Writing, like anything worth doing in life is challenging and filled with daily lessons. One lesson became painfully obvious despite my many attempts to ignore it. I am on my own when it comes to marketing. I research quite heavily on how to market a book. Many people suggested outsourcing marketing such as hiring bloggers to share or review your work. There are an innumerable amount of people and “companies” on Twitter who are willing to Tweet books and/or put you in their email list to their “many” followers.
Like most authors trying to build a brand, I’ve had a hard time with marketing. The feedback I’ve gotten on my books from people I trust has been largely positive. However, giving out books for reviews rarely produces any reviews at all. So many people say they would love to write a review but when it comes to committing, they simply don’t show up to prom. To further that metaphor, I’m left alone on the dance floor without a date that swore to Heaven she would show. This is even after treating her like a princess and picking her up, she just slips away quietly right after we enter the school.
I feel like everything I’ve done as far as marketing is concerned is met with similar results. My wife and I tried to hire a marketing team, but even with the prospect of paying company several hundred dollars they still took weeks to respond and never met their deadlines. It’s beyond infuriating when I’m told I will get a response by Friday of this week and I don’t hear anything until four weeks have gone by and I contacted this person’s boss. After this I felt depressed. I am still learning how to find my audience. I need someone to come along side me and work with R. Michael Books long-term. I also got desperate. Desperation never results in good judgement.
I decided to reach out to a blogger who writes book reviews who initially contacted me. I researched this person and could not find anything bad about her and her site was professional and looked legitimate. I did research on whether authors should pay bloggers and one site suggested it is a good way to get exposure as did a few others. In my desperation I became convinced and decided to hire this blogger. She seemed professional and was always kind in her emails, so I ignored my reservations. She did produce a review on her blog, but it was obvious that she hadn’t read my book. It was just a bunch of flowery platitudes that were carefully crafted to stroke my ego, most likely in order to win a repeat customer. I decided to dig deep into Google and try to find ANYTHING I could about her other than what her website says. Lo and behold I found a KDP thread where a few authors detailed a similar experience with this blogger. I then carefully read through her blogs and they were all the same. Overly flattering to the author, she was reviewing.
I tell of this experience because I learned a few things. NEVER pay for a blogger to review your work. No matter how reputable he/she may be. The blog I purchased wasn’t technically for a positive review, and the site owner claims to only charge to help her family. I also know as someone who has a few websites that they are expensive to keep operational. It is frowned upon to pay for reviews in the literary world. I honestly didn’t realize that until it was after the fact and I did more reading on the topic, which meant going more than a few pages into Google. This review is utterly useless due to the nature of how it was designed to flatter me more than actually giving an honest look at my book. Initially I justified this in my mind because there are large companies that review books for several hundred dollars. Well-known companies and I found it odd that paying them is considered professional but not a blogger. Honestly, I don’t think either are all that helpful. As authors when it comes to getting reviews and selling our books it is based on time and hard work. Throwing money at the situation doesn’t solve the problem. I’ve learned my lesson, and if you are an author too, learn from mine as well.
I wrote a blog in late 2017 about another type of rare love, and that is friendship. Good and trustworthy friends who desire to invest in you as much as you want to invest in them are hard to come by. That is especially true in a culture that is busy and sometimes teaches that once you have a family friends are a luxury. Friendship doesn’t require two people to constantly be around one another, but if years go by is the term “friend” even accurate? If during that time both people change considerably and are not happy how things turned out, then is it good to continue to call the relationship a “friendship?”
There have been more people than I would like that fall into this sort of category. Not only has there been so much time between visits we don’t know each other, but a few people do not wish for that to change. Others have been toxic for various reasons, something which I didn’t know while I was close with them, but as they say hindsight is always 20/20.
There are things I would love to say to all these people, but I am starting to realize that the most loving thing I can do is let some people go. Some folks simply do not want to take the time or effort to invest in you. Their definition of “friend” is in all actuality an acquaintance. Someone they know, had a few good times, maybe even shared some deep things, but they ultimately don’t know you and you don’t know them. I would argue that most people have very few true friends if any at all. That is scary, especially since we are social creatures.
Do not misunderstand this, I’m not saying a long period of time between seeing each other necessarily means two people are not friends. What I am saying is that if one or both parties put little to no effort into the friendship it ceases to be a friendship entirely. Our emotions and sentimentality hinder us from making that realization. We often cannot comprehend that it might be loving to let someone go. Most of us would probably agree that we do not want a person feeling in bondage to us or an idea of us out of some sort of misguided sense of friendship.
