April 2, 2013

Modesty and the Indie Author

I once had a job at a retail clothing store. It lasted six weeks before I could no longer force myself to, well, force myself upon people. The manager of the store was always hovering over me, urging me to make myself indispensable to the customers. In my mind, the best way to do that was to greet them, let them know I was available if they needed anything, and then get the heck out of their way. But the manager wanted me to strike up a conversation and begin suggesting clothing items. I was supposed to spew flattery and steamroll over any protestations that they didn’t need my help.

It was far from my dream job and I ended up quitting before I got fired. Sales has never been my thing; I’m painfully shy when it comes to approaching people I don’t know. I don’t like it when a salesperson gets in my face, so why would I do it to other people?

Imagine my dismay upon discovering that being a successful indie author requires not just having the sales skills to effectively market myself and my work, but using them, blatantly and often. Indie authors must somehow gain a following. It’s not enough for us to write a good book, we have to inspire our readers to help us, to spread the word for us, because most of us can’t afford to pay for advertising.

It’s called ‘marketing,’ and for those of us with deeply ingrained modesty, it’s a nightmare. I’m supposed to be on Twitter, constantly tweeting about my books. I’m supposed to be on Facebook, constantly posting about...yeah, you get the picture.

The thing is: I’m grateful to every single person who’s not only read my work, but taken the time to go to my Facebook Author page and click LIKE. I’m beyond thrilled every time I get a review on Amazon or Goodreads or LibraryThing, or a tweet from someone begging me to write faster because they are dying to read the next book in the series.

I don’t want to repay them by filling their inboxes with spam.

There’s no question that I’m shooting myself in the foot by not taking advantage. Thing is, how am I supposed to interact with my fans when I can’t even comfortably call them that? They’re just people who happen to like something I wrote. And I’m just a writer who seems doomed to fade into obscurity because I cringe away from putting myself out there.

I’m exceedingly lucky to be able to write my books. Note that I didn’t say ‘write my books for a living.’ I’d have to be a salesperson for that to happen.



  1. Melissa, I earned a good living as a marketer, but I feel the same way about marketing my books. Beating people over the head with buy-my-book doesn't sell your book faster than just chatting about your books. In reality it serves the opposite. Beat me up long enough, and I'll refuse to buy-your-book just on principal.

    I'm not opposed to putting myself out there, but do it smart.

  2. The trick, in my mind, is to find a balance between advertisement and entertainment, like a Super Bowl commercial, so that rather than having to spam people, they seek us out. Not an easy feat...

  3. I have exactly the same feelings (and a very similar experience as a real salesperson). But I thought my excuse was that I'm British and we're rubbish at pushing ourselves forward, striking up conversations with strangers, saying immodest things about what we've produced. But I don't think nationality comes into it when faced with a pushy salesperson in a shop or an insistent 'buy-my-book' on FB or Twitter. My reaction is always to leave the shop or click delete. And yet, and yet, and yet ... you're right, Melissa. If we don't do it, how do people know our books are out there? (Deep sigh.)

  4. I agree with your sentiments. And I can say that you are a really awesome writer, having read one of your books!

  5. I don't know that you are shooting yourself in the foot by not spamming. I rarely tweet buy my book and then I took the notion to do so one day last week and lost three followers.