When did all this book marketing insanity start? After or before we realize it’s do or die?

abbI read an interesting blog post today at Author U which is a really nifty little site that I’d never seen before.  Judith Briles wrote an interesting piece titled “Stop the Book Insanity…Or Why I Don’t Want to Market My book.”  She echoes the frustrations of many authors and that’s why virtual book tour companies and online book promotion sites such as Pump Up Your Book came into the scene.  Not plugging, just sayin’.

Judith makes good points in this article for sure.  The author is tired.  Not only are you writing your fingers off, there’s also that darn day job that gets in the way, family that needs to be taken care of and of course we all need that weekly shopping trip to get out of the house right?  Where does that leave time to promote your book?  Well, that’s when the insanity comes into play.

When I was growing up, being an author to me meant super stardom.  I loved to read.  I devoured every book put in front of me and loved each and every one of them.  This was before I realized that not all books are supposed to be great.  But I didn’t care.  It was just me and my book and maybe I just read for the love of it, not to find fault.

Nancy Drew was my favorite.  Anything scary with haunted houses on the cover (but not monsters, werewolves or things that made me sleep with mama the rest of my life) was at the top of my to birthday wish list.  They call the genre YA now, but those were my favorites.  Teen sleuths trying to find the answers of the universe.  They were my heroes.

So to me, the authors behind these great works of literature (yes even the comic books), were icons.  Legends in their own right.  I imagined they had loads of money and people just adored them.  They didn’t clean house, walk their own dogs or…ahem…promote their books.  Back then, I think publishers did everything.  Oh they were sent around the country in fancy schmanzy limousines and stayed at the best hotels with room service.  They were escorted by big burly bodyguards in public in case some crazed fan wanted them to autograph their book for them.  Much like rock stars you understand.

And they wrote.  Wrote and wrote and wrote.  They did nothing but write.  They would have cute little lofty areas that overlooked majestic gardens with a variety of flowers and trees  to give them inspiration.  They were coffee ogres.  They ate while they typed on their trusty Remingtons pausing now and then to swipe a crumb off the keys in a dimly lit room surrounded by walnut bookcases filled to the brim with dog-eared classics.  They often smoked.  They never drank while writing as it would disturb the thought process but when it was time to unwind, a glass of Chardonnay or whatever was greatly sought after.

And my dream?  To be them.

I dreamed of having my name on the cover of a book and to feel what it was like to be a star in my own right for as long as I can remember.  I wouldn’t ever have to work and I would pay people to take out my trash and feed me chocolate strawberries imported from somewhere that sold only the best.

And my dream did come true only I wasn’t sure if I was born in the right decade or what but the rules of the game all changed.  You did have to work.  You couldn’t afford imported chocolate strawberries and you had to take out your own trash.

So what happened?  Well, from what I can gather, everyone else in the world had that same dream until the publishers were getting so many requests, they had to stop and concentrate on the ones who would make money for them.  It all became a business.

And being an author then became a business also.  Whether we liked it or had time for it, if our book was to sell, we couldn’t rely on the publishers to do it for us anymore.  All their money, effort and time were spent promoting Stephen King.

So that brings us to the present.  Everyone in their mama has a book out, coming out or will be coming out, thanks to how innovative people got when they realized the Big 6 probably wouldn’t have time for them.  Print on demand became an option and later ebooks became a necessity if we were ever going to make enough to buy a carton of strawberries from Walmart.  Forget the chocolate.  We’re too busy trying to find our place in the sun to worry about any added extras.  Forget taking out the trash.  We have more important and necessary things to do and that is to promote our books.  And that’s when the insanity rears its ugly head.

Authors are looking for the golden ticket when, in fact, there is none.  Wait, let me  explain. There is no single way to sell a book profitably that fits into every author’s game plan.  All books are unique and it’s finding that uniqueness that will set them apart only the author is too busy trying to read everything they can about how to promote books that they don’t realize that if they stopped for one little minute they might be able to grasp some sense in all the madness.

Knowledge is power and that’s the reason why their nose is hovering over the keyboard trying to find the gem in the rough.  The needle in the haystack.  The sole way to bring in thousands of dollars like they are reading Amanda Hocking is doing.  They all want to be her.  It’s insane, mad and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.  They are lurking in groups waiting for that one person to say something worked.  Then it’s forget eating and sleeping, let’s see if this will work for me.

In the five years that I’ve been publicizing other people’s books, I have come to realize that authors take this business very serious.  Or at least the ones who come to me do.   They ask loads of questions and it’s up to me to have the answers for them.  After all, it’s my business to know right?  So it’s me who is not eating and sleeping and letting the trash pile up so that authors can do what they do best and that’s write.

But that’s not to say their job is done just because they have come to me.  No sirree Bob.  I’m like a drill sergeant making sure that long after they leave me, they’ll be more enlightened on this crazy book marketing business than they were before they started.  Maybe hopefully I will have led them in the right direction.  And maybe one day they’ll be able to import chocolate strawberries by the truckload but it’s one thing I need them to remember and that is they have to realize that they are their book’s lifeline.  No matter how crazy or insane it  gets, the world of publishing has changed and it’s either you do or die.

We may not like it.  We may not agree with it.  We might fight it tooth and nail, but it all comes down to this.  It is what it is.

But let’s look at the positive side.  While most of us will never get that dream publishing contract, there has never been as great a time to be published as it is today.  Now.  Our forefathers had no computers and there wasn’t even such a thing as Facebook.  No Twitter.  No LinkedIn.  No Pinterest.  No social communities, blogs or email.  No way to research their book unless they headed to town and bunked out at the local library for hours.  They didn’t have Skype; they didn’t have YouTube.  They had never even heard of an ebook and of course they didn’t have a Kindle store.  What we have now is an incredible resource – the Internet – something they never had and it’s because of this, we are able to do a lot of things our forefathers would never think of doing.  Sure we complain about having to market our books but imagine if we never had all these resources available to us?  So who’s complaining now?

So put on those spurs, saddle up that pony, and ride off into the sunset knowing you are fulfilling a dream never ever before dreamed possible.

Now where was I…strawberries anyone?

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