Anyone who is an adult knows that with maturity comes more responsibilities. If you are a typical adult living on your own with a family you’re raising, this is particularly true. On top of work, raising children, and maintaining a relationship adulthood affords far less spare time than when we were younger. As a result, friendships fall apart and hobbies such as reading become neglected. Are we really so busy? If so, then is it necessary?
Western culture is notorious for cramming our lives with as much stuff and activities as possible. Children and work are huge commitments that take up most of our daily hours. Yet how much of this lack of time is due to having too many obligations instead of poor time management skills? After all, if you really want to read or spend time with a person you would. Sure, there are a plethora of good examples of things that could separate someone from a friend for a prolonged period or their reading hobby.
I have come across many people who say, “I would love to_____ but I just don’t have the time!” Here is my counter to that. The things I really love to do I still manage to do. Things I enjoy but aren’t as passionate about are the ones that get neglected due to “busyness.” Those we love and desire a real relationship with we reach out to even if we our personal lives have little room to work with. As a writer, when I read the statistic that roughly 80% of Americans do not read, I cannot help but wonder if the excuse of busyness is the reason. Then the next question that comes to mind is how can we writers come to terms with this and help American adults effectively rediscover the magic of reading?
Perhaps the answer lies in each and everyone of us contemplating what is our priorities in life. If we enjoy watching television, we will watch it. We all need to take an honest assessment of ourselves and discover our true priorities. If there is someone you think of as your friend but haven’t called him/her for years perhaps deep down, you may love or respect them but they are not really as close to your heart as you believe. The same goes for the more trivial things such as our hobbies. The point is that we all, myself included, need to reassess ourselves sometimes. If something needs to me more of a priority we need to make it so, otherwise we don’t care as much as we claim.
I’m a quiet introvert. I spent most of my life being submissive, avoiding conflict, and generally letting people steamroll over me. Due to dealing with bullies for many years, I feared being friendless and rejected. I rarely voiced my opinion, especially in situations where I knew someone would disagree with me. If a “friend” spoke harshly or was even mean, I kept my thoughts and feelings private, pretending outwardly that I wasn’t bothered.
This started to change once I had a life-changing event take place in 2013. I was riddled with anxiety due to yet another abusive friendship I found myself in. That year I finally spoke my mind on the toxicity of the friendship dynamic. Something which was completely foreign to me. A year later I decided to publish my first book and start blogging.
Writing has opened a new window for me. I feel more confident in what I have to say on a page and that has transitioned into my personal life as well. I’m done being a doormat, and once I made that decision, people started to take notice. Some were flabbergasted that I would dare to speak my mind. Writing has shown me it’s okay to have an opinion or voice, even an unpopular one. Everyone should be treated with kindness and respect, even if their behavior doesn’t warrant it. However, that doesn’t mean, as I erroneously once thought, that we cannot or should not stand up for ourselves. In fact, I would go so far as to say if a friend or family member doesn’t listen to your voice, especially if you are treated poorly or have an issue, then perhaps it is time to reevaluate the relationship.
If you are reading this I want to remind you that you have a voice. You have a right to speak up for yourself, your beliefs, and to defend yourself. Perhaps like me, you will find writing a means to empower you and your voice.
It was November of 2013 when I first started blogging on WordPress.com. Since then, I have learned much about myself and the whole blogging process. What started out as a mission to let the readers gain insight into the worlds I built and the process of writing, became so much more.
Truth be told, blogging was something I despised. I saw it as a way for people to sit from the safety of their homes and critique the world around them without having to get involved. Around the time of started on WordPress, I knew of someone who used his blog to spew criticism at the culture. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to say about societal shortcomings, but I wanted a theme, something to tie my stuff together and that’s writing.
Writing was to be the topic and I resolved not to deviate from that. In July of 2017 I finally moved on from WordPress.com and bought a domain. Along with that came a new vision with my blog. During the couple years I only wrote about writing, I struggled with topics, yet I did not want to be an armchair critic. Blogging after all is something anyone can do, anything can be said, and facts largely become irrelevant. That isn’t something I want to be a part of. However, many authors use blogging to discuss life, social issues, and the world.
I realized that if a reader is going to take the time to read a blog they want to know more than the ins and outs of writing. A variety of content is essential, especially if a blog is going to become monetized. I began writing on more topics, and realized that I can do it in a way where I don’t have to offer sanctimonious platitudes without facts. I can write about my observations in the world, sharing my thoughts and feelings while at the same time directing my own words back at myself. I have a blog about refusing to get offended but instead pausing and taking time to formulate our thoughts instead. This is something I need to do, especially in this crazy world that only seems to be getting more insane. Now, the challenge is to not become what I dislike about blogging, and become a critic from behind a computer screen without living up to my own standard.