Many of you who read this probably know that I am a new published author, recently had my first full-length novel on Kindle, although I have had a very long love affair with books, writing and publication. I have ‘flirted’ with Chinese literary magazine (short stories in Chinese), as well as numerous publications of my academic papers and real life stories in prestigious English journals and international websites. Nevertheless, I would argue that having published The Same Moon, the first book of my trilogy has qualified me to make an official claim to be an author, and in that sense, I am a novice and a ‘baby’ in the ocean of authors.
All of a sudden, I stepped into a brand-new world of self-publishing and wow, my expectation of taking my time to ease into this new arena was quickly replaced by an overwhelming reality check: Jump right in to stay above water or sink/drown! The sheer scale and scope of the unknown, both in terms of people I’ve come to meet, as well the technical challenge threw me. The cost of being an author? Stress level multiplied and insomnia 100 times worse!
A friend of mine recently wrote a blog on Writers, What is your Motivation? It got me reflecting on my own motivation. Why did I write? Is it passion or money? Fame or Fortune?
I wrote The Same Moon between 1997-2003, on and off, even though the idea had been with me for much longer. I did not think then if anyone would ever read it or whether it would be published or not. As to how much money I was going to make or how famous I may become, it never came to my mind. I just needed to write, and words, sentences, paragraphs simply poured out from my heart and soul onto the computer screen. I felt the urge to write the story and there was no other way.
I am not trying to sound all noble or divine, devoid of human and earthly desires for glory and its associated financial benefits. Believe me; we live in this modern world of ours, where making money is the norm, a must, and becoming famous the ultimate goal for any regular men and women. Why would I be an exception?
A few months ago I had already published several chapters of my book on a website, free, of course, and I was going to serialise it before my friend told me that I could get it onto Kindle for free and perhaps even make a few bucks. So there you go, I must have been tempted by the prospect of making myself a fortune, admit it or not. Then if I did, I must be kidding myself.
Who is going to buy my book? And how many? How attractive is my book? What is the market? These are the questions I have no answer for.
Inevitably, I am now surrounded by fellow authors, some of whom are highly experienced and tremendously gifted, having sold hundreds and thousands of books, while others are like me, green hand holding their humble offering, treating into water with trepidation. How the hell can we persuade readers to splash out and buy our books?
Trick question, and trickier answer. Here comes the important link between the author and his/her ‘fan base’: The Social Media.
My very first attempt was relatively easy and straight forward: The Facebook. I have been a regular user and felt fairly competent in sharing holiday snaps, YouTube videos, interesting news, even organising parties, or mostly complaining about everything under the sun, from working hours to bad hotels. So trying to sell your first book is easy peasy, right? Just make an announcement and all your friends would be rushing into Amazon store and jamming the sales! Well, not quite like that! Despite being supportive and encouraging, it turned out that many of your friends actually do not spend time reading books, or even if they do, they may go for something slightly more surreal, or light-hearted, not some personal angst about a journey between the East and West, even though in my own eyes there were no worthier topic than that.
Then there is Twitter. All fun and easy and instant gratification. Even a fool can advertise their books on that and watch miracles happen. So I thought! Plucking up enough courage and one click away, there goes the link to your book, to people all over the world. Isn’t that just fabulous! Incredible!
Then I checked on my twitter from time to time, I saw many authors with links to their books. I learnt to retweet. Great! Someone did all the work, and all I needed to do was to find that little sign saying retweet, then you are helping someone else to sell theirs, or they are helping you! Marvellous!
Soon I got lost – there are so many tweets every day, every hour, every minute, every second; and because I signed up mostly authors, there are hundreds of books to promote to the hundreds of people who may or may not buy. I began to think while my heart sank: If they are tweeting day and night, when do they have time to read your book, if indeed they actually intend to buy it?
It also occurred to me that people write in different genres. And just like people who come in all sizes and shapes, we readers could also be fussy and picky in what we spend our extra cash on. If you are a huge fan of paranormal, or vampires, you may not be interested in anything real, or vice versa. If that’s indeed the case, someone can shovel up their superbly written romance to your face 100 times a day, and even give it to you for free to entice you, for goodness sake, you may still spurn their advances, wouldn’t you, if all you ever want is sci-fi, or next life.
With that ingenious insight, I thought I’d wise up, and signing up people who are not authors, people who may speak another language or people who travel and profess to read. My quest for this continues, since I am still a newbie in using twitter.
Please don’t get me wrong, and it is certainly not all doom and gloom, as I seem to be making out just now. As a matter of fact, it has been a fantastic ride so far, and a truly amazing and uplifting experience. I have met many intelligent, gifted, wonderfully giving individuals who generously give their time and efforts to help others and offer guidance wherever necessary. I see a whole new path stretching in front of me, with wondrous views and exciting prospects. I am determined to follow this through, and I would not have it any other way.
I hereby apologise to anyone who may feel offended by my humble opinion, as it was certainly not my intention. We all do what we think is right for us, and I am not here to judge anyone. I am just trying to rationalise my new ‘career’ and share some of the personal views I have on the social media and its many wonderful uses. Please do not take it personally. Thank you!
Please follow the link to my friend Al Boudreau’s original blog which I have referred to earlier: Al Boudreau.- what’s your motivation.
There are many books to guide you through the social media maze, and here is an example, by Phil Bowyer.