When I first thought of being a fiction writer, I assumed it would entail nothing more than sitting at my computer and typing all day. Not once did I consider all the peripheral things that went along with a writing career. I didn’t know I had to set up a small business, do all the marketing, accounting, sales tax payments, learn story structure, genre expectations, and the plethora of other things involved with writing and selling books. I’m glad I didn’t know; it might have stopped me from writing at all.
The business processes have crawled along. Learning as I go has been hard. So many mistakes. So many worries over whether I’m doing it the right way. So many steep learning curves. I’m not a business and sales person, so all of it has been way outside my comfort zone. Over time and up many precipitous slopes, I’ve learned a lot, and my small business, the Lavender Pen, is running smoother than the early years. I still have much to learn, but I’m headed in the right direction.
But one direction makes me really uncomfortable. I’m told a good, necessary business strategy is putting myself out there so people know who I am. One of the first things I learned is many people buy books because of the author, not the story. That means I have to persuade people to know, trust, and like me. Should be easy. I’m a people-pleaser, but it usually comes organically, not through coaxing. I’ve always been a background person, so getting out in front where the spotlight shines on me is not what I’m used to.
Like successful small businesses must do, I have my website, my social media platforms, and my places I advertise my wares. People I don’t know are liking my posts, signing up for my newsletters, and connecting with me as a writer. It’s thrilling because they are new readers and that means I’m getting more successful at this, but it’s also unnerving. Who are these people? Are they nice? How I wish I’d used a pen name now! It would have given a little buffer between me and the public. But that’s a personal problem I’m working on.
Some of the “public” is creepy. I get messages from men saying hello and telling me how beautiful I am and how much they want to get to know me. I block them and any other names that appear under that profile. Lots of people from Nigeria and Pakistan want to be friends or connections. They get deleted, too. Many comments on my website are written in Russian, offering classes in cosmetics, as best as I can tell. They get deleted permanently but keep coming back anyway. I’m not sure how they get past the captcha (the I’m Not A Robot block).
I’m changing my business model (a new term I’ve learned) in the future, but it shouldn’t affect you. I plan to publish broadly, meaning not just on Amazon/Kindle, and have my books printed at Ingram Sparks so libraries and bookstores can/will order my books. After that, I need to learn how to sell directly from my website so that you order from me and the venders drop-ship to you. That should broaden my reach and bring in more readers, especially abroad. That’s what good businesses do: expand their reach.
As far as me, I’ll stay in my discomfort zone because it’s how authors have to be nowadays. I’ll do like my brother says, dress well and pretend I know what I’m doing. But you’ll know the truth: I’m questioning and quaking inside. Please keep my secret.