Online dating is a strange place. It’s like in-person dating, except that we self-select info to share outside of our looks and infectious laughter, which used to be enough in the olden-times, and while you don’t have any immediate risk of physical interaction, cyber stalking is strangely encouraged–I can’t tell you the times I’ve popped onto some person’s Instagram or Twitter feed to determine if a post from five hours/days/years ago means they may or may not be The One for a friend. I am fascinated by this.
Not for actually dating, but for what it says about human connection, and the novelty of the conversations it spawns. I don’t go much for schadenfreude, but gosh I can’t help but pop some corn when I get a text that starts “So, I just started talking to this person on OK Cupid…”
It probably has something to do with my entire inability to comprehend how this process is supposed to work that fascinates me. It’s like watching terrible magic in the hands of wizards with inscrutable motives.
It’s also really helpful for finding out how to appeal to audiences.
I don’t consider myself any kind of expert in dating or marketing, but I see the same patterns over and over. I would be insane not to recognize them.
Here it is, the wealth of my gleaned knowledge:
People don’t like to feel used.
Really that’s all it boils down to. People don’t want to feel like you’re only interested in them for their looks or money, or as an audience to whom they can brag.
Whether you’d like to end up in their bed or their bookshelves, this remains true. “How bout dat ass” is about as subtle as coming into a reading group and saying “Hey! I’m a new author but I also read books!” I suppose it works sometimes, because people continue to do this, but these interactions seem to sour people more often than they arouse them.
I mean, one of these is more likely to work.
Honestly, it’s quite simple how to get around this issue. It’s called conversation. I’m beginning to think that conversation would be a good topic to teach in high school, along with how our bodies/brains actually work, and how to apply and interview for jobs.
People want you to seem like you give a shit about them, that you’re able to share your interests honestly, and that you won’t skin them and make a mask of their face. That’s all we want.
So, if you’re in reader spaces, no one wants to hear about your book. They want to talk about what everyone’s reading. You can tell, because it’s called a group for readers. But that doesn’t mean it’s useless to authors. I have learned so much talking to other reading enthusiasts about how various demographics view series, tense, point of view, and what makes or breaks a review for them. The organic sales I have are almost always from word of mouth, or because people think kindly of me and would like to support me, provided I didn’t write garbage. And the coolest part is that this is all a bonus, because I also get to spend time with people who like books as much as (or more than) I do! What’s not to love?
While I think self publication is an amazing platform, being an author these days means that you’re able to type words and press a button. People are much more encouraged to try our own work when our writing ability and personalities are enjoyable on topics that interest them personally. I’m not sure how it works elsewhere, but I know in the States we believe quite strongly that “if you have to say what you are, you aren’t.” If you have to tell people you’re an author, your must not be a very good author. If you have to tell people you’re a bodybuilder, you must not be a very good one. Whether or not that’s fair, that’s the sentiment. And in the world of self-publication it means that you have to find people where they’re comfortable being targeted, do things that stand out to them, and slowly build trust to a level that encourages them to spend a couple bucks on you. Patreon, Facebook ads, tumblr, blogs (*cough!*), it’s all you, because you decided to do this solo. Infinite profit capabilities, teeny weeny budget.
Which of course feeds into the frustration. If you can’t tell people about your book, how do they learn about your book?
Again, it’s like dating. You can put on a nice outfit, wear some good smelling things, smile and pay for dinner or a movie or adventure, and you might not find your next partner. We can spend hundreds of hours writing and thousands of dollars perfecting our book, and it might not get picked up anywhere any time fast. It isn’t owed to us, and while it’s slow, painful and often disappointing, how we approach the process is really important to our eventual success. Kindness, authenticity, and perseverance will eventually prevail. And in the meantime, we learn, grow, and stay optimistic.
May we all find our people!