Down With Striving (I’m heading upstream)

New marketing strategies for old

With drawings done by mouse as my tablet and stylus is not working. An enjoyably (for me) crude way of working!

I am in the process of developing a radical new book marketing strategy. It’s so radical it doesn’t involve any book marketing at all. It goes something like this: 

  1. Don’t do any book marketing.

That’s it really. 

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It’s not that I’ve stepped into this strategy from a place of doing loads of book marketing that I have decided to discontinue. No. My previous strategy went something like this:

  1. Do loads of book marketing for a limited time
  2. Berate yourself when you don’t do loads of book marketing
  3. Stop minding, eventually, but feel a vague stress about not being capable of improving your situation

Point three has been default for a while. So, yeah, it’s not like turning a tanker or anything. I could, theoretically, carry on doing precisely the nothing I was doing before. But it turns out to be more complex than that. I wasn’t trying to turn a tanker, I was navigating a small vessel through a series of locks to chug back upstream a way. 

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In the last few months I’ve been struggling to understand something that entirely shapes my life: the balance between how much I give up to write, what I am prepared to go without, and, though really happy with how book two is going, my sense of being unrewarded, under-utilised, underperforming. It is easy enough to reconcile myself to a life low on income and high on freedom – it’s the choice I’ve always made. But I am so tired of juggling the tiny income streams, the seven little jobs that allow me the time to write. It’s so BORING. 

Variants of this dilemma are in the lives of almost all people writing, doing art, making music – all of it involves a constant tussle between work to live on and work to live by. I know some friends who work at the most incredibly demanding jobs full time and write in the early mornings and evenings AND make loads of opportunities to get their books read. Brothers and sisters, I salute you, truly. 

Wherever we sit on the time ⟷ money slider, sometimes change is imperative. 

As the boat chugged through the locks, the gears and cogs turning sometimes awful slow, gravity and water lifting us gradually into the next stretch of open water, it became clear that having a dream is one state and working towards that dream is another. A mindset develops that can’t help but turn everything over and over as though it is an opportunity for advancement. Every art-play and idea could, through a few steps of applied thinking, potentially become something that might earn more than two or three of the seven jobs. Every time I talk to someone new that someone could represent the beginning of a word-of-mouth chain, so theoretically I could be mentally finessing the ‘effortless’ conversational gambit that will drop my book before their customer eyes. The problem is, there is never an end to this kind of thinking. Never. It becomes a white noise brain buzz. It’s so damn tedious. 

This way of operating is an environment of manufacture. It is based on growth, on efficiency, on entrepreneurial chutzpah. And it feels like the air is stale, carbon monoxide heavy, exhausted. Striving – god, how I loath it at this moment in time. 

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The barge and I are heading up stream to quieter stretches of water. If I sell books at all, ever, it will be because they are well written, I dare to hope, beautiful. It probably won’t be because they are popular, exciting, gripping. I like books that ask a bit of the reader, and so I want to write books like that. No judgement either way, just the knowledge that in general there is a smaller audience for those kinds of books. And it follows that if I want a book to ask time of a reader, then I have to give that time to it as an author, many-fold. Of course, all authors give huge amounts of time and hard work to their writing – I’m not claiming greater dedication, but talking about an environment for working well. I want to forget about striving for success/feeling guilty about not striving for success/feeling a vague sense of stress but forgetting where it comes from.


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I am not going to not promote my book, or ignore incredibly useful advice from wise people. But I am happy to wait until opportunities come into view, rather than turning over every stone looking for them/worry about not turning over any stones/feeling slightly stressed about stones and not remembering why.

There are some writers who are brilliant at marketing. Hats off to them. Marketing is not a mistake; sticking to anything that saps the oxygen is the mistake. Having a goal that gets warped through the lens of daily practicalities and holding onto the warped version is the mistake. My dream is to write the best books I can and one day, hopefully, do that full time. I am switching my focus to writing the book, let the full time aspect take care of itself.  

If I end up as a cleaner/maker/weird-jobs person who writes books, surrounded by the oxygen-rich air of growth, so much the better than ending up as a cleaner/maker/weird-jobs person who wrote a couple of books and strived goddammit, in order to put to rest a vague stress that she could no longer name. 

But hey, here it is – if you’re interested!


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