My Problem Isn’t Writers Block. It’s Marketing Block.
(I posted this article on Medium.com back in November. I still haven't done anything with the revised version of Men Are Easy, but I'm deep into Toward a Science of Systems: A Field Guide.)
I have a big fat body of knowledge that transforms lives. I have something to say and I love to write, but I haven’t produced anything substantial for ten years.
I woke up this morning with a flash. My problem isn’t writer’s block. It’s marketing block.
I don’t want to “market” myself or my work. I don’t want to “build a platform.” I don’t want to develop a marketing plan and do five things on the list every day. I don’t want to email, post, podcast or tweet. I don’t want to go on a speaking circuit.
I did all that and I don’t want to do it again.
Ten years ago I published a book, Men Are Easy, with Greenleaf Book Group. Borders’ Southern California contact for promoting new authors booked a store tour and at each event we sold a case (32 books) plus their stock. Three cases delivered to the Honolulu International Airport bookstores outsold the newest Harry Potter. But every store manager told me that they will order 20 copies and get two. The book sold like crazy in local boutiques, but gift reps won’t pick up single books and Greenleaf didn’t have a gift catalog. The book won two independent book awards. Then Greenleaf sent a notice that Borders was no longer paying their bills, to consider them a marketing expense. Each television appearance, post, and tweet sold a few books on Amazon, but all that got old fast.
The distribution system wasn’t working. The book wasn’t a winner. Burned out, with a bad taste in my mouth, I gave it up.
Over the years, I learned to program and built a couple of apps. I wrote a few conference papers. I did good things.
But four thoughts nagged me.
First, a juror for the annual Writer’s Digest independent book award contest called my book “refreshing” and “hard to put down.” In her notes, she said to keep writing, that the first book never makes it.
Second, the book is so profoundly universal. One publisher turned it down, saying that the systems stuff is blowing smoke, that it is just common sense. Later, a Christian woman asked me what nonChristians thought of the book, thinking it was based on the teachings of Jesus. A few churches in Tennessee and California used it in their marriage workshops. A yoga teacher said that it was the teachings of the yogis. A Buddhist practitioner accused me of ripping off the teachings of Buddha and calling them my own.
Third, even now, every week or so, someone says something about how the book helped them. About half say, “You know, the book is much better than its title.”
Fourth, its time has come. Twenty years ago I couldn’t explain to people what a systems process was. Ten years ago, people were starting to get it. Now, it’s firmly in the lexicon: We network and bond. We create boundaries. We experience chaos, tipping points, and emergence.
A couple of weeks ago, I pulled up the old final copy, and the book is better than I remembered but it has big flaws.
I’ve retitled it to How to Be (Married), and I've edited it. Examples that were from one couple, Jen and Mike, now include Jane and Michelle, Jack and Mitch. “They” and “them” replace he/she and him/her.
I thought I’d have to update or expand on the systems reasoning, but I don’t. I’ve added a section to the first chapter, “A Definition of Love.” I don’t think that I had come up with that definition a decade ago.
So I’ve done it. It’s ready to go. It’s the right thing to do.
It’s perfect for the wedding market. My daughter, 38, with a Cornell degree in product development, cheers me on.
I contacted former literary agent, now coach, Michael Larsen. He sent an email. Sure, give him a call. Attached was his great ebook, Writing Success Guaranteed: How to Deal Yourself Five Hearts to Win the Publishing Game.
I read through it last night, and I don’t want to do all that. Maybe I’m afraid that the book isn’t good enough, or that I’m wasting my time and my life, or that I’m just another silly older woman with a book in her.
Or maybe “marketing” just feels wrong.
I have a responsibility to get the book out there. Even if it helps one more couple with one child, it’s worth it.
Maybe the problem is the resistance to the old way. Maybe it’s time to do it all differently. To only do what gives me and others joy.
Maybe it’s not about “marketing” at all. Maybe it’s about giving.
According to Seth Godin, I need to grow “a tribe.” A thousand people who love the book and pitch it for me. If each person who reads it, gives it to one other person, and then one of those ten gives it to another person, the result is a geometric progression to widespread sales.
This morning after tai chi with my artist friends, I complained about the marketing issue. They commiserated. Then, when describing the book, I found myself getting really excited. They both want to read the new version of the book and their feedback will be invaluable. Cynthia suggested using gender-free names like Chris and Pat. Linda suggested running it by her college-age former granddaughter, now grandperson, who is attending the New School in New York.
It felt good.
Like a fresh start.