by Lauren Sapala
By and large, the biggest problem I run into with struggling authors is the challenge they have around marketing themselves. I hear a lot of different reasons for this: “I’m too introverted.” “I hate anything that has to do with sales.” “I don’t want to be fake or phony,” etc. I get those reasons, because way back in the day when I felt like I had an allergic reaction to anything that had to do with marketing, I told other writers I hated marketing because of those very same reasons.
But, here’s the thing. That really wasn’t the whole story.
For me, and for a lot of other authors out there, the real reason behind this aversion to marketing is something deeper. It’s something more personal, more emotional, and way more complicated.
Authors are artists, plain and simple. And being an artist in this world is not an easy existence. From the time we are children we know we are different. We see the world in a way that others don’t, and when we try to explain our observations and thoughts about it, we are usually met with bewilderment from others, or even downright scorn. So, we learn early that it’s safest to keep our viewpoint to ourselves, and this significantly impacts our self-expression.
Sadly, I have talked to dozens of writers and artists who still carry memories of when someone told them they shouldn’t keep writing or that their creations didn’t measure up to some ridiculous standard. These hurtful memories, and the protective shell we have built around ourselves in the aftermath, are what come into play when we feel that overwhelming resistance to marketing that we can’t fully explain, even to ourselves.
So, it’s no surprise that so many authors shy away from marketing before they even get started.
You can do a quick Google search and find thousands of articles and videos on book marketing. Tips and tricks and hacks and how to do it and how to get better at it and on and on into infinity. But if your emotional alarm system is set off by the thought of marketing, and all that old baggage from the past comes up, the content available might as well not even exist. Because you won’t really want to look at it, and if you force yourself to do it, you will emotionally shut down as you go through the process and be unable to engage with the material in a way that will serve you.
When this type of rooted-in-the-past, deeply entrenched resistance comes into play, the idea of marketing grows into something like a huge ugly monster, a giant boulder in your path, or a locked gate guarded by demons who only want to see you fail.
But in reality, at its most basic level, marketing is nothing more than the act of telling other people that you have something to sell, and you think they might like it, and here’s why.
To get to a place where the huge ugly monster of marketing can turn into something that is non-threatening, and possibly even something that is interesting and kind of cool, it’s helpful to start taking baby steps outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes this can be as simple as starting a blog, or posting on Facebook to let your friends and family know that they can read your writing on Wattpad. Sometimes it means expanding your current marketing plan by increasing your advertising budget or trying out a new platform that feels unfamiliar and a bit daunting. Whatever it is, it should be something that challenges you, but doesn’t feel outright terrifying. Something that feels like you’re taking the training wheels off, but you’re not yet diving straight into an extreme motocross race.
The more baby steps you take, the more you will get used to how it feels. The first time you take an action outside of your marketing comfort zone your brain will probably be highly aware of the waves of anxiety and self-doubt your action has provoked. But, as you keep taking these little baby steps, you’ll notice that the anxiety and self-doubt lessens over time, for the simple reason that our brains get used to things. Again, it’s like taking the training wheels off. The first time you wobble and feel like you’re going to fall, but after that you get used to the wobble, and then you start to be able to control it until you’re not wobbling at all.
If you’re really interested in conquering your fear of marketing, take a few minutes to do this quick exercise:
List 3 small things you could do this week to improve your marketing plan.
Pick one thing on the list and do it today.
Tell two friends who you trust about your plan to tackle the other two things on the list. Ask them to help hold you accountable to it.
Check in with yourself 7 days from now and look at what you accomplished. If you followed through on all 3 things, treat yourself to something nice that feeds your creative soul.
That’s it. You just did some marketing. And you can do it again. If you take small baby steps like this, over and over, it will add up. So do your writing a favor, make your 3-thing list, pick your thing and DO IT TODAY.
Because you’re a writer and you got this. There is nothing stopping you from making your writing dreams a reality.
Lauren Sapala is the author of Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers, a guide to help any HSP, INFJ, INFP, or introvert writer move past resistance to selling and marketing their work. She is also the author of The INFJ Writer, a writing guide made specifically for sensitive intuitive writers.