Sunday, May 13, 2012

How Not To Promote Yourself Overseas

What I'm about to tell you is a cautionary tale about man's arrogance in the face of superior technology. 

Most writers starting out usually land in two categories. There are the writers who focus solely on marketing to the point where sometimes the book isn't even written yet. The second type are those writers who write so much and feel like even mentioning their book to people they know is a form of selling out. 

The first kind of people are the ones who spend more time on the bookmarks, the hats, the Frisbees, and all these things designed to create a poor man's media franchise when what they need to do is go back to the drawing board and create a better story

These are the ones you see at book fairs schlepping their wares and reminding you why kids hate reading in school in the first place. 

Did you ever wonder how those horrible books in school got published? Now you know. 

This is an easy fix. Work on your craft. Experiment. Play around with different genres. Switch up the recipe. 

Now, the second group, the zero marketers, are the people I want to talk about today.

A lot of writers have a reluctance to treat what they work on as a business for fear that they will be a "sellout".

Now, if you have no need of being discovered, of having your work expand to its full potential, of having someone somewhere feel an emotional embrace in your work, by all means send it and forget it. But, if you find yourself dissatisfied with how your work is being received, you might need to give it a little push.

A lot of contemporary popular society has trumpeted the myth of the starving tortured artist in seclusion who shuns any attempt at commerce, hoping only to be discovered in a bizarre accident. They don't want to worry more about the bottom line than their audience.

Which is important, there's no doubt in that. Artistic integrity is needed. 

But promoting yourself does not have to suck. It can actually be a lot of fun.

Promoting yourself gives you an opportunity to let you express yourself in your own words as opposed to 

What is promotion anyway? Isn't someone telling somebody about an awesome band promotion? Do you randomly type in bizarre words to find new videos on the Internet, or do you look through suggestions or other media avenues?

You can find a way to show people that you are the legitimate author in a field of phonies, and that you want to shake things up a little bit in hopes of stopping the current line of culture that has not performed so well. People who brag about their creativity always seem to come up short when things get rough.

My rebuttal to their minor issues has always been the same: be more creative in solving your problems

I know it sounds rough to see things that way, but the ego in people wanting ingenuity shows no bounds. Some people would rather be a renowned author than write a book that doesn't suck. Luckily, they never seem to get that far.

The market for literature is blowing up to a crescendo, and a lot of people who have nothing but snake oil to bring to the ereader are crowding in with people who want to stay to write.

But, if you seem to know what you're doing, people want you to succeed. Everyone, fan, agent, whoever, wants to be on the cutting edge of the next one. So it is silly to not to at least try. 

Artistic integrity can be subjective. One of the most commerical-designed-in-a-marketing-test-tube bands in the world was the Sex Pistols. A lot of ballad heavy R&B singers come from a bad background while rappers promoting the hood lifestyle were actually middle class. At the end of the day, something that works is something that works with background or no background.  

So get your work out there.

I understand why you're hesitant. Everyone else does it. The Twitter, the Facebook, the bandwagon. You want to be unique. How can you be different if you do all the things they do? AC/DC doesn't wanna release to Itunes, why should you go digital?

That's okay.  

A lot of times, people who wish to be innovative will hesitate to do something on the account that everyone is adopting it. It can be hard to tell when a technological wonder (ala social networking) can become a mainstay or a fad. Certain artists feel repelled by the omnipresent nature that the Internet brings, since so much of the behind-the-scenes element is now in the forefront of any artistic endeavor.

If you want to build a system of cans and wire to get the word out, do it. If you want to send out balloons with posters of your book out, do it.  

Get your word out there being you if being you matters so much. 

But understand this. 

Innovation comes at a cost. With anything bold and different, there comes a good chance people will hate it and you will fall on your face if you worry about the criticism too much

Every major company has faced opposition from a loud mouthed select few who did not want them to succeed for whatever reason. 

They call this the three percent rule. The three percent rule states that "for every hundred people who love you, there will always be three people will never be satisfied" It's the science of haters. 

Don't think this is a new phenomenon because of the Internet either. In an interview with Mike Wallace, Rod Serling talked about the "lunatic fringe" of people who sent him postcards on a daily basis complaining about the subtle themes they were offended by in television programming, be it The Twilight Zone or Lassie (watch the interview, I'm not kidding about the Lassie thing). 

Haters happen. 

The Internet has made this easier. Any idiot can blog about it now. 

