How in the Hell Can We Writers Stand Out?

laundry cats

On a cold fall day in Portland recently, my two lazy ass cats were cuddled down in the laundry on the bed. It was fresh out of the dryer…can you blame them?

I was rehearsing the ole “I’m failing as a writer” dramatic play in my head. It’s not my favorite. I’d rather be in a cheeky musical.

Anyway, as usual the cats seemed to be onto something—looking cute, while I was pacing and questioning my creative existence. They’re smarter than us silly humans, they get life.

Being the silly human that I am, I was pondering something that’s been assaulting my writerly mind…everybody’s putting out content.

THESE DAYS…EVERYBODY HAS AN ONLINE PRESENCE

Just this past week I saw two people I know come out with blogs—people I never would have thought of as “writers.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them. It’s awesome that they’re taking this leap, expressing their thoughts through writing.

However, this also demonstrates my point. Everyone’s blogging now.

It’s true. I know this from my almost four years of blogging, and my career as a Content Manager at a B2B marketing agency.

We’re experiencing the same conundrum, because every business has a blog. So we have to work diligently within our niche, we have to provide unbeatable value to our audience, and we have to be consistent and tactical.

These are the must-haves of producing content to bring awareness to your brand. I’m only talking about awareness, which is at the very tip-top of the buying cycle. Those people still have a long way to go before they make a decision to buy.

Are you still with me, or did I lose my writer friends with the B2B talk?

The thing is we’re trying to do the exact same thing. We’re trying to build awareness for our author brand. Because like it or not—and believe me, I know how hard it is to self-promote—if we’re trying to sell something (like our books)…we’re running a business.

You know, sometimes you think a blog post is going to rock and it bombs. Other times a post takes off and you’re staring at your ridiculously high stats, wondering if WordPress is malfunctioning.

I had this happen with my post, 10 Years of Marriage…We Never Saw it Coming.

britt and hugh

It was my best post ever, with over 500 views in one day. Somehow it was a massive hit on Facebook.

Hey, for my little blog, that was a big deal. Did the extra attention on my blog achieve any book sales? A few people checked me out—my About page and my book links. I got one new follower on my blog, and nobody bought a single book.

Will someone buy a book after finding you from one blog post? Probably not.

Writers, dry your eyes.

I once used to think that a viral blog post would help launch my writing career too. At the very least, I figured I would see an increase in blog subscribers—a little bump in my social media followers perhaps?

Nope. People just swooped in and swooped out.

So, back to our business talk for a moment.

All of these blogging and social media tactics serve as touch points. That wildly successful blog post was just one touch—to my existing readers and new readers. But one touch point with a customer or buyer rarely leads to a sale, if ever.

Think about the research you habitually do before you buy something. Unless you’re an impulse shopper, you think about a product before you make a decision. Depending on the cost and need, that might be a few days, weeks, months—maybe years.

You can say what you want about social media, but it’s a golden opportunity to make connections with people. Every conversation is a touch point.

Just this morning I found out on Twitter that my good friend, Carrie Rubin, ended up on BuzzFeed. This is ridiculously awesome exposure, because as we all know, their audience is well up in the millions. That’s right…millions.

How did she get through the almighty BuzzFeed door? A single tweet.

barnes and noble buzzfeedSure, it was BuzzFeed’s usual click-bait genius in a piece called 23 Secrets Barnes and Noble Employees Will Never Tell You.

But my girl Carrie got a nice little spot on the page, with an amazing opportunity to grow her Twitter audience through that cute little follow button in the embedded Tweet.

This is great exposure for Carrie, especially because her latest book, Eating Bull, is releasing soon. So rather than just checking out the BuzzFeed piece, head on over to Amazon to preorder Carrie’s magnificent new release.

Because we all know that running a creative business is that much harder. And for us hard-working authors, the brutal truth is…nobody needs more books.

THESE DAYS…EVERYBODY HAS A BOOK

Three years ago was a different story for indie authors too. Because another thing everyone’s doing? They’re self-publishing.

It was bizarre to see the book release performances for my first book, Beneath the Satin Gloves, and my third book.

Way back then I had just started my blog and had a small but lovely handful of followers. My social media channels mainly consisted of family, friends, and pornographic spammers. Last year when Nola Fran Evie came out, I had a much bigger following.

