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Back to Basics: Or, Don't Let Marketing Steal the Spotlight

Is it just me, or is marketing like a storm cloud hanging over the head of the modern author?

I know for me, it’s been a voice hissing in the back of my head ever since I sold From Under the Mountain to REUTS. The desperate need to market, to be discoverable, has led me to go a little nuts (shameless plug for those of you who haven’t seen yet: I’m currently crowd-funding to put on a fashion show for my book launch and the rewards are awesome and I’d love you forever if you donated–there’s even a bonus perk this week).

Perhaps it’s always been this way, but I’ve been feeling lately like this is my one shot—like if Mountain isn’t a runaway success, that’s it and I should pack my bags, while at the same time knowing that a career is about the long haul, about being a great writer and a great member of the literary community for the rest of my life. I’ll probably spend the next six months constantly talking myself off of mental cliffs and reminding myself to enjoy the process.

The pressure to make a big splash or go home is high, for authors of all paths, and I think it’s getting to us. I think that for some of us, it’s driving us to focus so hard on staying visible and active that we’re leaving behind the thing that will ACTUALLY give us staying power: craft.

For instance. I’ve been so focused on planning the Mountain marketing campaign that I haven’t written a word in the Mountain sequel, or any of my projects in fact, in months. If I don’t finish that first draft soon, I’ll probably feel pressured to rush it out within a year of Mountain’s release date. It won’t have the same time and attention that Mountain did.

I’ve obviously learned a lot from working on Mountain and my other projects that will make drafting and revising the sequel smoother than its predecessor, that’s true. But every manuscript has its own snarls, and every manuscript still needs a lot of love and effort. Every. Manuscript.

One of the things they tell us is the best way to keep readers engaged is to keep feeding them, to put out something regularly, whether it’s another novel, a short story, a novella, something. Once you start, it seems as though you must be ready for constant output.

Sometimes this isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes you are ready. Some people thrive on it.

But for some, I think it makes our work—our actual work, our writing—suffer.

I think we focus so much on getting books out and buyable, on being able to say “My new release” or “My next book,” that we forget to make the books excellent. We forget to work hard on them and make sure that they’re actually the best we can produce. That the plot is interesting. That the characters have engaging emotional journeys. That the book is written in a way that sweeps readers into the story and makes them feel things and lingers with them after they’re done reading.

So I say to you, my fellow authors, do not let marketing steal the spotlight.

Do not give precedence to your production timeline over your meaningful revisions.

Do not send good books into the world when you could be sending great ones.

2 thoughts on “Back to Basics: Or, Don't Let Marketing Steal the Spotlight

  1. On one hand, I know this is all good advice. On the other hand, I’m currently building my query letter, and this is all stuff I didn’t want to think about right now. >_< Still good, and I'll come back to this if I ever need the reminder that the work is what's most important, but… yeah.

    1. Haha it’s definitely a tightrope walk. Writing in one hand, marketing in the other, you swaying in the middle while trying not to fall off the rope. And marketing stress is a privileged stress.

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