Graphic from MediaLabs
How do I describe the year-and-a-half that followed my signing a contract with A-to-Z Publishing? One word: NUMBERS.
- 16 weeks of their online marketing seminar
- 12 hours on the phone with my personal author-success coach
- Less than 100 Facebook friends
- Not even 500 Twitter followers
- Zero interest in Pinterest
I gained a new respect for people with savvy marketing skills. I discovered it’s more than just being tenacious and chatty like my mother going door-to-door collecting donations for the American Heart Association. There are highly-crafted techniques of creating awareness, engaging a broad audience, holding their attention, and converting interest into sales. Marketing is as much a craft as writing a good novel. Some of the skills can be taught, but much of it comes from personality and a certain frame-of-mind when interacting with the world.
My personal author-success coach at A-to-Z Publishing often remarked on how so many writers hate marketing. Very true. We would rather sit alone in a dark room in our fuzzy slippers and pajamas and quietly peck at a keyboard all day. Again, true. Her tough love approach is to suck it up, put your shoes on, and get out there!
I spent hours and hours on the phone with my author-success coach as part of my grand prize winner package. Let’s just say I did not enjoy the experience. She dredged up a lot of personal baggage that I had worked for years to suppress. Instead of being inspired or motivated, I felt the same as flunking eighth-grade algebra. My NUMBERS were not increasing for all the hours I spent on social media every day. I was told to stop over-thinking and just do it! The message that I kept hearing was, be popular! Say snappy things on Twitter to make thousands of people want to follow you! Spend a few minutes every day on Facebook groups, Google+, Yahoo Groups, and be strategically witty so thousands of people will notice you! Don’t be so shy about clicking that add friend button! Numbers… Numbers… The pressure to build up my list of excited fans was relentless. I cried at night. I had stomach aches. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to check my Facebook page.
At age 53, I was flashing back to being a nerdy outsider in high school. Sports were especially miserable as I couldn’t catch, couldn’t throw, couldn’t run, couldn’t kick, couldn’t balance. You know that song about, those whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball? When they called my name, everyone groaned.
Both the author-success coach and the president of A-to-Z Publishing explained that my book’s launch date would be delayed because of my low social media numbers. “Schedules for editing and release dates HINGE STRONGLY on your social networking and blog numbers. It hinges on your activity within your book and author platforms, and on the marketing and publicity activities you create along the way. Those social networking numbers are the numbers that can assure a good launch.” They pushed—hard—for me to build up a list of thousands of engaged followers. Yes, thousands! Tens of thousands! They sent out weekly emails reminding all their authors of a 20:1 ratio, that “in order to sell 1,000 books, you need 20,000 engaged people across Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo! Groups, Facebook Groups, Blog followers, Unique Hook Bloggers, and Pinterest combined. Where are your numbers right now?” I got scolded for the lameness of my social media presence more often than the dentist reminds me to floss.
My book and I got benched. One by one, the books of my “classmates” got launched into the world. I saw their excited announcements online, their smiling faces at book signing parties, and I wanted so badly for my turn to come. As hard as I tried to be happy for them—as I would want someone to be happy for me—I couldn’t stop the pangs of jealousy in my gut. This hurt worse than a one-line rejection notice. Everyone else went ahead of me. I was the grand prize winner, and I was shoved to the back of the line.