Writerly Rant #23
Forget the Noise
by Mikael Carlson, Author.
It’s been a while since I have had the opportunity to rant. After enjoying my holidays, I went straight to getting the sequel to my first novel ready for my editor and then into developing and writing my third book. It sucks up my free time faster than Mega Maid swiped planet Druidia’s air in SpaceBalls.
I did take a moment a few weeks back to revisit some of my bookmarked websites that offer advice to help indie authors sell more books. Some of them provided invaluable tips and insights (like Infinite Pathways!), while others simply rehashed the same tired themes – beg for reviews, post a thousand times a day to social media, write a blog, yada, yada, yada.
I noticed something very important during my virtual travels in these sites – very few of them talked about the most important element an author needs to be successful in writing. Sure, you need to learn and understand basic principles of marketing and useful tools to sell books. Yes, reviews are important to reach your sales goals, and authors should not be afraid to ask for them from their readers. All these efforts to raise the visibility of your work are necessary to earn readership. However, any writer who primarily focuses on them is missing a single fundamental truth.
If you want to sell a lot of books, you have to start with the ability to tell a good story. Simple, isn’t it? Here is the cold hard truth – if your story sucks, or you can’t tell it well, you may sell a few books, but you will never enjoy success. The plot and storyline is even more important than your writing ability. That may sound shocking, but it’s fact. You may be the most eloquent writer the world has ever seen, but if your stories lack interest, or the ability to grasp and hold a reader throughout, no one outside of your family and friends will ever read your work.
No amount of marketing will mask that in the long run. I am not the most seasoned expert in the self-published world, but let me offer some advice anyway, take it or leave it. The primary focus of any author’s energies should be in creating a product people will want to read and enjoy. If the story you tell is a good one, the writing can be improved. With a good story and good writing, people who take a chance on your book will both write positives reviews and tell their friends. If they really like it, they will begin to follow you on social media and tell their friends to do the same. Instead being the lone voice marketing for your cause, you have now enlisted the help of a core group of readers to be your advocates. And just one of them is worth hours of time you toil on social media promoting yourself.
Unfortunately, web sites can’t teach authors to develop compelling content. Some will help in teaching to write effectively, but those sites I would consider useful are few and far between. Don’t fall victim to bad advice. Don’t spend all your time marketing one book if you have the ideas for three more just waiting to be brought to life on paper. One hit wonders may exist in the music world, but they are rare among authors.
Be an entrepreneur and marketer, but be a writer first. Writing is a craft, and just like the glass blower, painter, sculptor, and woodworker, the public opinion of an author is almost solely contingent on the quality of the work he or she creates. Write well, write often, and I think you will find as I did that you will get a lot of help in your marketing efforts. Or you can choose to spend eight hours a day on Facebook in the hopes you can convince someone to buy. I’m sure that will make their shareholders happy.
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Mikael Carlson is the author of the political fiction novels The iCandidate and The iCongressman. He is an eighteen-year veteran of the armed forces, served as a U.S. Army Paratrooper, and earned a Master of Arts in American History. Mikael currently lives in Connecticut.