In looking at the seven levels of attention, I asserted that the largest category was that of zero attention. I am hoping that this will be self-evident to you as a writer, or indeed as a human being. Basically, it is the claim that, out of all the people in the world, the biggest segment will be those who are not aware of you or your work at all.
This might not apply if you are incredibly famous, of course. If you are the Pope, or a worldwide celebrity, or a notorious political figure, it’s quite possible that you have attracted enough attention to shrink this category considerably. But most of us are none of those things: most of us wake up each day knowing that one of the clearest and most pervasive indicators of everyday life is that the vast bulk of the population of the planet don’t know us and certainly have not read our books.
It’s like living inside a cloud: our sphere of visibility is limited, and so are the spheres of visibility of those around us. They cannot see us. If we think of that cloud as a vast mass of floating attention, then it is, in relation to us at least, immobile, inert and opaque.
What should be our response to this?
Unfortunately, the response of many is to try to convert this amorphous mass of particles into full life, all at once, by bombarding it with spam. Whenever people send out thousands of social posts asking for ‘Likes’ or containing direct links virtually begging people to buy their books, the message gets lost in the giant fog and disappears, leaving the senders exhausted, upset and puzzled. Hardened by their experience, many then charge into the attack again, pelting the fog with even shinier messages in greater and greater volume, effectively (to stretch the analogy) trying to ‘seed the cloud’ and turn it into rain, to get it moving, to attract it, to create an effect.
It usually has no effect whatsoever. Sadly, if it has a tiny effect, this only encourages further action of this kind, and the assault commences again, in greater force.
The overall result is like someone shouting in a fog. A voice echoes and is lost among other voices.
The startling evidence which confirms this is one’s own experience. How many of us receive such messages, sometimes by the dozens or even hundreds, asking for ‘Likes', for ‘Shares’, for purchases? How many of us actually respond to each one? There are so many of them that they become a fog in themselves, something to be navigated through or around rather than paid any attention to directly. We spend minutes of our time deleting them, unsubscribing from them, marking them as spam or just scrolling past them.
They fail to acquire our attention. To them, we are part of the Zero Attention category.
So again, what should we do about this particular category?
The right answer is probably to ignore it.
The truth is that we should learn that it is a fact of life. Unless we are about to be made Pope or become the next Dalai Lama or are in line for the British throne, the rest of the world will probably largely remain inert in their attitude towards us. Trying to seed the cloud as a whole is not a workable approach. The few who get results from it by chance or accident in effect make it worse by encouraging others to believe that they can do the same. It’s almost a tautology to say that the largest category will always be the one that doesn’t respond.
Attempting to get the attention of the world at large is a wrong target.
You don’t actually want or need the attention of the whole world to become successful or achieve what you want to achieve. You only need a proportion of the populus to get to know you and your work.
How do you get their attention? Well, firstly you have to know more or less who they are. And secondly you have to be aware that you are not normally going to get them to make the leap from just finding out about you straight to buying all your books. It’s a graded approach. What you want to look at next is the next largest category of people: those who give you momentary attention. And what makes that tricky and interesting is that they are in a way the most invisible of all to you.