Authors in the Digital Age – a few observations and reservations about an article worth reading regardless.

Just found an interesting article about writing and selling books in this new online reality – from a marketing guru so I read it with salt cellar to hand. Firstly, the guy seems blind to the fact that a talent for writing and a talent for selling yourself are not the same thing and a lot of folk do not have both skills sets. Also he seems to assume that every potential book-buyer is fully accessible online, and the more I talk to people, the more I think that’s a myth.

That said, among the most useful advice I had when setting out, was how important it was to understand the business of writing, as well as the craft of writing. Working for Ottakar’s for a couple of years brought that home to me like nothing else could have done – and made a crucial difference to me taking that step from hopeful writer with a file of ‘thanks but no thanks/good but not quite good enough’ letters from agents and editors, to getting that amazing phone call from the man who wanted to publish my book – in fact, let’s talk a two book deal…

In particular, there are some undeniable cold hard truths in this article which the sharks and charlatans of the ‘creative writing biz’ work so hard to hide. Namely misconceptions about writing.

* The publisher will do the selling for me (Those days are long gone).
* I’m a literary purist and selling is below me (Good luck making money off of snobbery).
* I’ll post a free e-book on Amazon and wait for everything to take care of itself (Enjoy the long wait).
* I don’t have time to write and sell my work (The problem isn’t time; it’s prioritizing your time)

Full article here.

7 comments

  1. Interesting article.

    I’d add to your list of ‘stuff he assumes’ is that writing – newsletters, blog posts, etc – is an easy way for writers to promote themselves. You’d think so, but it’s not my experience (from managing websites for writers and others). If anything, writers seem to find writing off the cuff harder than other people.

    For what it’s worth, I tell me clients: don’t try to cover all the social media – find the one you are comfortable with, and do it properly.

    1. Absolutely. It’s notable that the very high traffic blogs, by the likes of Stross, Scalzi, Gaiman, are all by chaps with prior experience in journalism and/or other short-form technical etc writing. It’s another very different skill set.

  2. I have no trouble writing off the cuff — I just never know what to blog about! Also, finding people who are willing to have you on their blog for a guest post or want an article etc The marketer suggest doing those, but there’s no suggestion on how you go about getting the gig, which is what I struggle with.

  3. So, since I know from years of bitter experience that I don’t have what it takes to be a salesperson, there is no point whatsoever in my continuing to write. I had suspected that but this seems pretty much to confirm it.

    1. Only in this guy’s opinion, Marion, and as a marketing guru willing to sell his services, he has a big dog in this fight. Personally I’m thinking on ways around the issues we’re seeing that don’t require every writer to suddenly discover their inner Richard Branson… ghastly thought…

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