Guess what, kiddos? My first book release somehow did better than my third book. Yep, back when I had just started my online presence…back when I was a nobody.

I came up with the following theories:

  1. More of my family and friends purchased my first book. By the time my third came out, the excitement and curiosity about me coming out as a writer had fizzled out.
  2. Subject matter. Beneath the Satin Gloves was a WWII spy novel with a time travel element, while Nola Fran Evie (though a more solid work, in my opinion) was about social issues in the 1950s and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League—a feel-good book where nobody was killed.

Nola Fran Evie Cover Large

What I really think happened? More noise. More competition. Everyone’s moms, dads, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and dogs are coming out with books.

Again, I love seeing people expressing themselves artistically—taking a risk, sharing their story.

But, where does that leave us? The writers trying to make it out there. The indie/small-time authors throwing every ounce of creativity into their books, while holding down blogs and social channels to feed the marketing cog.

I’ve been a fan of Kristen Lamb’s blog for some time. A post from a couple of months back stayed with me, Why Our Author Brand is More Important Than Ever, in which Kristen said this about author branding:

In a marketplace with fewer and fewer points of sale with more competition than ever in human history, how do we sell books?

We have to create a brand.

We live in a time where we have more choices than ever. I don’t know about you guys, but I have a Love-Hate relationship with Central Market. Granted, it is AWESOME. Central Market is such a cool grocery store that tourists actually visit. Every aisle is a foodie’s dream. They don’t just have “olive oil”, they have 700 varieties of an olive oil “experience”.

So, how in the hell can we writers stand out?

I wish I knew the answer, but I don’t.

Like many of you, I work hard. As a one-woman show, I do my best to create quality content. Does everyone like my shit? Of course not. Does everyone understand my shit? Probably not.

As trivial as it sounds, all we can do is keep going. I’ve said this many times, but I’ll keep saying it because it’s so important. Do it for the love.

When you write a blog post, don’t worry about its success—number of shares, views, likes. Write what you want to write from a beautiful place inside, then release it into the world.

When you write a novel, don’t worry about its success—number of units, sales, dollars. Write what you want to write, not what you think others want to read.

Remember when the vampire and zombie thing was super popular? Somebody, who shall remain nameless, said I should write a book about these creepy things. I explained to them that I had no desire to hang out with blood-sucking, boil-faced creatures in my mind.

Because when you write a novel, it’s a commitment like nothing else. The amount of time you spend in this fictitious world can take a toll on your sanity. You live in that world, become the characters and wear their clothes. You can taste, smell, and touch the words on the pages.

Maybe I’d be a full-time author had I took that person’s advice, but I guarantee I would have ended up in a loony bin. So, I continue doing it for the love. I write what I want to write.

That’s the best intention to hold close to your heart in this noisy world where everybody’s churning out content.

57 thoughts on “How in the Hell Can We Writers Stand Out?

  1. Great post Britt! You so nailed it and even though I’m not a writer I feel you cause I believe you can apply it to almost any self-employed job for which there is a high demand. I just happened to watch a webinar about the importance of branding and marketing if you really want to stand out and be successful. And maybe that is one of the reasons why I seem to struggle with this part .. However, I do want to be successful. It’s hard to be noticed in such a crowded and noisy world. Technology has never made it so easy these days, which is a good thing too of course.
    I guess in the end – and I agree with a lot of the above comments – it all comes down to who you want to be, finding your uniqueness and despite of it all keep doing what you love to do the most, because that is where you’ll find your greatest happiness and fulfillment. And those with ‘eyes to see and ears to hear’ will respond.

    1. Agreed, honey! This can certainly apply to anything we’re aiming for personally. The availability of technology today has been amazing, but there is definitely more noise out there. Uniqueness is key, as is dedication and love.

      You’re doing great out there. Never worried about you. ; )

  2. Dear Britt, I think this is really insightful, a sort of key: “I write what I want to write.”

    I’m glad I clicked the link from Kevin Brennan’s and then read this whole post. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. 🙂

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Melisa! Writing what we want to write is the key to our writerly happiness. When we do anything in life—writing, cooking, working, whatever—if the love is missing, it will not be fulfilling.

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