On marketing, social media, and popularity

As a writer who has a particular interest in going the indie publishing route, I’ve spent a lot of time reading other blogs and articles about what you should and shouldn’t do, and it gets to a point of confusion, especially when you encounter contradictions. But the one thing everyone seems to agree on is this: no matter what kind of writer you are, whether self-published, or traditionally so, you basically only have yourself to rely on for marketing.

The contradictions come in when it comes to advice about how to approach that marketing. One of the early things I read from an indie author was about how she was very frequently posting on Twitter telling people to buy her book, and she said that worked for her. So I signed up to Twitter and started following her, but very early on decided I hated that approach, because that was basically all she posted about. What might work for someone is not necessarily going to work for the next. What works for some people might actually annoy some of their audience.

And this is a lesson I learned while trying to promote Fae Fatales: A Fantasy Noir Anthology. Because, despite my feelings on the above, I had been sharing the same thing with people on Facebook too frequently. Should I have shared it at all? Well, I guess that’s a question I’m still asking myself. The thing is, we can’t sell anything if we don’t talk about it, anywhere. I have had some people on Facebook pick up the book I’m about to be published in, but at what cost? Have I burnt other friendships by annoying them?

See, I am aware that not everyone who follows me on Facebook is going to want to know about everything I do. One of the advantages of having so many different interests is that I get to be friends with so many different people – some are connected with me because we’ve performed stand-up comedy, some are those who I’ve worked with on films, and others are writers – but the interests aren’t always going to overlap (and there are other connections, still). Even some of the writers I’m friends with write completely different genres from myself, and whilst we can be there for each other for moral support, we’re not necessarily going to be interested in reading the other’s works. I never expect any specific person to go out of their way to read what I have written, even if they’re someone who has previously expressed interest in what they have read of mine, or said they want to read my novel. When I share, it’s usually to reach out to those who have expressed interest previously, or might be interested and haven’t told me as much.

I’m not a natural marketer. You know, I have a hard enough time getting people interested in things I like that I’m not involved with. But clearly if I’m going to have to be responsible for marketing my own things, I have to learn. Oftentimes you can only learn through making mistakes.

It has me wondering, though. What is it that tends to lead us to click on “popular” or “news” content more than content produced by our own friends? Would this remain true if our friends were gaining traction and popularity amongst those who don’t know them personally?

Sometimes I feel like I’m somewhat unique in my approach when it comes to these things. See, I feel like I am just as likely to read a friend’s blog post when they link it as I am someone else’s they’ve linked. I want to be supportive of them in whatever way I can, and regularly enjoy what they produce. Whether it’s to go see them performing stand-up comedy or acting in a play, clicking like on the art they share on Facebook, or picking up and reading the books they produce.

Another reason I like to support people as they’re developing their art is I like the idea of them perhaps one day making it big, and being able to say, “I knew them when…” They might not be that popular now, but that doesn’t mean they suck. Word of mouth can be hard, especially when so many people are out there trying to promote themselves on social media. How do you find the ones you want to connect with? How do you stand out in a sea of voices? How do you make a name for yourself, so other people want to share what you do?

I can’t tell you what has worked for me because I don’t feel like I’m there yet. What I can say is that I like to see people who are doing something different, usually in fields I’m already interested in. For example, when I was in Honolulu in February last year, I got to tell a couple of people from the improv troupe On the Spot that I really wanted to see them perform live sometime, because I’d heard about them from a friend on Facebook, and watched a couple of their videos on YouTube. All because I had a friend who had performed with them sometimes (he’s now a fully-fledged member of their troupe). I’ve supported projects on Kickstarter because people were sharing links to them on Facebook, and I’d previously heard about or encountered some of the people associated with the projects through other things they’ve done (usually, working with Oil in the Alley, like I have). See: Universe of One, A Tiny Portal.

I guess from that I could deduce that it’s important to be able to work with other artists you like, to help get each other’s name around. You’re probably going to have an easier time getting other people interested in them if you produce similar content.

What sorts of things do you like to see shared on social media? What entices you to click a link? What makes you want to share something with your friends?

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