… and then when you think you’re there, you’re not.
You’re sitting in front of your computer, your hands rest on the keyboard, you’re thinking. Why do you do this? Why do you write? Because it makes you feel like you have a voice, like you’re part of the world, and the world can somehow listen to you.
You just wish the world could at least hear you, with all those voices screaming to get its attention, all those other writers who have so many things to say: they sing so loud that you don’t have a chance. It’s like in the musical Les Miserables, when the ensemble sings “Do you hear the people sing / singing a song of angry men”: it’s so loud and strong that you can comfortably sing along, because nobody can hear you, not even your husband sitting next to you. It’s the same feeling: something is happening down there, on the stage, but you’re up here, in the upper mezzanine where seats are cheaper. The voices are so powerful, even up here, so uplifting; all you dream of is running down there on the stage, spread your arms and go “Will you join in our crusade? / Who will be strong and stand with me?”.
Writing your first novel was an incredible experience: excitement, fear, euphoria, desperation, the whole spectrum of human emotions lived in your breaths for a while. Then it was done, and you called it ALL THE PEOPLE.
You started to talk about it like a hobby, but your friends wanted to read it, so you indie published it on Amazon. You did it because it was easy, and because you thought it was a good story. Some of your friends got quite excited about it, some didn’t care. Nobody else knew about it, because you just put it on Amazon; nobody else read it, but it was fine.
It was fine until you realized that you enjoyed writing like no other job you had ever had, and now you wanted to do that for a living. So you started to read everything about book marketing, while writing your second novel. You did read books, blogs, articles, and you kept learning. At some point you thought you had a plan, so you started to act upon it. You thought you had stood up from your upper mezzanine seat and you were starting to climb down the stairs, getting closer to the stage with your French revolution flag blowing in the wind.
You worked a lot. When you were finally ready to publish your second novel, you were excited and had very high expectations. The day was finally here: your second novel, AFRICA, was available on Amazon.
More than two months have gone by, and you have sold about 100 copies of Africa. You feel like somebody kicked you in the face two steps down from your row K seat, stole the French revolution flag from your hand and burned it. You can hear the whole Imperial Theater on Broadway laughing at you and you just want to disappear from Earth; the only thing that prevents you from falling on your knees and crying is your husband’s hand firmly holding yours: he’s the only one who still believes in you.
What did go wrong?
Friends are not book reviewers. You had read somewhere that you need reviews on Amazon for their algorithms to nicely rank you, so you offered Africa to your good friends, the ones who had loved All the people, and begged them for a review. One month later, you got one review. Two months later, and with more begging, you got three more. You don’t like begging, but it’s not your friends’ fault: it’s really hard for you to understand why all this matters, don’t be surprised if they don’t get it and don’t think it’s time sensitive. Some of your good friends haven’t read any of your novels, so be thankful for those who did.
Lesson learned: send your next novel to your friends a few months prior to launch, not on launch day; contact bloggers, as well, people who do actually read and review books.
Friends are not social media gurus. You had also read somewhere that your personal network is the first step of the ladder, the first lever you need to play with to get more social network visibility, up to global fame and success. Truth is, a couple of your friends mentioned your books on Facebook, a couple more retweeted some of your tweets; not all of them liked your Facebook author page. Not saying they don’t care, but everybody is busy with their lives.
Lesson learned: just take what you get, and be Zen. Keep investing on social networking, because you can’t avoid it.
Friends are not (all) fans. Everyone says the key tool for book marketing is your subscribers’ list: people who want to receive your newsletter, and spontaneously give you their email address. These people are your core fans. So you talked about your website, www.annalisaconti.com, and your newsletter everywhere you could: as a result, your list now counts an amazing 3 subscribers. Towards the end of Les Miserables, only one barricade still stands in Paris, and that’s how you feel: “The blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France”.
Lesson learned: keep working on it, these things take a very long time - that’s what nobody really tells you. Keep writing good novels, you’ll make it. Sit back down on your seat, keep repeating the lyrics in your head: you’ll make it to the stage, eventually.
Time matters. You should have seen this coming, but you really wanted to launch Africa on July 1st for summer vacation season, and you thought you could do everything at the same time. But you can’t: a book launch takes several months. You ran many campaigns and initiatives in these two months, and got no benefit because you didn’t plan for them, you didn’t start building your brand first: Amazon ad, Google ad, Goodreads ad, Goodreads’ giveaway, Facebook page promotion, Facebook post promotion. You put Africa for free on Amazon for one day: 45 people got it – but hey, it’s free, who wouldn’t want a free book?
Lesson learned: You need a plan, and you need to follow it. Everything needs to make sense, to be done at the right time.
Nothing is easy. A good friend gave you an idea for your next project: creating a Kickstarter to launch it, to get more people to know you. 2 days left to the Kickstarter, you have: 13 backers (your husband, your parents, his family, a few good friends), less than 10% of the money you were asking for, zero new fans, zero new backers. You spent some decent money to advertise your Kickstarter on several platforms and got zero additional backers, you spent some decent time creating content and updates for the Kickstarter and got zero additional backers.
Lesson learned: nobody cares if you don’t make them care. Also, everything needs to be part of the plan: the Kickstarter was a great idea, but you just went for it head first, without pre-marketing. It failed.
In the end this is why you do it: because there’s still hope.
You attend a writers’ conference and learn new mind-blowing things on book marketing: now you can create your marketing plan. You can plan for the next two years, the books you’ll write and the precise timeline for all the activities you’ll have to conduct, from contacting bloggers to putting your book on smashwords. There’s still hope.
Will your next novel be a blockbuster? Doubt it. Will it sell more than 100 copies? Hope so. Will Africa and maybe All the people sell some more copies? Definitely hope so. And you’ll keep talking about your whole body of work, yourself as a writer, hoping for more decent outcomes.
Always keep your voice all warmed up to sing on the stage: “The time is now, the place is here!”