Continuing our series about marketing as communication, we come to the point of defining some steps which every writer who wants to be successful needs to master.
These boil down to the following simplicities:
1. Having enough space and secure confidence as a writer to know what it is that you want to say.
2. Saying it to the right people.
3. Persisting in saying it to the right people despite distractions, disappointments and delays.
4. Acknowledging feedback.
5. Continuing to communicate until your desired results are obtained.
6. Understanding your marketplace enough to know when to adapt and when to simply persist.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But each of these deserves more scrutiny as a missing or not quite fully understood step can lead to a writer giving up, perhaps when just a little more persistence or understanding would have done the trick.
Let’s start with ‘Having enough space and secure confidence as a writer to know what it is that you want to say.’
I’ve talked at length elsewhere about the importance of having an author platform, which is basically a virtual space from which to communicate your message. Such a thing includes a website, a social media presence and a coordinated ‘look’ so that your writing persona is both visible to outsiders and gives off a professional aura. These things are fundamental to a successful writing career and should not have to be said. But there’s more to having enough space and secure confidence as a writer to know what it is that you want to say than a cyber-platform.
You yourself have to know what it is that you’re trying to say.
My series on how to develop your own Author Prospectus covers that in great detail, but in summary, you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish as a writer and for whom you’re trying to accomplish it. ‘But I just want to tell stories’ you might reply. That’s fine, do as you will — but if you want to achieve some kind of external success, if you want to reach a viable number of readers, you will need probably to think more carefully about your mission, your message, what it is that you are attempting to communicate, and to whom. ‘Having enough space and secure confidence as a writer’ includes mental space. This can take time to establish, but it’s time well-spent.
There’s a drill you can do with yourself which might help. Simply sit in a comfortable chair with your eyes closed and think about yourself as a writer. Don’t do anything else; don’t think about anything else; just imagine yourself as a writer. All kinds of images and ideas might occur to you before, after a few minutes, you are distracted and perhaps wander off into a story you’d like to write. Don’t worry if you can’t sustain the concentration for very long — this is just a harmless exercise. The point is that you can begin to picture yourself as a writer — and, as you do so, the trappings of being a writer can start to coalesce around you. You might get glimpses, as you sit there, of the type of people you would like to attend your book signings; you might get a fleeting emotion indicating the kind of thing you want to communicate; you might start to see a kind of vision about what your writing is trying to say. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get any of these things, but practising this drill each day has the potential of clarifying your purpose and role, and that will cascade down into the other steps in a very useful fashion.
Saying it to the right people? Oh that is so key that I have written thousands of words about it elsewhere. Perhaps the best way to envisage this is to imagine yourself attending a crowded conference or party of some kind, in a large room which is packed with people. You stand in a corner and begin lobbing tennis balls into the crowd. What would happen? Most of your balls would be ignored; many would be dodged or binned; you might start to get protests from the crowd and before long there might come calls for you to be removed from the room. Only one or two balls might be caught and examined, if you were lucky.
And yet this kind of activity is what many writers engage in every day in promoting their work, expecting others to catch their advertising ‘balls’ and respond by buying their book. The crowded room is the world of social media and cyberspace; the people are the world’s population, flowing through; and the balls are the ads or other posts that writers put out there randomly, basically begging for attention.
What’s a better way of communicating your message to the right people? How about (to continue the analogy) setting up a sign in the crowded room saying ‘Tennis balls over here’? Then, of the masses of people in the room, those with any kind of remote interest in tennis balls might meander over to take a look. At that point, with a much, much smaller but far more relevant audience, you might have more success throwing a few well-aimed balls out.
Your author platform is your ‘sign’; your tennis balls are your unique message, the thing that you have secure confidence you want to communicate as a writer.
Do you see now that, with both these steps in place — having enough space and secure confidence as a writer to know what it is that you want to say and saying it to the right people — you would have much more chance of getting some attention paid to your work? But many writers leave out both these steps, resulting in a vagueness of message and a lack of audience response which for some reason puzzles them, but which, when viewed through the analogy above, should not mystify them at all.
In the next instalment, we’ll examine what might happen if you get both of these steps right but your response is still below optimum.