(Part of Novel Publicity Whirlwind Book Tour, check out the PRIZES)
Marketing, or How I Proved the Existence of Hell
Self-publishing requires either A) no skills and being totally deluded as to the reality of success in the book market, or B) no skills and the reality you’re going to have to learn a lot. And that’s a simple fact. Between writing, editing, formatting, choosing a printer, choosing retailers, web development, content generation, typesetting, book trailers and the fifty other things I’m forgetting, you’re certain to encounter a challenge for which you are in no way prepared, and not only are you not prepared, your desire to become prepared hovers somewhere near the axis of zero.
I discovered mine on January 11, 2012--Marketing.
Marketing’s an entirely deceptive term. When a thing is so multi-dimensional and other-worldly abstract, we expect it come coupled with tongue-tying terminology. I mean, who would touch marketing if it was done by someone called a, “Surpurgodunintrihumanthofeelemo-ologist?” (Stands for: “Surveyor, purveyor, and Godlike understander of all intricate human thoughts, feelings, and emotions.”) No one. And that’s just the beginning! As it’s really only one aspect of marketing. You not only need to communicate with the potential book buyer, but with the many marketing channels available, i.e. book bloggers, book reviewers, book recommendation sites, book social networking sites, and many, many more. Essentially, in order to succeed at marketing, when you’re not busy being a social butterfly, expanding your pool of contacts and showing a legitimate interest in people’s lives, you need to be a socially reclusive, type-A, mega-jerk who produces the stuff that gets sent to all the people who are now your contacts.
As this is seriously an enormously enormous undertaking, I did what I’d advise any author do. Write Novel Publicity and get some help. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Problem solved, right? How could it be that marketing is such a huge undertaking you cannot count on Novel Publicity alone? Unfortunately, while Novel Publicity is your access to the market, you are still your own personal generator of content. Guest blog posts, interviews, all manner of interactions still come from you, and they’re a perspective reader’s introduction to your writing, your style, your passion, and ultimately if they’re interested in your work.
These are elements I’m fine with.
These are elements I thought I was fine with.
After all, it can’t be that hard, can it? Blog-post-smog-post. Promotional-images-smosional-images. You’re a brilliant author who wrote an entire novel, what can this world throw at you that you can’t beat back with your bare fists? Well, a lot, and way more than you think, too. Do you know how to use Calibre? HTML? Gimp? Neither did I, but thanks to our good friend YouTube, I was able to spend a what-would-be-hilarious-if-it-weren’t-so-depressingly-true amount of time learning them. And it was going fine—sure, I was underslept, over-sugar’d, and had begun to scratch myself so frequently I was breaking skin in more than one or two places, but aside from all that, I was a marketing genius! I was…lying to myself. I was scratching my head frequently, and I was encountering a new, unforeseen challenge at every corner. (Novel Publicity would gladly have helped me, but I wanted their time to be used for, you know, generating publicity, not a grade school-style education seminar for me). Then, it finally happened, I realized what I had needed to realize since the beginning.
Children are evil.
No, seriously, they are. Stay with me on this one.
It happened while I was working on the image below.
Being an adult means your time getting screwed over on the playground is over. Well, it’s not really over. Adults are as catty as children, but it’s different. Adults are so covert, so pathological, and so politically calculating in their screwing over of others that it trumps all human understanding. Kids simply call you a name and move on, so I suppose I mean to say that, as an adult, your days of outright mockery are over. No longer will you be subject to a choir of second grade girls singing, “Jus-tin, bus-tin, the big fat…” as the song dies since they had called you fat, there was nothing obvious to rhyme it with, and there was no reserve hatred left in them, and since they’re not total nut job psychotics like grown-ups, they move onto the sensitive boy who loves to draw unicorns and hearts.
As you may have guessed, I was talking about myself.
And I was wrong.
My days of outright mockery had only begun!
Why, you ask?
Because I decided to self-publish my novel, and because I lacked skills. The image above did not make itself. In fact, I’m only 20% certain of why it turned out the way it did. Much like a child, I bought in on total faith that the directions I was being given would work, then knocked this “learning comprehension” business aside. And why do I use child in that example? Well, being such an amateur, you won’t know how to correctly ask Google for answers. For instance, in the text up top, a professional knows to type, “How do you create text with a radius of so-and-so so it appears like an arch?” You, on the other hand, type, “How do you make text look like a rainbow?” That’s right. You’re gonna ask as if you were a six-year old, so guess what? You’re gonna get search results from midget-geniuses who’re so young they’re struggling to lose that lisp one gets when learning English.
