Tackling the writer’s To Do list

Finally, I have faced the list on my desk. Actually this is a rolling list, I tick off some things, then as the page fills up, I start a clean sheet and roll the undone items forward. Some things have been there for months because… they are all to do with marketing and I find them somewhat embarrassing.

Today’s task was to wipe out the list so, among other things, I have joined goodreads.com, and I have accepted an invitation (which may by now have lapsed) to be interviewed as a Sunday Guest on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life. I have ducked on asking my old college if they want to do a piece on my last novel in their newsletter (previously another person has done this on my behalf and I lack the chutzpah to ask them myself). I will do this for my forthcoming, more academic, non-fiction book. The list is now empty.

Why, oh why is this so difficult?

I have spent a happy three weeks doing DIY, lining our 9″ solid brick walls with 4mm fleece, doing really tricksy measuring and cutting.DSCN6936 DSCN6939 I have the fortune to be able to choose what I do. I could be happy all the time, gardening, doing DIY, reading, going Lindy Hopping, or to the opera and I have endless other occupations, so why write, publish and have to market books? Do I think I have something so important to say that others have not already said? (no) Would I become bored after all without the writing? (possibly) Would I think less of myself if I didn’t attempt this challenge? (probably). Do I secretly enjoy it?… Actually, no secret, I definitely enjoy parts of it. I love the challenge and the project aspect of the work (that’s another whole post). I just hate marketing…  (Enough of the confessional).

While I was thus occupied, winter made its usual erratic visit to the UK. DSCN6985 DSCN6986 We may get another few inches tomorrow, or it may all have disappeared. Who can say.

28 thoughts on “Tackling the writer’s To Do list

  1. Sound like me. 🙂 When I was in the nonprofit business, marketing and fundraising went with the territory and weren’t my favorite things to do. Still, I regard marketing my book a challenge. I now have printed copies that I’ve been distributing to friends and relatives for editing purposes. Soon, really soon, I am going to jump into marketing. In fact I am working on my marketing plan today. My first book signing is scheduled for March 7th in Sacramento. Peg’s sister has been gathering co-hosts for the event. What I would like to say is I empathize. 🙂 –Curt

    • Very best of luck. I did work hard at all the pre-publication marketing. I can only say that I have been better at it this time, compared to the last and streets better than the first time. I still hate marketing. I found I have more or less stopped trying to actively sell Border Line and it’s not yet two months since publication! I have two hundred or so readers, that feels good enough to me.

  2. I am useless at marketing – which applies both to myself and my books. At the moment I am working at it in a half-hearted way. If I come across a useful strategy I’ll let you know.

  3. Just happy to write some words and am astonished and grateful some people read them. I left a career as writer too late but ambition hasn’t really been the mover. I have found that putting down words and their order is a great hobby. I love it.
    I also love those winter photos Hilary.
    A great night, last night. A rout of the arch-conservatives in Queensland and federally Abbott is either going to resign or walk the plank. Talk now of perhaps reclaiming that silly Knighthood. What a feast for Labor, an orgy.
    That’s not all. Australia won the Asian soccer cup as well.

      • Yes, Australia has come good and plans for settling in Amsterdam has been delayed. Suitcases are unpacked and Milo given a reprieve. The un-knighting of Prince Phillip is going to be feasted upon for months. Cartoonists are flat jack with hooting public. Everyone has stopped genuflecting and giving openly the two finger salute to Abbott.
        How on earth are they going to get a knighthood back. Is the GG going to break into Buckingham castle, scaling walls with grapple hooks, drag out a round table or sword.?
        The mind boggles.

  4. I can understand the lack of enthusiasm for marketing. Perhaps it’s a sense that it’s better to put it out there and if it’s good the success will follow. Depending on your definition of success. If it’s commercial then sadly unless you are extraordinarily lucky, it won’t happen. That’s why marketing is so difficult.

    • I’m actually thrilled by small scale success and individual responses. I have a shrewd suspicion I would positively dislike commercial success (because of all that comes with it). So I’m essentially happy and feel sales are about right for the level of my writing.

  5. I’m tickled to know that a multiple book writer feels the same about marketing as I do, Hilary. In a perfect world there would be people who did it for us, eh ?

