Writers: You Can Only Control the Process, Not the Results

Every writer wants to sell more books.

Every writer wants to find more readers.

But if you are writing for the purpose of results, you’ll be frequently disappointed in this cut-throat, highly-competitive business.  The faster you realize that, as a writer, the only thing you control is the process, the faster you’ll be at peace with the results – whether good or bad.

I figured this out long ago. I began novel-writing and play-writing because I couldn’t contain the creativity that started bubbling over in my brain. It became my release and eventually my passion. When I eventually decided to start putting my works out in the public eye, I received a rude awakening – not because the results were bad, no, because the results were good.

My first novel started to sell some. Then reviews started coming in, positive reviews, and before I knew it my first novel had racked-up 80+ reviews on Amazon. I was floored and even thought quietly to myself that this isn’t so hard after all.

Ha. That’s when my rude awakening began to seep in. I suppose it was more gradual than rude, but it was certainly real nonetheless. Book two, for some reason, seemed more difficult to market. Then the rules changed at Amazon, and certain big promotion sites changed the way they did business. Everything got more competitive, and before I knew it, I had no idea how to sell books anymore.

Well, it turns out that I didn’t know in the first place. When I think back upon it, I have no idea how my first book did so well in getting reviews. Am I doing anything different now? Yes, actually. I’m better at marketing now. I work harder now. And has it led to more results?

Not really.

So what’s the deal? For me, the deal is that I don’t know how to sell books. But who cares!

Not me. I know what I can control and that’s my writing process.

So I ask myself these questions:

Am I writing the stories I want to tell?

Am I putting the proper time into revisions: 2nd, 3rd, 4th drafts?

Am I meticulous in the editing process?

Do I have an editor helping me improve my book?

Have I recruited beta readers to give me early feedback?

Am I purposeful when thinking about cover design and book layout?

Do I put time and effort into recruiting reviewers who will post honest reviews?

Do I market with variety in mind?

Am I trying new marketing avenues?

Am I adjusting to new trends and reading up on new developments?

Am I reading other blogs to get feedback about process and the book industry in general?

Am I striving to be better?

If I can answer “yes” to every one of those questions above, then I simply do not care about results because I can’t control them anyways.

I can, however, control the process. If I can look back without regrets and say that I’ve written the book I wanted to write and I marketed it in the absolute best way I know how, then I think it’s safe to say that I have successfully fulfilled the requirement of my passion for writing.

How about you? Are you concerned with results or process?

I got a note from Mark Z

I got a note from Mark Zuckerberg. Okay, thanks for pointing out that I was just 1/2,000,000 to do so. And I only did so because I’m feeding the Facebook machine with my hard earned cash. Doesn’t sound that special when I put it that way. (By the way, spell-check didn’t recognize Zuckerberg, so that’s something.)

facebook thank you

On this momentous occasion, I thought I’d give my thoughts on the usefulness of Facebook advertising.

I have to this point only used “Boost Post” function to advertise my author’s page. It’s been well documented on many sites that a page’s post will, on its on, only generate a meager reach to one’s Facebook audience. This is especially true when only posting a link.

My daily blog post is automatically linked to my Facebook author’s page and on average it will only reach upwards of 5% of the people who have previously liked my page. Links rarely get much more than that unless a few people have “liked” it which enables broader dissemination.

Direct posts onto my page which do not originate elsewhere do far better, typically reaching more than 10% of my overall audience. But to reach a far greater audience than that, Facebook wants you to “Boost Post.”  By plopping down a few dollars, a particular post can reach thousands of people who have either liked your page or friends of those who have.

I will typically do this when I have a book promotion that I want my wider audience to know about.

How effective has it been? It’s difficult to say, exactly. Facebook gives you all the details – clicks, click-through rate, and other metrics which are supposed to help you evaluate if your ad achieved its goal. But ultimately, it is difficult to say how many clicks end up as sales. Sometimes I’m able to see an uptick in sales at the same time as the ad, but other times I don’t.  But then sometimes I see an uptick in sales and I have nothing concrete to attribute it to. It just happens.

So ultimately, I look at Facebook boost post as a way of getting information into the hands of my reading audience. I don’t ever expect big sales from this boosts. I consider it just one aspect of doing business – one which I hope raises the long-term awareness of my books in the minds of readers.

I will continue to use Facebook boost, at least for the time being, until I can find better ways to reach interested people with my product updates.

That’s my take.

Thanks for the note, Mark.

5 Star Average Rating! (my foot)

I am probably the worst nightmare of other authors: click on all their links — not because I’m curious about their book — but because I’m curious as to why someone would be interested in their work. I like to troll around on Amazon and see what people are buying, read a few reviews, and just get an overall sense of what’s out there.

Of course, in doing so, I often find myself shaking my head at the types of books and types of hype which is used to sell books.

I saw on Twitter someone advertising a book which had a “5-star rating average.” My first thought was, wow, it must be some book. My follow-up thought was that there must be something wrong with this picture – no book with any amount of stars maintains a 5-star rating. I had to find out, so I clicked on the link, found myself on their amazon page, and sure enough, the book had an average 5.0 star rating. Here’s the break-down:

1 Review = 5 Stars

That’s it. Now it was a verified purchase review, so that’s at least something.

But come on, are we fudging the facts just a bit? I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable in saying that in an advertisement. It worked, in that it at least got me to click on the link and look at the author’s book, but …

Hey, I understand. Advertising is tough. The market is saturated and you want to use every trick available to grab someone’s attention. But still – is that the best you can do? Even if I was interested in the topic of the book (which I wasn’t), I wouldn’t have bought it because of such an underhanded tactic.

I’ve been advertising my latest novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree, at 4.8 stars on 22 reviews. In my opinion, that’s enough independent reviews to get a sense of how readers are accepting the work. I’m comfortable in promoting that. But 1 at 5?

Come on, authors, we can do better than that.

The Exhaustion of Self-Promotion

Boy, do I need a publicist! An independently wealthy publicist who can spend hours on end promoting my writing just because they have nothing else to do and they are head-over-heels in love with my prose.

So if you know anyone …

As an indie author who has a job and who coaches softball and who teaches and produces drama, I find that I have no time for self-promotion of my works. And so a couple weeks will go by and I realize that I haven’t proactively done anything to get my name out there. It can, at times, be frustrating.

Of course, my very best publicists are my readers. I am eternally grateful for them, especially the ones who enjoyed my novel and passed on the word to someone else. Nothing beats that.

But there is much work to be done.

I’m still advertising on Goodreads with so-so results. But I keep telling myself, results are important at this point. I have to continually get my novel and my name out in front of people. I have to build a big of a base as possible before the release of novel #2. (Which is now about 4 months away!)

But more needs to be done. Today, I finally had some time to contact some more bloggers and review websites. I also need to get some more interviews and do more guest posts. On top of this, I need to look into some additional advertising options now that I have a large amount of reviews on Amazon.  So much to do!

Oh, and besides all of this. I need to write. That is the primary responsibility of a writer, isn’t it?

OK, I’m just ranting today about the lack of time. (and the lack of that uber-rich publicist)

But I keep telling myself – this isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. I’m in it for the long haul.

I’ve heard it said the the only promotion campaign that doesn’t work is the one that stops. It can never stop. I must keep it moving forward because I believe in my novel and the future works of mine coming down the pike.

So, here I go, pushing forward once again.

It can be exhausting. But it can also be exhilarating. The latter is the one I choose to focus on.