There are no miracles in marketing. That’s especially true for writers. To draw attention to your work, in the parlance of so-called social media mavens, you need to have a brand and flaunt it shamelessly to the masses.
Access to social media, they say, is a great leveler. Writers can reach out across the great Worldwide Web and claim a brand and advertise themselves accordingly.
But there are two major impediments to this one-size-fits-all strategy. First, there’s the incessant noise of every other writer promoting his and her brand.
“Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquences sometimes sublime, and sometimes pathetic.”
So said Samuel Johnson in 1758. He could have been talking about Google Ad Words or banner ads online. Just as in the mid-18th century, standing out in the crowd as a writer today is a matter of luck or an investment of riches.
The second problem is with writers themselves. Contrary to popular perception, few of us are hucksters, willing to thump our chests and shout from the rooftops: “Read me! Read me!”
That’s what publishers are for. Writers write. Publishers print and promote the writer. Or they once did.
Yes, many famous writers are good at self-promotion. And one could argue, they are famous because they are relentless at the task. Johnson himself was a tireless self-promoter. But the very nature of writing for most of us is to shun the spotlight, to work in solitude, hoping against hope that the work will stand on its own.
Johnson once said, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” Without becoming a recognizable brand, we’re told, financial success will elude the modern writer.
I respectfully disagree. Writers aren’t brands. If you think of yourself as such and your work is merely to promote the brand, you’re a sad case of a writer. This doesn’t mean you have to be a wallflower. If you’ve written something fine, tell people about it and use all the social tools you have at our fingertips. It would be foolish not to.
But don’t write to fulfill your brand. Don’t constrict yourself. Don’t hold yourself back. Take chances. Wander intellectually and emotionally into ideas and realms where brand has no meaning. Be bold. Ignore the advice of hucksters. Define your own success. Above all: just write.
© Mark Everett Hall 2011