    • I suspect that the majority of writers will tend to the introvert and dislike the sales hoo-ha. I would have thought you would cope with the public better than most of us. Individuals are fine, it’s reaching the faceless mass that is so burdensome. A perfect world…? I must have been 4 when I last imagined that.

  6. If you were actually a marketing professional, Hilary (though perish the thought!) you’d probably engage in the same sort of displacement activity you outline here to avoid doing anything creative 🙂

  7. I felt queasy reading this because I, too, loathe having to do marketing. It would certainly be preferable for someone else to do it for you, but even so there’s something sort of cringeworthy about the whole thing. Small scale success can be very satisfying because you have a connection with individuals, as you say. Larger scale success unfortunately comes with ties that I think a lot of writers would find abhorrent. I wonder if being less commercially successful makes for a happier life. There is the question of income, of course, which is one of the upsides of selling lots of books, but then there’s more pressure to create something better next time, to sell even more. I’m not sure where the happy medium is, but perhaps you’ve found it.

    • I agree that there is misery at either end of the no sales versus global fame spectrum. I think there is a long middle in this graph and finding the personal satisfaction level is, as you say all that is necessary. I have been chuffed to pieces by reader’s responses at an individual level, but I will probably do no more than cover my costs in the long run. I need to do at least that to justify both time and money spent, but I am in the lucky position that I do not depend on sales for my income. So all in all, I’m about where I want to be, but no harm in aspiring a little higher.

      • That sounds to me like a very sensible approach, and I think if you can cover your costs that’s an achievement in itself. I haven’t recovered the costs of producing a little book about tearooms, because I ordered far more than I was able to sell. It was a learning experience, that’s for sure. Your book, which I received a few days ago for my birthday, is beautifully produced. The paper is such good quality and the printing so crisp, you must be delighted with the finished product. I haven’t started reading it yet but it’s the next in line and I’m looking forward to it. Here’s to bigger and better things, while enjoying the smaller things along the way.

      • Thank you so much for buying Border Line. You are so right, the learning curve is expensive on the purse and the spirits. It has taken three novels to get the printing right. The first published by an independent press cost me nothing, BUT was poorly produced and embarrassingly full of errors. For the second I founded Threadgold Press and went for Print On Demand, and it was better, but too expensive per copy, with heavy delivery costs. Border Line is litho printed with a minimum run of 300 copies – lighter, sharper, better quality and cheaper per copy (inc delivery). It’s a gamble, as you discovered, I must sell almost all to break even, but if I have to reprint I will be out of pocket (but happy). I have just had to re-order another box of the second one, Unseen Unsung. I hope you enjoy BL. I hope the Tearoom book has a long tail (statistically speaking).

  8. You’re not alone, Hilary, to hate marketing. It’s very overwhelming and really a roulette game to decide which marketing tactic to use and whether to invest in advertising.
    I too am reading Border Line and am finding it absolutely delightful (although the reason why the characters are all brought together is not) But I love your descriptions of place (all those lovely flowers) and the interchange with your characters. Enough said, I will save my comments for Amazon and Goodreads when I’m finish (which should not be very long as I want to know what happens to Grace and everyone else). 🙂

    • You are so kind and encouraging. I am still astonished that people I have only met through the internet are bothering to read my novels. (You might be interested, as a writer, to know that the flowers in the market description, was three times as long – I’m sure it is better for being cut, cut and cut again.)

  9. I hear you! I think most of us writers are closet introverts and don’t feel comfortable being circus barkers (“Step right up and buy my latest novel!”).
    P.S. I use the same system you do for my to-do list ( marketing, blogging etc.)

  10. LOL about the marketing! I dislike it too. In fact, I’m terrified about it. The US Marines could learn knitting before I can even conceive the thought of marketing. But you are a writer and a very talented one at that. You write because it comes natural to you!

    • I love the idea that writing comes naturally… not a bit. I decided to write because I could do it at home, it wouldn’t cost anything, it wouldn’t hurt my back and I could go on until I dropped off the twig. Having decided, then I started to learn. I started bad and I got a bit better – I hope.

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