Ever since I entered “Faith, Hope and Trickery” for the Selfies Awards, I have been obsessed with book marketing. The awards were to be judged on several criteria including “an effective and creative marketing and publicity strategy”, and this brought marketing to the front of my mind. Whenever I had an hour to spare, I spent it not on writing but on marketing. To be honest, it is the easier option: when l was struggling with a knotty plot point or a scene that wouldn’t go right, I would abandon it and do a quick marketing task instead – design a poster for my WHSmith signing event, or work on my monthly Sam update (pure research – my number one favourite displacement activity!). Here’s the distraction poster in question:
As a result, I have fallen behind on my writing schedule for “Plank 6” – not disastrously and irretrievably behind, but uncomfortably so. And the irony is that all this marketing seems to make no discernible difference at all to book sales. None at all. Some effort is doomed: I spent a few hours answering questions about how my day job has influenced my writing and about financial crime in general for a promotions person ahead of the Selfies, and of course, because I did not win, no journalist was interested in my story. And some effort is (for me) bad for the state of mind: at the recent London Book Fair I attended a lecture on “creating your author brand”, and the amount of guilt it has engendered is huge. (No wonder the Sam books aren’t selling – I’m not a brand! And reading the numberless tweets generated by influencers in the publishing world is exhausting and time-consuming, let alone responding to them in a manner that will intrigue them and “drive them to you” – like Uber?). Much marketing effort simply goes into the ether and you hope that one day it will transmogrify into a sale. The only thing I have done recently that has had any impact on “sales” is my five-day giveaway of “Fatal Forgery” on Amazon – and I’m not sure it’s much of a marketing coup to say that hundreds of people rushed for my product when it was free!
As a result, I have been doing some authorly soul-searching. The key fact is that I work full-time. I have very limited time for my fiction-writing. And although I hope one day to be a full-time author, at which point I will immerse myself in the commercial side of it too (recognising completely that successful self-publishing is not an indulgence but rather a business), at the moment I simply cannot do both writing and marketing to an acceptable or effective level. And as it would be nonsense to concentrate on marketing if there is nothing to sell, the writing wins. I will continue with the bits I enjoy – this blog, and the monthly Sam updates – but I will be retreating from Twitter and other more ephemeral platforms, as I just can’t keep up.