Monday, 24 January 2022

Self-confidence, social media, and the hell that is marketing...

When I was dropped by my publisher back in 2017, it stung. To be honest, it wasn't completely unexpected, I don't think we were ever a good fit from the start, in hindsight. But, the brutal way in which it happened was a bit of a kicker. Basically, they just ghosted me. That's it. The end. You release that final book that you're under contract to release, after they've given you a task they were never going to give one of their big hitters because it had a 70/30 chance of failure and those odds were never going to be on my side. But, even though I knew it was coming, it still felt like a kick in the teeth. If you aren't up there with their favourites, earning the money and bringing in the sales then you are absolutely expenable, and instantly forgettable. And, yeah, it was like a punch to the gut. Something that dented my confidence big time, and I'm not sure that confidence ever came back. 

As a writer - and I'm sure I'm not alone in this - you sometimes find yourself comparing yourself to other authors, and asking those same questions over and over again: am I as good as them? Why can't I be as successful as them? What do they have that I don't? And it's impossible to answer those questions, in reality. But, you know, yeah, you probably are as good as they are, but you probably won't ever be as successful as them, at least, that's what I keep telling myself, because the things that they have that you - that I don't have are, well, that's a long list: an agent, for one. Money to throw at advertising and marketing. A huge readership gained through social media/blog tours/word of mouth. All things I have none of. Nothing. No agent, no money to throw at marketing, and only a tiny, but loyal readership. I struggle with everything as far as my writing goes now, to be honest, and lack of confidence has a lot to do with that. I find myself second guessing everything, which is probably why I have about 8 started but not finished manuscripts, and notebooks full of scribbled ideas that I think, at the time, are going to be the next best thing, but soon find myself pushing aside because, well, I'm not sure it's going to be something people want to read.

But then there are also days when I read back through chapters I've written and I know I can write. I know I can. But the frustration at not being able to get the word out there about my books just takes over, and I'm once again second guessing, losing focus, wondering whether it's worth putting in all this work when only about 6 people are going to read it. I can't compete with those authors who have this marketing shit down pat. I don't have the confidence to put myself out there on blog tours, even if I could afford it, because I'm not sure my books are what those readers want to read. I don't have a YouTube channel or a TikTok account, and I'm not somebody who feels comfortable pushing themselves or their work, and that's been my problem from the start. That's another reason why my publisher dropped me. If you aren't out there, with a huge social media presence, you're no good to agents or publishers, because don't for one second think signing to a publisher means you get your marketing done for you. You don't. You really don't, not unless you are a BIG name. And while, in reality, I'm glad to be free of that pressure, I just don't know how to promote my books when I'm technically doing it completely alone. Should I just keep pushing myself forward? Won't people get sick of that? Sick of me banging my own drum? Well, you know, who else is going to do it if I don't? 

Anyway, this has been yet another rambling post, but that's what this blog is for, really. To get it out there, what I'm feeling. Thinking. A way to get it off my chest, and maybe find a way forward because talking about this stuff does help, even if I'm just shouting into a void. And the thing is, I write because I love it. It's what I've always wanted to do, what I've dreamt about doing since I could pick up a pencil, I've been making up stories and putting them down on paper since forever. And to be able to do that now, day after day, and actually publish them, even if only half a dozen people read those stories, that's good. That's OK, I never wanted to do this for money or fame, I just wanted to write books. And I feel so, so lucky that I can sit at my desk and create these characters and their worlds, and lose myself in their journeys. So maybe I should stop whinging and just get on with that, huh?

In the beginning, at the very start of my writing journey, when there were very few of us out there selling our self-published books on Amazon, I was asked what advice I would give to any other new authors out there, and I still remember it to this day. And I still, every time I have these bad weeks, when I feel down on myself and wonder if I should just do what many others have done in the pursuit of success and write about a nice little teashop in a cosy village/seasidse town rather than the dark romance I'm so much better at; the bikers and the cartel kings and queens, I'm good at that shit. So, yeah, that advice. I said these words, and I still believe them. And I should listen to them more...

Find your own voice, and learn to love it. Don't aim to be the next whoever, aim to be the first you.

And now I'm off to finish my latest work-in-progress about a hot-as-hell bodyguard and a woman he knows he can't have, but that's not going to stop him from trying...

Speak soon!

Michelle x

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