Conventional wisdom is that independent authors can’t ever achieve success by going around asking everybody they meet to buy their books, especially if they do it by spamming out social media posts, emails, and what not, asking people to do exactly that with no other introduction. Conventional wisdom is correct.
What you’re supposed to do is to come at things a bit more sideways than that. You have to create a “platform,” some kind of format or forum where people come for something other than your for-sale writing. Once you have the crowd good and hooked on whatever free thing or things you’ve been giving them, then you casually mention that oh, you’ve happened to have written something that happens to be for sale, in case anybody is interested. By this time, the people all know you, and they presumably like you, and they’ll be much more likely to be interested in whatever it is you happen to be selling.
Conventional wisdom is very likely to be correct again… but it doesn’t do me any real good at this point.
I’ve put in the time and effort to study my craft at a national university. I got my degree, but it’s not bringing me any money, so I have to have a day job to pay my bills while I try to fend off the student loan jackals repeatedly. I’m not asking for pity here–it’s all perfectly normal, and I’m not exactly a starving artist. But if I had it all to do over again, I’d do things differently, because the only real skill I picked up in college is writing itself.
I have the skills it takes to weave (hopefully) compelling stories, full of interesting characters and/or situations. I do not have the skills required to make a podcast, or to have a YouTube channel, or whatever else it takes to build a decent platform. So it seems to me a bit like going to law school, then graduating to discover that all lawyers must hand-build their own office before they can take any new clients. It’s a bit frustrating.
Not only do I lack the skills it takes to build a pre-existing audience for my work, I also lack the time. It can take years of dedicated work to build up a decent base of potential consumers who are all interested in you and what you have to say, and I’m in my mid-forties. Taking on what is essentially an unpaid second job, in a field I’m uninterested in, and spending a few years at it before seeing real results, just doesn’t seem like something that I’m realistically able or likely to do.
All of which means that I have to find other ways to let the world know that I exist.
I mean, sure, I’m going to try to work on my platform, and my brand, and so forth. That’s one reason why I’m dedicating this entire month of May to adding to my much-neglected blog. Blogs, actually, because in addition to my old Goodreads blog, I’ve set up another blog on WordPress, and it’s seeing some activity already. I only started my WordPress blog five days ago, and I already have 13 followers. That, plus my 150 followers from my Goodreads blog means that I have a potential platform of 163 people. Maybe it’ll increase significantly by the end of this month, and much of my irritation and hand-wringing about platform-building will turn out to have been for naught. I doubt it, but that’s okay–I have other plans.
Because I don’t envision much success with building my own platform, I plan to try to figure out ways to use other people’s platforms. For example, this year I’m focusing more on submitting work to anthologies, because while I only get a one-time fee for that kind of work, the people putting together and selling the anthologies are going to do the heavy lifting when it comes to promotion. The people will hear about the anthology because of the antho-makers’ platforms, and when they buy the book, they’ll read it, see one of my glorious stories, and think to themselves, “My! Who IS this Richard Bacula chap, and where can I read more of his wonderful writing?” Then they’ll go to Amazon, see my 30-something titles currently available for sale for as low as 99 cents (ahem!), and perhaps make a purchase or two.
Similarly, I plan to look into doing some guest blog posts on other people’s better-supported, better-promoted blogs. If you’re reading this, and you have a blog with any kind of decent following, and you might like a guest post from yours-truly, let me know.
For that matter, I’m always open to co-writing short fiction with other authors. There are plenty of authors who have the opposite problem that I do–they’re significantly better at promotion than they are at the actual writing part. For that matter, there are non-authors who have a platform and a following, and who haven’t really considered breaking into the erotic fiction market, and who could use a talented co-author like myself. Again, if this sounds like it might describe you or somebody you know, contact me or have that person contact me.
As things are, I feel that my main obstacle is simply getting the world to know that my writing exists. My sales currently make my writing a fun hobby that brings in beer money, or the occasional minor windfall like when my BDSM novel (which happens to be free for Kindle today if you want to check it out) “Letting Go” was mentioned in Women’s Health Magazine a couple years back.
I guess that’s all that I’ve really got to say at this point. I’ve got some other irons in other fires, and some secret schemes to rocket me to the top, but nothing really worth discussing at this point.
See you next time!