I took a day off yesterday. In fact, I have been less busy the first part of this year on purpose. But I did a little “work” yesterday, if you want to call it that. I had a Skype call with one author who I greatly respect, and who does one thing we all want to do: sells books.
Then I had lunch with another author, new on this journey. We mapped out a couple of her stories, talked about plot, character, and the usual writer stuff. And we talked about streams of income.
Because at some point we all have to survive. Shelter, food, clothing, health, and Wi-Fi are all necessary, and in our present economy we must exchange money for those things, with few exceptions. So if you want to be a writer, a professional writer, you have to make money from your art, or have a day job, or do both. From personal experience, can I just add that option #2 sucks, and option #1? It requires that once you have “completed” your work, you realize it has become a product you must deliver to your customers. You have to know who they are, what they do, and where to find them.
Sounds a lot like a business, right? Well, it is. Like any business, there are three steps: production (writing, editing, cover, and formatting); distribution (self-publishing, a publisher, affiliate sites, your website, etc.); and finally marketing.
A publisher can help with some of these things, and indeed they do, but in the end the author, and the tribe the author has gathered, are the best marketers of your work. The difference is simply treating books as what they are: a product to be sold. Not because we as authors are selfish and want to make millions on the backs of poor readers, but because we write to be read. And to be read you must be discovered. To be discovered, an author must market.
So stop thinking of marketing as some kind of betrayal of your art. Stop thinking that asking for reviews (in the right place and the right context) is some form of evil. Professional writers treat their work as what it is: a business offering a great product.
This doesn’t excuse you, as an artist, from being polite. Not spamming or bombarding your audience with links to your work, begging for sales. That is not the “how” of marketing, and there are many resources to help you understand that. More on that in another blog post.
As you start this new fiscal year, as an author, remember art is a business. Unless you don’t like eating.