To me, there are only two really hard things about being a writer. The first is just staying focused and getting words on paper (actually a computer screen now but you get my point) but, really, when I get in the zone that’s not hard, it’s just getting focused in the first place and not getting distracted. On the ghostwriting, it’s actually easy because I know I have a deadline when the buyer is expecting the work and I’ve always been okay with deadlines.
The second thing, though, is by far the most difficult. It’s not the research, although even with my fictional works I do lots and lots of background work to make sure I’m as accurate as possible. Certainly, I take “creative liberties” but any factual mistakes in my books are usually a deliberate choice instead of a lack of knowledge. Most writers find the research boring but I’ve always loved that part of the work.
The hardest thing about being a full-time writer is the marketing.
I love going to the various shows and meeting people (even though I’m actually a little shy), talking about the books or writing in general, and answering questions. What I hate is the part when you have to try and convince someone to buy my books.
I’ve considered hiring a publicist or an agency, but it’s hard to justify that expense when there are so many fly-by-night organizations. I entered a few contests but what I quickly found was that the judges often wanted you to write your book the way they would have written it instead of judging it as a book you’d written your way. I also made it a practice to pick up some of the books that won the contests and, to be honest, they were often just not that good. A lot of time they were more artsy than my books and some of the others that had been entered and I’d read but simply being “artsy” doesn’t make a book better, just different. I remember one contest where I read a book that had placed lower than mine and it was incredible but it was a horror book and apparently the judge hadn’t been a horror fan.
At the various book fairs and author signings I’ve done I always listen to the pitches from other authors there. Often they use a hard sell on the people who stop by their booths and it appeared to work but that really isn’t me so I’d be uncomfortable with it. I also suspect it leaves at least a little bit of a bad taste in the customer’s mouth and would be bad for repeat business.
Every year at the Louisiana Folklife Festival we see some of the same people come by to visit the booth and talk to us and I have a number of them who buy a new book each year. To me, that’s the most gratifying, knowing that they have read my books in the past and liked them enough to come back and seek me out. I had a couple of requests for the next book in the Junebug series and in the Noah Chance series so I’ve got to finish at least one of those for next year’s event so I don’t disappoint the people expecting them to be ready. That’s my favorite kind of marketing, the one on one, especially when it’s a person who wants to hear the story behind the story, where the book idea came from and any trivia about how it took place.
I’m about to start trying to work more on marketing on Goodreads.com and I’d encourage anyone who reads a lot to go to that website and take a look. It is now owned by Amazon.com, but it’s a great place to meet other people and discuss books you’ve read or get people’s input on books you’re thinking about purchasing.
In the meantime, if you are reading this and belong to a book club and need a speaker I’m always available either in person or by Skyping in for a video conference. Those are always lots and lots of fun. I’d be glad to discuss it with you ahead of time and I’ve even prepared some materials for books clubs to use to discuss the various books I’ve written. Of course, I don’t charge for this and can usually schedule it with just a few weeks notice.
If you have any ideas for other ways to market, leave me a comment or send me an email, I’m always happy to hear from readers of my books or my blog.