Becoming an author is like becoming a parent.
The writing of the book, was the pregnancy. You conceived the idea in a romantic, intimate moment.
You developed it secretly in the dark. You wrote while stuffing your face with all kinds of snacks. You tried to explain your characters and your plot to others and they just didn’t understand. And the length of the ms got bigger and bigger. And you wondered will I ever get this done? Will I be waiting for the arrival forever?
And the big day comes!
You get your little bundle of joy from Createspace or some other expert labor and delivery establishment! You count all of the pages to make sure that it is all there! You think that your book is the most beautiful and the most amazing thing that was ever created! And you tell all your friends! You post it on Facebook! There has never been a book before this book! No one will be a better author than you!
And then the novelty is over.
The well wishers have bought their copies. You realize that you’re the one up all night with the little buggar. You second guess yourself, are you the best marketer you could be? Amazon Kindle sales are nice but the reviews aren’t as complete as you’d like. The sales are only trickles. You thought that perhaps something significant would happen now, something bigger? The blues come on you and you don’t know what to do. One star reviews smell like dirty diapers. Rejection letters are the mean toddlers who throw sand on the play date. And then there’s that other author close to you who says, “I would never do that to my book! What are you thinking? What kind of an author are you?”
This metaphor can go on forever.
Just like parenting, we often don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to marketing our books. Just like parenting, we read good advice and we try it, but it doesn’t always work for us. Just like parenting, we have great aspirations, but sometimes we get caught up in our own inadequacies and our own faults. Sometimes the frustration of knowing what is best for us is overwhelming.
Like parenting, if we are going to market our books, we kind of have to figure it out as we go.
1. A good parent does what they can when they can. You don’t fill out college applications the day after coming home from the hospital. A good marketer understands that there are seasons for their book, look at the process in the long term and gives themselves grace.
2. A good parent has low expectations. A first time author should have them too. I haven’t met a mother of a toddler yet that didn’t. If you’re a first time author, understand that you won’t sell thousands of books. That’s okay. You’ve got your future ahead of you.
3. A good parent attends to the basics automatically. For a parent, that means having baby fed, washed, nurtured and well rested. For an author, that means having the manuscript well-written, well-edited, well-covered, and accessible to readers on the most basic of platforms, like Kindle direct. As your platform and skill set grows, your accomplishments will too.
4. A good parent doesn’t compare their kid or their style to another parent’s child or style. A good book marketer doesn’t either. What works well for your friend’s book, Amish Zombie Princesses won’t work for your book, Lint Art for the Lonely. Like parenting, our marketing journey is a personal one and we have to choose what’s best for us and not judge others’ choices.
5. A good parent knows parenting is a game of inches. Children don’t master good manners in one lesson. It takes years. Authors who market should understand this too. A first book gains a few readers, the next book gains more. This game — parenting and marketing — is not for the impatient.
6. A good parent uses their community. Who hasn’t asked a friend, neighbor or family member to watch a child? What parent hasn’t depended on a social group to help them out? Authors need community too. If nothing else, an author’s community can encourage him, help promote, help fine tune and show how things can be done.
7. A good parent manages their time the best they can. They have an understanding of what must be done and figures out ways to get it done. A marketing author does this too. The engage with their readers without being too distracted. They delegate. They learn how much they can do in 10 minute increments.
8. A good parent takes reasonable risks. They want their children to stretch themselves, try new things and grow. A good marketer does this too. They aren’t afraid of speaking to the librarian at their local branch or calling the local paper. Both parent and marketing author knows you never know what great thing could happen if you try!
9. A good parent knows the “rules” but makes them work for their situation. A good marketing author does too. They’ve read marketing blogs, they understand generosity, they’ve taken great notes. Then they get good ideas and apply the principles their way.
10. A good parents sees the differences in their children and nurtures them accordingly. A good author may also see that each of their books opens doors that the other one can’t. They also aren’t afraid to learn from their mistakes and do better with children and books this time around.
Authors should take another lesson from parents — just because you do everything “right” doesn’t mean that there are guarantees. Parenting is fraught with heartbreak, disappointment, pain and expense. But then, it’s awesome and joyful and exhilarating.