means.
It means, I can’t be bothered finding the time.
Published writers often comment on the “I’d love to write a novel—I just don’t have the time…” phenomenon with a wry smile, and rightfully so, because everyone knows if you really want to do something, you will find the time.
I think the same goes for promoting your book with social media. If you genuinely want to sell as many copies of your book as you can, you’ll put in the effort. You’ll find out what you need to know. You’ll make the time.
Because when self-publishers say to me, “Who has the time?”, what I want to say is:
Do you mean who has the time to get what they’ve always wanted?
The time to get paid to do what they love, and to have what they do appreciated?
The time to be a full-time, professional author?
I know I have the time.
For your chance to a personally inscribed copy of Mousetrapped in hardcover OR Self-Printed in paperback, simply leave a comment below and/or on any Mousetrapped Madness post before midnight tonight. Only one entry counts per post but you can enter multiple times by commenting on more than one ‘Mousetrapped Madness’ post. I’ll post the prize anywhere mail can go. The winner will be announced here and also informed by e-mail. Good luck!