And they do it often. It's one thing to address the need for constructive criticism, but sometimes lines are crossed. People lose sight of the big picture and find conflict in the banal.

Never confuse the loudest voices with the voices of the majority. It happens. 

Don't confuse reality television crazies and neurotic protestors with the zeitgeist of the people at large. Drama is a wailing child that sucks all the attention from the sane ones. Mandy Moore is a pop culture example of this. You have to work hard to make her E! True Hollywood Story be interesting.

The only problem is, sometimes the subjective nature of creativity can distort things. A lot of artists are told they would never make it, only to strive and achieve. Later on, they become engulfed in their fame and lose touch with what got them there and more focused on developing reality tv shows. 

This is when backlash occurs.

When is it hating and when is it constructive criticism? It has a lot to deal with how you feel about the criticism and how much someone's career is riding on what you have to accomplish. Do the people criticizing come from a sympathetic place, or are they looking out for their own agenda?

You ever see someone who's happy for your mediocre success when they normally hate you? That's a hater. You ever see someone who does not have a good answer for your criticisms? Hater. 

A good amount of common sense should be applied here. People in the bleachers of life tend to take themselves more seriously than the ones on the field.   

Some people like to talk more than walk. Don't worry too much from the words of the occasional jogger when you're training for a marathon.

At the end of the day, this is your project not theirs, and don't listen to nobody who doesn't help you. Life is short. You're not going to look back on your life happy that you won over the opinion of superficial people. You're going to be happy that you set out to accomplish your own personal goals.

I think it is important to understand that publishing requires some form of marketing nowadays. 

You can't be like Harper Lee or Margaret Mitchell and hope a single book will exist in the ether and guide you to riches. I mean, you can hope, but wouldn't you rather do instead of worry? You need to join the conversation.

It doesn't have to be intrusive, it doesn't even have to be marketing. You can observe, admire, and make mention of your work to people who seem interested. See, do things you already do, with a little mention here or there. Okay, shy person?   

You know how there's that one movie you actually kind of like, but because a person you don't agree with likes it, you're reluctant to appreciate it? Marketing seems to be like that for a lot of people. If that's the case, do a little digging, a little research, chat me up on Twitter if need be, and find a way to hone your own personal bullhorn in your own way.

Sometimes promoting too much can alienate people into not buying a product. Promotion in some circles should attempt to be sincere, as opposed to chucking a can of spam at someone's head.

If you don't Twitter, find a way to make it work for you. I like making fun of people in jest on Twitter because I don't wanna talk about what I had for breakfast. Some people get it, some people don't. I don't insult, I make jest. It's tweeting on my own time.

If you feel like you can reinvent the wheel and do something else to get the word out there, do it. But, understand that innovation can come at a cost and that it's a lonely climb to the top.You can do a lot of good things when you don't worry about social stigma. You can also do a lot of bad things when you don't worry about social stigma.

Good ideas and bad ideas are like babies. It's hard to tell which one will grow up into a psychopath and which will grow to a person of good standing. Sometimes, bad ideas are just good ideas that weren't nurtured well while going through horrific circumstances.

It is romantic to "want to go where no man/woman has gone before", but individuals who test the boundaries of what is accepted to be possible will deal with those who will say that it cannot be done. Every minor setback will be seen as a shining example to the opposition about how it cannot happen. 

There are also the people who go on blind faith and make risks without any work or research and fail to achieve their goals. These people are often used as examples of why you cannot succeed by the naysayers.

A lot has been said regarding the methods, protocols, and other things people must do in order to "succeed' in the world. History has shown that while certain methods are more consistent and preferred than others, the only thing that makes a bad strategy different from a good strategy is the results the come with it.

That's where the uncertainty and fear of doing things differently comes from. 

It's okay to feel uncomfortable in becoming what you wanna be.

Writers tend to create work in a enclosed environment. It's safe there. It's when the gates open that fear comes.

There is a fear in letting your work out in the wild. There's a couple evil scenarios that brew in the mind on the eve of sending it out. You might overdose on success. You might be become depressed on failure. You'll have it all, and lose it in one fell swoop. When you think about it, it's better to have once than have never.
If all fails, understand that failure's more interesting than success.

If it's any consolation, I will proceed to tell you my own tale of falling flat on my face and what I have learned from said experience.

I decided to practice what I preach and promote my ebook through several avenues available on the Internet.

It's a sad fact that, outside of buzzwords, promotion usually works best by proxy. 

