Everybody has seen The Wizard of Oz. At least once. Probably a dozen times or more. And everybody probably recognizes at once those words:
Lions and tigers and bears…oh, my!
As I sat down to write this post, those words and that familiar rhythmic melody began pounding through my head. But the words soon changed. I wasn’t worrying about lions, tigers, or bears, but thinking instead of brands, concepts, and bios! Oh, my!
Writers today have an overwhelming array of things to worry about. We can’t write one book then move on to the next. We need to promote our work, make the rounds on social media sites, and actively participate in author and reader loops.
Almost every day it seems that some new site is popping up forcing writers to learn new technologies, develop different marketing strategies, and spend more time on-line and less time doing what we do best: writing stories for readers to enjoy.
We need websites, Facebook pages, blogs, and Twitter. There’s Rafflecopter for giveaways, and Random.org for choosing winners. I haven’t figured out Triberr, I’m still a bit confused about Tumblr, and why would anybody really care where I am with Four Square? And what about blog radio? Yikes!
We need swag — stuff we all get, or stuff we all give. I’m not really sure what it means, but it translates into business cards, bookmarks, tote bags, and other promotional items, which, of course, means more money out of our pockets, but it’s worth it, isn’t it, if it helps us gain visibility and get our names “out there” — wherever “out there” is.
There are dozens of helpful “coaches” who — for a fee — will tell us exactly how to handle book promotions, how to develop our online image, how to create a ‘brand”. We’re not writers, really. We’re products to be packaged, marketed, and hopefully, sold to consumers eager to figuratively eat us up.
Amidst all this clamor and confusion, there is a little common sense to be found. While much of the advice touted on the internet is redundant, ridiculous, impractical, or worthless, some does have value.
- Read what you can; accept what makes sense to you.
- Don’t try being everywhere, doing everything.
- Make writing your first priority. If you have nothing to offer, there’s no need to promote yourself.
- Ask for help when you need it.
The most important aspect, I think — and this applies whether we’re talking about writing, socializing, promoting, or anything else in life — is having a solid understanding of who we are and what we’re doing.
Every year, as November approaches, I prepare for the annual writing event known as “National Novel Writing Month” — NaNo for short. Chris Baty, the founder of the event, wrote a handy little guidebook for participants. In No Plot? No Problem, he suggests making a Magna Carta for writing. I do this religiously each year.
- List 10 things you like in books you read.
- List 10 things you hate in books you read.
By doing this, you can get a good look at who you are as a reader, which is, ultimately, who you need to be as a writer. Makes sense, don’t you think?
It’s only when we figure out who we are and what stories we have to tell that we can successfully maneuver our way through the online forests and overcome the fears of our own “lions and tigers and bears”. Oh, my!