Before I had my first book published, I had a vague idea what 'life as an author' would be like. It involved real-life readings in bookshops (thanks, Covid), sitting in cafes, scribbling notes (thanks, Covid) and coming up with brilliant ideas for the next book (can I blame Covid for the fact they've dried up a bit too?).
What it didn't involve was self-promotion. Yet, especially for newbie authors, this is something that may form a huge part of the author experience. I'm not talking about interviews arranged by your publisher (a pleasure), or doing readings or events online (fun!). I'm talking about the posting about and talking about your novel on social media yourself. The thinking about what to do and when, deciding between opportunities and trying to work out what works and what doesn't.
Of course, I'd seen authors posting about their books. But from the outside, I always imagined they were simply sharing something because they fancied doing so, or were pleased with a review, or wanted their legions of fans kept in the loop. I saw it as something that might happen naturally from time to time, rather than something that most authors need to do to reach new readers.
Instead, I've discovered that a big part of gaining visibility for new authors is by interacting with would-be readers online. And you know what? I've found I quite enjoy it at times. It never gets boring to learn that someone is reading your book, or has reviewed it or (jackpot) LOVES IT.
What I struggle with is my own posts - I enjoy messing about on Canva and creating shareables and even book trailers, but when I'm done and poised over the 'post' button, I can't help but wonder whether I'm getting it wrong.
Am I posting enough? Too much? Are people rolling their eyes, or do they genuinely enjoy my updates? Am I coming across as too modest? Too self-serving? Too needy? Am I clogging up people's timelines or are they still unaware that I've written a book at all?
And don't get me started on vlogs. Should I put my face on or risk scaring off viewers with my natural look? What have I got to talk about that's interesting? Who actually wants to know what I had for lunch?
There's no real answer. And I have no real strategy. Which means I veer between not talking about something AT ALL, to going a bit mad and probably sounding self-obsessed. I see another author tweet a review and think "I should do that." But the minute I tweet one wonder "am I overdoing it?"
Talking to other authors, we're pretty much all in the same boat. Many of us are self-conscious by nature and don't like the idea of plugging our own projects - but at the same time all-too-aware that in this overcrowded market it's easy to remain completely invisible.
As I begin to 'ramp up' the posts on my upcoming novel 'Perfect on Paper' (available to pre-order NOW (see what I did there)) the only thing I know is that I'm doing a better job than last time. When 'Everything is Fine' (available to purchase NOW) was published I didn't have a Facebook author page, and had two photos on Instagram which I'd uploaded a couple of years earlier. Over time, I've developed more understanding about how these platforms work, and am trying to use them positively to connect with people in every way, as well as use them to interact with readers.
I enjoy Twitter and always have, and am starting to understand that it doesn't matter if I think my nose is too big - people are still happy to interact with me in the 'gram. And I'm trying to highlight my book (which I'm proud of) (Did I mention it's available to pre-order NOW?) here and there, and hoping beyond hope that I'm coming across in a genuine way.