A touch of fascinating and heart-felt controversy erupted recently over a blog post by Delver Jenny Lovett on the Pikes Peak Writers blog. Jenny’s post provided some excellent advice on how to put together a marketing plan for your book, since–as she wrote–even those who are published by big New York publishing houses can’t seem to expect to receive extensive marketing support these days.
F.P. Dorchak objected–not to Jenny’s marketing suggestions, but to the idea that writers should be responsible for marketing their own work. Specifically, he objected in a comment and in his follow-up post to the fact that Jenny seemed to be tacitly endorsing the way the industry has shifted a lot of the burden of marketing to their new writers. By acknowledging this as unquestioned reality, FP pointed out that Jenny was in essence further encouraging this reality.
While I don’t agree that Jenny was trying to offer any endorsement (tacit or otherwise) to what seems to be the nature of publishing these days, I do empathize with many of F.P.’s sincere concerns about an industry that seems to be placing ever increasing burdens on new writers and taking far fewer risks in the work they support.
Now, I admit that I have not conducted a thorough review of every marketing budget that has ever been applied to every first time novelist published by a big New York publisher in the last few years, but it does seem from the many (and I do mean “many”) articles I’ve read that low budgets and low risks are the norm. Is that just because we’re all buying into a corrupt culture, or is it an objective truth readily verifiable by people in the industry? Maybe both? F.P. may object that I’m joining Jenny in tacitly endorsing the status quo by labeling it as such, but I haven’t seen any proof that New York is actually spending lavishly on new authors or taking risks on the unknowns who most need their attention and care.
That said, is it true that any attempt we writers make to market our own work is playing into the hands of the “bean-counters” in New York? Is our only choice to either nobly resist the crushing commercial machine of traditional publishing or succumb to its pressure and hawk our own work like a bunch of suckers, thereby enabling a corrupt culture that fails to honor and support its artists and creators?
While I understand this is not F.P.’s precise argument (and I encourage you all to check it out, because it raises some great points), I do think there’s another way to look at this.
Marketing in the age of social media is not about trying to push your work on someone else by hook or by crook. Yes–certain questionable tricks and tactics can still prevail in getting mediocre work into the hands of readers. But I think there’s an opportunity to see marketing as something very different these days.
I believe the best marketing now is all about two things: 1) forging relationships and 2) delivering meaningful content.
It’s about taking the time to read other people’s blogs and reply in thoughtful and encouraging ways that forge connections with other writers in our global creative community.
It’s about going online and finding conversations to which your work could meaningfully contribute and then entering those conversations. [For example: Having looked around F.P.’s blog, I’m now eager to learn more about the way he weaves metaphysics into his fiction (a topic I find fascinating). So now I want to learn from FP about the way he does this in his books–like “Sleepwalkers“–which I learned about and am now linking to thanks to this conversation.]
Marketing now is about discovering the vital core of your own story and sharing that with others in a way that enlivens and supports them, so that those who can most benefit from your work will be able to find it and enjoy it and pass it on to their friends.
Looked at from that perspective, isn’t marketing more of an opportunity and an art than a burden or a scam regardless of the New York publishers and their priorities?