Read anything about finding fans and they will tell you what can only be seen as future common knowledge:  find out where target audience hangs and chat them up there while plugging your product

This is where content suggestions, Amazon, Google, whatever becomes important. You're playing six degrees of promotion. 

A part of you will feel like this is cheating in a certain way. By the mythical tortured artist viewpoint, it very well could be. If you find a better more sincere way of promoting yourself, by all means tell me.  

The first thing I did to promote myself was communicate with my fellow writers on different author boards. I made my presence known, and did my best to help them with questions (I was juggling a couple things, circus of life, you know what's up) and tried not to alienate anybody too much.

But, I noticed something. 

The message boards pertaining to literature had divided themselves into different sections. There was an entire section devoted to foreign authors promoting their books in different countries.

I thought about what would happen if I talked to them there. Google translate could easily take what I was saying and turn it into something they could understand.

So I said "why not?" 

I had changed up several posts I had written on the English site and translated them into Spanish, German, and French

What's the worst thing that could happen? 

I'll tell you.

To some people, planning out your dreams and having them fail in the face of reality is a big cause of misery and depression. In the creative arts, that's a truth that occurs every other day, mainly because paranoia heightens the failure into something that doesn't exist. 

The next time you're having issues writing something, think about how many metaphors, similes, and hyperboles you use. You don't really notice them because it's a part of your life since the fourth grade, but when you are having your work translated into different languages, these things make a difference.     

I went to the foreign section of the message boards (multiple sites, Kindleboards, whatever) and began to engage in conversation with authors in foreign lands. 

I had visions of international recognition and world wide book tours. Rick Riordan has international fans, why can't I?

I thought this would be the most paradigm shifting innovative thing in the world. Pull out the Monopoly board when you're playing checkers, the game was going to change

I looked at my stats after a couple of days. I was popular in Germany! I was popular in France! Argentina was checking me out! It felt great. 

Then I translated what the responses were. 

Apparently, asking "I wonder what drives you to write" translates into "I wish to be beaten" in German. Which wouldn't have been a bad thing, if I wasn't writing to a bunch of creeps who had a bunch of smiley faces in their responses. 

I was popular in Germany alright. 

Be careful what you wish for. 

The French were the polar opposite. A lot of snooty hatred, no mercy for mistranslations and syntax. 

I'm actually glad the French hated me for butchering their language. It was better than wanting me for all the wrong reasons. Seemed like future material for meditations on haters vs. psychotic fans.

I don't know what it's called when your visions meet reality and the farthest thing you want to happen happens (I know people call this "reality", but sometimes awesome happens), but I experienced it that day. 

This isn't to say I stopped right then. I went in and made my apologies, explaining this was after all a social experiment and an attempt to get to know the world better. It made me appreciate the foreign sections of message boards a little more. Knowledge brings closure.

I guarantee someone wants to go "good going idiot" to what occurred. I know there's some hater out there who wants to kick me when I'm down, and I think that person needs to take a good look at their life before opening their fat disgusting mouth. 

Everybody talks about taking risks and being bold. I don't think they really mean that, cause if you go on to do something and fail, it's usually those same people who will nail you to the cross for it. Legitimacy is hard. Dedication is humiliating. 

It's worth repeating: if you're going to do something no one's ever done before, people will tell you that it cannot be done. 

Sometimes you cannot measure someone by their resume. You have to execute. You can't really talk things into execution. You can only do them. A lot of people find this difficult, because it is. I can't write you into doing awesome things.

I think people just like complaining about things. You shouldn't listen to people that much. Work with what works, and don't work with what doesn't. Every once in a while, you'll see a motivational quote, message, etc. that goes on to state the obvious, which you respond "no duh", but sometimes the little things need to reiterated when all the complications are done.

I wanted to share this story to give aid with other authors and creative types who are holding back from the arena. When all is said and done, it's better to lose than wonder about whether you could ever compete.

Again, doing is hard. And that's okay.

What was lost? Nothing, a little humiliation and goofiness by some people I will probably never meet (I hope, I don't want to meet anybody who wants to beat me) and it didn't cost anything. 

So, if you yourself are a contrarian that doesn't want to conform to conventional ways of promoting yourself, be free to do so, and don't be afraid of a little trial and error. 

It's the scientific method, not the Super Bowl. People forget that.

Stay tuned and I will tell you how to get fans in other countries the right way. 

No comments:

Post a Comment