Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Too Many Masks, Not Enough Faces

Many writers express a love/hate relationship with marketing. Smarter people than me have said anonymity is an author's worst enemy. I'd agree. (*shakes fist at anonymity*)

But who is that worst enemy's field marshal? Wearing someone else's mask.

Here's what I mean:

Too many authors, especially indies, are chasing the same brass ring and stomping the same path to get there. Just because something works for an indie juggernaut like J.A. Konrath or John Locke or Amanda Hocking or (insert name here), doesn't mean it will work for me. In fact, I'm likely to fail, and fail epically if I try to be someone I'm not.

Readers appreciate a good experience more than anything. A good experience starts with a good, solid story. "Knowing" an author helps, I think, but it's the icing on the proverbial cake.

My twitter feed is choked with authors saying basically the same thing about their books. Discussion boards are full of the same chatter. Everyone does a blog tour--and while this is a valid way to reach new readers, a blog tour should really try to bring something new and unique to the table. Introduce yourself but be yourself. Whatever marketing one chooses, please, please be you. Be yourself. Make it yours.

In the end, if I'm selling me, I can only sell the "me" I am. If I try to borrow a mask from someone else, it's going to look false. I work with teenagers all day. They're good at sniffing bullshit. So are readers.

Am I a marketing genius? My bank account would say no. Hell no. But I'm not going to get to the Emerald City on a borrowed yellow brick road.

(My path goes a bit wonky through the darkest part of the woods. But I hear there's a secret there, and perhaps I may find it.)


Anthony Rapino said...

Good advice, Aaron. Unless being yourself is like being me in which case don't do it because being me is not a good thing whether it's me being me or someone else doing so.


By the by, I've been seeing your name pop up on the amazon forums now and then under lists of indie authors people like and should check out. :-)

Mark K said...

Agreed, sound advice, especially for the wide-eyed novice such as myself, who, under the awe and wonder of how well their favourite author/s are doing, tend to try and emulate their literary heroes' style.

We are all influenced in some way, shape or form by those around us, it's how the influence is put to use that determines either success, failure or ridicule.

Good post :)

James Everington said...

Some good points - I think most of us are guilty of copying what we think might work when we first start this self-publishing lark, but gradually I think you learn to find your own way.

Promotion doesn't come naturally to me at all, so I think I sometimes do too little because I'm being all moral and uptight, and then over-compensate and plug away for a bit. Hopefully I'm getting better at finding a middle ground...

By the way, the title of this post would make a great title for a weird short story...

Aaron Polson said...

Tony - I try to stay away from the forums... It's better to let them talk about me while I'm gone. (thanks for the heads-up)

Mark - Cheers, and best of luck with your writing journey. It's a wild ride regardless of success/failure.

James - I think I'm writing that story as we speak (at least part of my brain is...)

Cate Gardner said...

When I completed my blog tour I vowed never to do another. Didn't find it enjoyable at all and I figure if I'm not enjoying it then neither is anyone else.

I suck at marketing. I don't particularly care that I suck at marketing. I just want to write and twitter and forget all the other stuff.

Daniel Powell said...

Excellent post, Aaron. In the final tally, the thing I can best impact is writing the kind of stories I like reading. I try to stay abreast of what other writers are doing, but after a certain modest level of positive impact, it just becomes a drain on my resources. I have about four blogs I drop by nowadays.

I've been told I need to have a facebook page. I've been told that twitter is important, that there are a dozen social network sites that I should join up with.

But it's a lot to do. I have a family and a job and hobbies and interests that are the exact opposite of sitting in front of the computer. All these marketing activities seem to involve...yup, sitting in front of the computer.

Ultimately, I'm with you. The stories are out there. I hope they strike a chord with some readers.

It's a philosophy that works for me; it's cool to see some folks with similar views out there.

Aaron Polson said...

Cate - As long as you keep writing... Deal?

Daniel - It is an incredible drain on resources. My resources are finite. Writing is what it's about--I want to save what energy I have for that.

Michael McClung said...


I absolutely agree. If I can't do something convincingly, I've learned not to do it at all. Doing the dance at Twitter, facebook, goodreads etc. is something I came to dread, so eventually I just stopped doing it. Why make myself miserable and others bored/annoyed?

Barry Napier said...

A secret AND a munchkin hanging himself. or maybe that's just a crane.

Aaron Polson said...

Michael - It's easier being me than faking it. Too true.

Barry - Maybe it's a crane hanging a munchkin?

Bobbie Metevier said...


I dont' have a novel out or anything, but have one placed in a contest (just made it to round two!) and another doing the agent tour.

While I am myself on my blog, I tend to fill my posts with industry information, odd facts and things that I find interesting. I rarely blog about myself because I'm just not very interesting.

If I blogged about myself, you would see posts like this:

Changed two words around, stared at words, went to store, put words back the way they were yesterday. :)

Katey said...

The older (and possibly more experienced) I get, the more annoyed I get with the, "You MUST do this or that". Both with writing advice and marketing.

I think you've said the only thing that matters: do what you do, do it well. What else can really matter?