08 Aug Learn to Love the Hustle
I stopped this Chinese tourist the other day at Bondi to take a photo of his t-shirt. He and his girlfriend thought it hilarious, proudly telling me the t-shirt was made in China. ‘Other people have laughed. You’re the first to take photo,’ he said.
It was perfect timing. I’m really trying to learn to #LoveTheHustle. By hustle I mean promoting, marketing or selling anything creative you do.
As you probably know, writers are a strange bunch. We hermetically lock ourselves away to create imaginary worlds or re-imagine events we’ve already lived. We slice and dice, chop and edit, write and re-write. Eventually, sometimes years later, we finish a book. It can then take more months and even years to get it published or self-published. By then, we’re ready to move on to the next project. But no, we have continue to promote the one in the bookstores.
I’ve been talking about writing all year: ahead of my launch in the UK, when I was in London and here again.
Indeed, I had great plans to update you all weekly from London but I could only manage to update one channel regularly: my author Facebook page. I admit, I went into overwhelm.
Since then I’ve got some strategic help with my marketing. I’ve had a couple of sessions with a fabulous UK marketing coach Alasdair Inglis who offers bespoke help for small businesses. By the time we’d broken down all my projects, he’d covered 5 pieces of butcher’s paper. ‘No wonder you’re overwhelmed, Claire,’ he said.
What worked, what didn’t
I did some dumb things ahead of my launch: like trying to re-do my author website two weeks out. Even though I started pitching to UK newspapers and magazines early, I took a scattergun approach and only got rejections.
In the States there’s a good reason why a publicist starts working with an author 8-9 months ahead of publication. It takes that long to put together your launch strategy and line up traditional media.
But all over, the landscape has changed. I’ve heard this consistent message from publishers in the UK, Australia and India (where The Pagoda Tree has just been launched — woo hoo! Yeeks, more hustle.) In fact, in the words of one publisher, ‘The shrinking space for books is a leitmotif of our marketing discussions.’
Getting reviews, especially for fiction, is increasingly hard in the mainstream because there are fewer newspapers doing fewer reviews. One of Britain’s leading broadsheets used to have a team of five book editors, now it’s one woman who was formally the intern. When I went to see her, she was just about visible above the stack of books surrounding her desk. No wonder she hadn’t responded to my email.
So, if this is learning to love the hustle. What’s the best way to do it?
1. Find what works for you. Pick one social channel and post on it because you enjoy connecting to your community. If you really hate Facebook, don’t use it. Your audience will be able to tell. Make it genuine and authentic to you.
2. Mix the in-person approach with online. I regret only doing one event in the UK apart from the launch. I was advised not to bother because so few people turn up but actually doing a book event means your book gets promoted, you usually have a nice time (I did at the Wordsaway salon) and you get to meet great people.
3. Ask for help. I wanted to invite the rather gorgeous Nikesh Patel from the Channel 4 series, Indian Summers, to my book launch. I mentioned it on Facebook and hey presto, a dear friend tweeted him and he direct messaged me. He couldn’t come to my launch but I did send him a copy of the novel.
4. Try new stuff. Unbound are teaming up with the UK Reading Agency to offer my novel to book clubs and I’ll be doing a live Twitter Q&A with the reading groups after they’ve read it.
5. Take risks. When I was in the UK, I went into Waterstones Bristol and awkwardly asked if they had a copy of The Pagoda Tree. The friendly sales assistant asked if I knew the name of the author. ‘Claire Scobie, spelt with an ‘ie’, I think,’ I said.
Hellooooo! I faked knowing the spelling my own name because I was that embarrassed. I walked out thinking, this is madness. Four years researching and writing the thing, another four trying to get it published in the U.K. And I can’t even be bold enough to ask for it in a bookshop. Not only that. I felt personally offended when the nice man said no, they wouldn’t be stocking it.
That’s when I decided I’ve got to learn to LOVE the hustle and the rejection even when I feel squirmy inside. I’ve got to learn to love it all. A week later, with my mum for moral support, I went into Waterstones Oxford and asked if they had my book. The woman raved about Unbound – ‘my favourite publisher’ and asked me to sign a copy. She promptly stuck a ‘Signed by the Author’ sticker on it and put the book at the front of the shop. I felt proud.
So what about you all, how do you do the bits of your business that challenge you the most? Tips, please share.