How to Beat Marketing Block
Maybe it’s ironic that immediately after publishing a book about busting through creative blocks, I hit one.
Creative Unblocking: Bypass Self-Doubt, Tap Your Genius, and Complete Your Best Work is the result of nearly a decade’s worth of research into the creative process. I’ve become a super-ninja at fighting procrastination, perfectionism, impostor syndrome, and writer’s block. I’ve created systems for getting and staying reliably inspired, and I wrote Creative Unblocking to help others who struggled like I had.
Imagine my dismay, then, when I realised I had no idea how to sell the book.
Well, that’s not exactly true. I had ideas. I just didn’t want to implement them.
Like most creative blocks, marketing block comes from fear: of failure (What if I come off as sleazy? What if it’s obvious I have no idea what I’m doing? What if this is the point where I learn how much I really do suck?) fear of success (What if all my friends are jealous? What if my husband leaves me? Will I have time for my kids?) and fear of the Unknown.
It’s one thing to create something. It’s another thing entirely to let that thing be seen.
And it’s another thing again to stand behind it and say, “This is valuable. This matters.”
But if I can do it, so can you.
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash
The Difference Between Creating and Marketing
When we create, we can tell ourselves what we’re making is just for our own secret enjoyment, like a vacation fling — it’s almost no-strings-attached. But when we decide we want to sell our work, well, that’s more like getting married.
Do you, Amanda Truscott, take this audience, in praise and ridicule, in acceptance and rejection, in success and failure, for richer or poorer, for as long as you both shall live?
Effective marketing, in other words, requires that we commit to connecting with our audiences, eyes wide open about the fact there will be bruises. Aren’t there always, with things that matter?
The commitment, I think, is the hardest part. After that, it’s just strategies and tactics, and as Book Marketing Guru Tim Grahl points out, anybody can learn those.
Strategies, as Grahl defines them, are the overall blueprint authors use for building a platform. Tactics involve tools: Will I focus on Twitter or Facebook? How do I create a campaign in MailChimp?
Strategies and tactics
Grahl has a number of free resources to help authors figure out both. The strategies, he says, are always the same:
1. Outreach: Move people from not knowing you exist to knowing you exist. Tactics include building a Twitter following, guest blogging, pitching your story to conventional media, and giving interviews for podcasts.
2. Content: Once people know you exist, they need to find out if your writing is right for them. That’s why Grahl and others recommend giving away free content. It involves things like posting stories on your blog or offering a free novella in exchange for email addresses. Speaking of email…
3. Permission: If people like your free content, they’ll subscribe to your email list in order to get more of it, thereby giving you permission to stay in touch with them. And if you can do that, you can sell books.
Grahl isn’t the only one sharing his marketing knowledge via online courses. Epic fantasy author S.R. Olson reviews three others on this very blog. She’s getting the hang of marketing, it would seem, and she’s the kind of person who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to her first Yahoo email account at the age of 50.
The strategies and tactics we need to employ aren’t hard. Not really. They involve talking to people, sending emails, writing (which, for heaven’s sakes, is what we do), and completing a bit of technical setup for which there are ample tutorials on YouTube.
We don’t have to go to business school; we just have to take an online course or attend a workshop or two.
What’s hard is convincing ourselves to do what we’ve learned needs to be done, because that’s the moment when we really step into the public square, take off our clothes, and say, “Here I am, world, what do you think?”
The prospect is only horrifying if we’re worried what we’re sharing is somehow indecent, inappropriate, insufficient, or embarrassing.
But since pretty much everyone’s books — no matter how wonderful — have their own equivalent of literary cellulite, shining a floodlight on our work and asking people to love it is understandably nerve-wracking.
So how do we get over that?
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash
Getting over it
We go back to why we wrote what we wrote. Even the most vain authors usually have at least some sort of altruistic reason for having written: we want to entertain people, soothe their souls, or make their lives easier.
Why did you write your book? Don’t you want it to fulfil its mission?
I certainly do. I’ve hesitated to pitch myself to reporters and podcasters because a nasty little voice inside me whispers, Who’d want you as a guest? You haven’t even published your own novel yet. No one knows who you are. Your email list is miniscule. You might as well not even bother reaching out to anyone.
I let that voice stop me for about two months after releasing my book, but then a pressure started building inside me.
People need this, another, truer voice said. You have to share it. You have to expose yourself to rejection after rejection, because sooner or later someone will accept you, and that person will put your book into the hands of the right people.
It has already started happening.
Linda Egenes, co-author of a new retelling of The Ramayana, interviewed me for tmwomen.org. During the interview, she told me she loved what I’d written, and that, even though she’d already released several of her own books via major publishers, it had helped her resume work on her novel.
I had another interview with a journalist from the Carleton University Student newspaper. She said my book helped her, too. “It does exactly what it says it does,” she said.
I’ve had similar feedback from other readers.
I’ve heard nothing from most of the publications I’ve contacted, but now that I’ve spoken with more people who truly reflect my audience, rejections are easier to bear.
That’s why I’m writing this article, why I’m pitching myself as a guest to podcasts like Seated at the Writer’s Table, and why I’ve created an auto-respond sequence for new subscribers to my email list.
There are billions of people in this world, and most of them aren’t your audience, but some of them are, and their lives will be better — even if only a tiny smidgen, even if only for a very brief moment — if your book reaches them. Don’t you want that?
Do you, writer, take this audience?