With your earphones plugged it, that little voice starts at you in much the way that girl (or boy or still girl given your gender and sexual orientation) looked at you when you innocently sat next to her on the bus, that look of, “Who are you and what makes you think you don’t have to maintain fifty feet of distance from me at all times?” “Okay, guys, like, this is simple, like, first thing we’re gonna do is create a path.” Click-click-click-click-click-click! “Okay, looks nothing like what you want, but that’s fine, we’ll fix it later.” Click-click-click-click-click! “Okay, here we go, we color to alpha, create a new layer, color to alpha again.” Click-click-click-click-click! “Take the path tool, debate buying a shotgun now that I’ve convinced you you’ve failed at life, then change the angle, now, if you want to change the color, you use the select tool, but not like you’re used to using it, I’ll now proceed to click around the screen like a swarm of hornets attacking an intruder and not explain a single step.” Click-click-click-click-click-click-click-click! “Alright guys, wasn’t that simple? Make sure you submit your humiliatingly easy questions so my buddies and I can laugh at you before we record the next lesson.”
How long did it take you to read that?
Divide that by four, and that’s how fast the kid said it.
In a way, it’s not the kid’s fault. Children have brains that learn everything quickly, effortlessly, and with no respect for it. It’s not till you’re a teenager when you hit places where, despite your effort, you’re not gonna learn it. Rationally, I understand this. But, as a human being, in a dark corner of my favorite local eatery, constantly pausing/playing/pausing/playing/pausing/playing while I toggle between Firefox/Gimp/Firefox/Gimp/Firefox/Gimp in an ever-failing attempt to emulate this six year old Einstein, I realize: It’s kind of amazing such a young kid knows this stuff. Still, I don’t know if I admire this child or I want to punch him in the face. That’s what this child had done to me. That thin line between love and hate, he has blurred it and I can no longer tell the difference between unconditional love and righteous hatred.
“Wow, mister, I’ve never met anyone as dumb as you before!”
So I add an addendum to my original statement: Children are evil, and so is marketing. And by that I mean: Marketing is responsible for all evil on the planet Earth. I’m serious. It’s hard at its every level. There’s no way to just be “good” at marketing, and nothing will diminish the fact that literal blood, sweat, and tears will be lost to its cause, which ultimately ends up at what we call the “marketplace,” or as I’ve recently been referring to it, “The Death-Vacuum that Took the Giant Black Hole at the Center of the Milky Way and Said, ‘Wow, You Look Like a Tasty Candy Bar.’” I hate to use sports analogies since not everyone likes sports, but the only thing more infuriating than marketing may be consistently hitting a baseball.
In baseball, if you hit 30% of the time, you’re a legend.
In marketing, I’m gonna say if you hit 5% of the time, you’re a legend.
Sykosa, my new YA novel for which all this marketing is being done, is a work of love, but more than a work of love, it’s a good book. I went to fantastic lengths to ensure this. Like any good character should be, Sykosa is indescribable, but because we have marketing in this evil world, I’m going to do it anyway. Sykosa’s a sixteen-year-old girl who’s struggling to reclaim her identify after an act of violence shatters her life and the lives of her friends. She’s also kind of a riddle, but that’s alright, because you’ll know—in your gut—this is exactly the decision she would make, even if you can’t articulate why. She likes a boy she probably shouldn’t, except you’re not going to think, “Why is she dating this guy?” because you’ll know—in your gut—this is exactly the guy she would date, even if you can’t articulate why. She’s bright and could do a lot with her life, but she’s letting it slip past her, and you’re not gonna get upset with her, you’re gonna empathize, because you’ll know—in your… Egh, I could go on and on. Sykosa is special, I’m telling you she is, and I’m working this marketing game—which fits me like the worst fitting glove imaginable—to get her an opportunity.
I don’t say that to illicit sympathy. This is marketing, after all.
As I’ve learned, if I wanted sympathy, I woulda joined the military.
Comparatively, they treat you nice there. (I jest).
Still, perhaps you can imagine… What’s it like to watch this child’s mouse clicking about the screen, thinking seven things at once, and me in my chair, unable to eat my entire plate of French fries cause my metabolism won’t allow it, confused cause, as an adult, you need things presented to you sequentially, and logically, and, like, yes, you need people to take at least one breath between sentences! I mean—seriously, when do children breathe? Does it ever happen? Is this one of those things you don’t have to do until you’re grown up?
(Count to ten, Justin. Count to ten… He’s just a child. Nothing more).
Anyhow, Sykosa came out this week, and now she’s finishing her Whirlwind tour. I’m writing this all before it’s happened and I think, I hope, I’ve survived it and things are looking good for the future. For now, all I can say, in my most evening news-ish marketing voice, “Please visit Sykosa.com for lots of Sykosa related stuff, like character profiles, sketches, funny diagrams, a video question and answer blog, and a forty page excerpt.” But, I wonder if it that message can be heard, if amongst this open array of electrical impulses large enough to capture the entire human imagination, and small enough molecularly to be stuffed into box so tiny we lack the technology to even build it, is there room for Sykosa?
Can she break through the mist? Do you hear her?
She’s trying to say, “What’s up!”