I’m sure you’ve probably seen (or heard about) the movie Field of Dreams. It’s based on the novel Shoeless Joe. I won’t rehash the whole story, but I wanted to base this post off one of the movie’s most famous (and most often misquoted) lines: “If you build it, he will come.” This is often misquoted as “If you build it, they will come,” and, indeed, James Earl Jones’s character, Terence Mann, later tells Ray in a rousing speech, “People will come.” What I think happened there is those two ideas got blended together to create the misquote.
But this isn’t a story about Field of Dreams; it’s about writing and book marketing. So, let’s get to that.
I mentioned last week that when I published my first book, I expected some sort of magical thing to happen – the same as what Terence Mann said would happen in Field of Dreams – that people would flock to my book “for reasons they can’t even fathom … not knowing for sure why they’re doing it.”
Pretty soon, I found out that was not the case at all. People didn’t flock to my book as if by magic. In fact, for the most part, it didn’t seem like anyone was finding my book at all – unless I stuck it under their noses. That’s when I realized that you can build a book – maybe the best book possible – but people won’t automatically find it. They won’t come of their own volition. They have to be led to it. It was at this point I started learning everything I could about book marketing. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share a few of the things that have worked well (and some not so well) for me.
Local Book Signings
Book signings and book events (where a group of authors get together to meet new readers and each other) can be a lot of fun.
Book signings are usually free (excluding the cost of your physical books, if you’re a self-published author), and you can either stay local or go out into the region, depending on the time and the funds you have for travel (and the numbers of bookstores that are around you). It can be difficult to get a signing at a major chain bookstore like Barnes & Noble, but independent bookstores are almost always open to featuring local authors. You can find a list of the ones closest to you using this site. I’ve never sold a ton of books at any signing I’ve ever done, but I did sell a few and I connected with some readers one on one, so that’s pretty cool. Plus, I took business cards and flyers I made with VistaPrint featuring information about my books and handed them out for free. Several people took those home with them and downloaded the Kindle versions of my books, so that equaled more sales and more readers.
Local and regional libraries are also awesome places to have book signings. Again, you won’t make a whole lot of money, but you’ll connect with people. The library might also even want to add you book/books to their catalog, which means more people will find your book, and that’s always cool!
Local Book Events
Book events are also good for getting your name out there, although you might not sell many books. Plus, you can meet a lot of other authors and build connections with them at these events, which is a great way to expand your reach. You can find lists of these at eventbrite.com. You can also do a Google search using “author (or book) events + your city.” Most of these events have their own websites, so you have to find and visit them to sign up. Or, if you live in (or near) Kentucky or Indiana, you can join this Facebook group. There are regular promotion and connection opportunities, as well as notifications of local/regional book events.
Often, there are fees attached to book events in terms of renting table space (and buying food and other people’s books while you’re there). A few years ago, my husband made me stop going to book events because I was spending more money than I was bringing back with me. I’m hoping, once my newest book is released, that he will let me start going to book events again. It’s so much fun to get out of the house and meet new people. Writing is such a solitary occupation. The desire for human contact becomes strong after a while, and book events offer an easy, although sometimes expensive, way to meet that desire.
But If You Build Anything Without the Master Builder You’re Probably Not Going to Succeed
It’s been over ten years since I published my first novel, and I’m still not making a full-time living from my books. Honestly, I haven’t really written that many more books since the first one, and I’m still working on the sequel.
For years, I would make excuses regarding my lack of success. I’m not writing what people want to read. I don’t know enough about marketing. I don’t have enough time to write, let alone write and market. I don’t have enough money to promote myself through ads the way I need to.
You name it, I probably thought of it as an excuse.
But then a funny thing happened this week. I started publishing on Medium, and I got connected to some other authors there. One of these was a woman named Janis Cox, who runs a Facebook group called Artists and Writers Grow Through God’s Word. It’s a Bible study community for artists and creatives of all kinds, and it’s pretty much changed my life – at least my writing life.
We’re currently studying Psalm 127:1 (NASB): “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.”
And I’m realizing, through the study of this verse, that I have basically been trying to write and market my books under my own power. I’ve been seeking and following worldly advice from other authors about what is working for them without even considering talking to the One who called me to write. Yes, we can learn a lot from other authors (and I hope some of my posts have helped other authors learn a thing or two), but if we’re attempting to build a writing career outside of the One who called us to write in the first place, we’re not going to succeed.
So, starting today, I’m determined to redirect my focus from looking at what “the writing experts” say to looking at what the Master Artist and Builder says. I’m determined to follow my Good Shepherd more than I follow other people. And I’m going to measure my success by how well I do THAT, rather than how many books I sell.
Care to join me? Connect with me over in Janis’s Facebook group or on my own email list (where I share more about my writing, my [candid] thoughts about writing, book recommendations, deals, and more).
And if you’re as committed to embracing your call to write as I am, I recommend reading When God Calls A Writer: Moving Past Insecurity to Write with Confidence by Deanne Welsh. It will really help you clarify your calling and learn to walk in it. It’s really inspired me. But don’t buy the book just because I’ve recommended it. Make sure you check it out with God first! 🙂