By selfless, I don’t mean giving away your books for free.
I mean a distinction between selfless versus selfish in how you go about the writing, publishing, and marketing.
Really, there aren’t two extremes: one who goes about this 100% selflessly or 100% selfishly. Everyone is apt to fall somewhere in between overall.
But let’s look at one possible extreme. Let’s label this as completely selfish (even though from some perspective, one might not agree with this label—don’t worry, we’ll explore this perspective, too):
- Write whatever comes to mind.
- Don’t write for a specific audience.
- Write however you feel like writing.
- Focus entirely on writing, if possible.
- Give as little attention to formatting, cover design, marketing, etc. as possible.
- Avoid interacting with readers or potential readers.
One way this might seem selfish is that you would be writing for you, not necessarily for the benefit of any particular reader. Will any readers actually appreciate what you’ve written?
Another way is that this ultra extreme example doesn’t entail learning or at least exploring the craft of writing itself, such as the elements of storytelling or characterization or making the writing flow.
Finally, this extreme is selfish in not wanting to meet or interact with readers, not to take a vested interest in marketing, not to add a personal touch to the reading experience, not to be willing to get out of one’s comfort zone with marketing, or to not want to take a more authoritative role in cover design, formatting, or the blurb.
Let’s compare with the other extreme, completely selfless (in a sense):
- Considering your abilities, knowledge, experience, creativity, etc. and how to harness these to match up with real readers.
- Thinking of ways to attract, engage, and please (or perhaps better, to wow) your audience from the front cover (the moment the reader lays eyes on your book) to the ending (that fulfilling climax and beyond). (Oh, yes! The writing and selling process is a romance, even if the book isn’t.)
- Researching, learning, and exploring ways to apply elements of effective storytelling, characterization, communication, etc. with a style that suits your writing.
- Looking beyond the writing itself, appreciating the challenge of trying to hook the reader with the cover and blurb, taking an interest in how the design of the book can supplement the feel of the story, and feeling motivated to share your passion with readers through marketing.
- Wanting very much to meet readers and potential readers, and to interact with them.
To be fair, there is another perspective to consider.
If you write so much for the readers that you lose yourself… you sacrifice your own style… you write about topics that don’t strongly interest you… your writing goes against some of your own beliefs… you write in ways that you hear are best, but you don’t really believe in them… your motivation becomes to sell as many books as possible, whatever it takes… or worse, you engage in unscrupulous behavior to reach more readers… then you are apt to feel like you’ve sold out.
But somewhere in between is a happy medium, where the author retains a strong sense of identity, but where the author writes more selflessly, trying to put the author’s talents, experience, knowledge, background, style, etc. to effective use to please actual readers.
Back to the romance analogy with writing, publishing, and marketing, you don’t want a one-night stand. You’re looking for readers to commit to your book. Your series. So you need to commit to your readers. It’s mutual.
Think about how much you C.A.R.E. and how showing this impacts sales, not just now, but in the long run.
- C.A.R.E. enough to make it easy for your audience to tell what kind of book you’ve written from a glance at your cover.
- C.A.R.E. to dress your book up in an attractive cover, one that tells readers, “Hey! This author C.A.R.E.s.”
- C.A.R.E. to stimulate the reader’s interest in the blurb, to not ruin the story for the reader by giving too much away, to show what kind of book the reader should expect.
- C.A.R.E. to learn and perfect the craft of writing to become an effective storyteller, to create strong characters, to communicate clearly, etc.
- C.A.R.E. to put the best possible book on the market, one that you will be proud of, one that readers will feel was well worth the money and time spent.
- C.A.R.E. to find out what readers think, to meet readers, to interact with potential readers, to let your passion show, to get out of your comfort zone and help readers discover your book.
- C.A.R.E. to think about how readers shop, how they will discover your book, what will pull the reader to your product page, what will make the reader take a chance on your book, how the beginning of the story will hook the reader, whether or not your story will engage the reader throughout, and whether your story is powerful enough to make the reader crave more.
- C.A.R.E. to make your book so good that it leads to word-of-mouth recommendations.
- Just C.A.R.E.
This works beyond writing books. How selfless do you write for social media? How selfless or selfish is your blog, for example? Is it meeting the needs of actual readers?
Copyright © 2016
Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
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