Not so long ago, I wrote a post about why it’s obnoxious to collect fifty thousand people on Twitter and spam them with, “99 cents today only!” It’s bad business. It makes it look as if you think of the people who enjoy your books as nothing more than a numbers game. Really, at the center of the matter, it comes down to a lack of courtesy.
Don’t get me wrong, writing is a business. There are no two ways about it. If you want to continue enjoying your life as an author, you either have to make your money doing it or continue a second job. But it’s actually social work at heart. Yes, true, when you’re in the throes of creation it’s just you and the words, but after that you have to get out there. Even if you’re a traditionalist, you have to make face time with people at some point.
Recently, I cleaned out my Twitter. When I first got on it I would follow anyone who wrote. I ended up with about three hundred people at one point, but I didn’t enjoy it. My feed was full of folks either hawking their wares or re-tweeting whatever clever catchphrase someone else had come up with. That’s not interfacing with other people, that’s screaming at them.
I know, I know, this makes me sound snobby. That’s fine, I’ll wear it. I’d much rather see artists and friends talking about their work and their lives than have them always pushing the hard sell. At the end of the day, I would rather dialogue and learn from a few people than roll the dice and hope a few of my 50k followers buy my book.
I’ve been told time and again that a massive following is what sells books, but I think some people confuse re-tweets and Facebook likes with sales. I’m a firm believer that quality comes first. Write the best book you can. The second step is being gracious. Go out and be you. Talk to people. Meet folks. Write about what you do on Twitter and Facebook. Don’t take the social out of social media. It isn’t Craigslist or a Sunday morning market. Good salesmanship is important, but you become an infomercial if that’s all you have.
Make connections outside of your normal circle of friends. Not only will your life be better for it, but you’ll probably sell a few books too. Does it translate to instant sales? Well, no; but the truth is, nothing does. If you’re looking for the quick and easy way to make it in this industry, you’re going to wind up on your ass. (Or looking like one) There is no magic button. The people who got successful right off the bat were lucky, talented beyond belief, or both. You can’t bottle that. Be cool, and be yourself. People will always respond better to that than to hawking.
Success can’t be broken down into a formula. If it could, anybody who put in the work would be a success. Just keep producing quality work, connect with people, and don’t miss an opportunity when you see it. Writing is a long haul game.