• Betsy Graziani Fasbinder
  • OUCH! My Left Brain Hurts: A Newbie Author’s Newfound Wisdom about Book Promotion and Platform...
OUCH! My Left Brain Hurts: A Newbie Author’s Newfound Wisdom about Book Promotion and Platform Development

            Lately I’ve noticed that when I’m walking around, I have a feeling that I’m leaning to the left. Or at least my head is leaning left.  It’s due, I’m sure, to all of the recent exercise I’ve been doing in there which has resulted in my new mental muscle. As with any new exercise, sometimes there’s some pain involved. At times, I feel I can hardly hold up my head. Ouch! This book launch stuff has got my left brain exhausted and kinda sore.

            All right, let’s start by saying I’m a grownup.  I accept that every job, no matter how desirable it might be, has aspects that are less fun, more tedious, and even wildly frustrating. Every job—even creative, fun, satisfying ones—has some necessary, but loathsome tasks from the mildly annoying, to Mach 4 stress-inducing.

            My job:  I’m a writer, and recently a published author. (Just saying that feels very brave for this newbie author.) There has been a lot of good stuff in my transition from life-long writer to new author.  My book is written, edited, and now designed with a quality I appreciate down to my bones. I have a peach of a publisher in She Writes Press and more resources than I have time to figure out how to use to make the book successful. I have a bunch of close writer friends and online writer “friends” sharing their abundant resources and encouragement.  My book launch at my local indie bookstore was one of the most fun and emotional days of my life. Not exaggerating.  I suffer an embarrassment of riches, really. [Official end of preamble to the real story.]

            But—and I use this word intentionally here—while I accepted that the marketing process of launching the book would involve tons of hard work and a steap learning curve, I never imagined that the process would involve so very much of my left brain.  (Newbie Author Humble Confession #1. That would be the perfectly adequate, but somewhat less developed brain hemisphere in my case. I’ve always regarded myself as a right-brained kind of gal.) Since launching my book, Fire & Water, in March of 2013 I have been doing little other than figuring out the mysterious channels and tactics of marketing, promotions, and platform-building.  And may I just say that a career in marketing, sales, publicity, or promotions is so far from my first nature that it’s laughable? I’ve navigated websites, attended webinars, uploaded stuff onto Amazon, figured out social networking sites.  I’ve bought books on how to use social media. (Newbie Author Humble Confession #2. I thought much of the social networking stuff was for other people prior to this launch and I HATED the idea of being another online hawker.)  

            Since launching Fire & Water I’ve learned about Skype, Google+ Hangouts, Amazon’s KDP program, blog tours, contest submissions, reviewers, and on and on.  I’ve had some really cool things happen, too.  Jason Matthews and Marla Miller did a Google+ interview with me and posted it on Youtube.  (This was a very fun experience. You can check it out on YouTube, Indie Authors, #46) Catherine Bramkamp on her show, Newbie Authors also did an audio-only (interview in jammies, yeah baby) Skype interview and posted it. I’ve been featured multiple times on Laura Dennis’s blog, both discussing my book and discussing Bipolar Disorder, a theme within the story about which, as a psychotherapist, I have a fair degree of subject matter expertise. Lucky me! All free publicity that required only a limited investment of time on my part and these were all fun!  Score one for the newbie.

            But here’s the problem:  Every time I log onto Facebook or read a blog post from one of my fellow writers on one of the many sites to which I subscribe, I find a new resource or idea.  Whatever plan I have for the next hour gets subverted while I navigate yet another website, social network, or online resource.  I upload. I click the boxes. I write, rewrite, and rewrite my bio and book description to fit each site’s particulars. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting the info. Keep it coming, author buddies. It’s just I haven’t quite figured out what is a valuable use of my marketing time and which things I can neatly file under “useless time suck”.  This is where my left brain starts to throb.  As a newbie author, I find I’m driven by the fear that I just might be missing the most crucial thing that I might do to give my book its best chance at commercial success.  Frankly, I don’t know what I don’t know. (Newbie Author Confession #3. Yes, I do want commercial success. There, I said it.)

            Despite the cool things that have happened, I’ve been feeling as though rather than having a thoughtful, measured plan for participating or declining my marketing opportunities, my behavior is a lot less strategic, and a lot more like Whack-a-Mole, where I respond to whatever pops up. This keeps me from feeling effective and efficient and it gobbles up great globs of my time. (Fun flexing of alliteration muscles. Mmm…right brain.)  I fantasize about having a great big pile of dough, enough to just pay someone else to do all of the icky stuff I don’t like doing.  I have done a little of this with my little pile of dough and it seems that much remains to be done.

            Now here’s where I’d like to give you a slick, bullet list of appropriate priorities, resources that work, and tasks to eliminate.  Nope, not yet able. (Newbie Author Confession #4. I’m still in the process of figuring it out and some days it feels as if I don’t know squat.)  Instead, I offer a list of things I have begun to figure out and things I’m resolving to do better going forward. 

  • Stop the highchair banging: I’m working on accepting the amount of left-brained stuff I must do as a business person with a book in the marketplace.  This is part of respecting my book, taking it seriously, and giving it the very best chance I can for achieving whatever might be its potential. Paperwork is part of most businesses.  Artists have to clean their brushes. Everybody's got to do taxes. That’s the way of the world.

  • Get back to writing:  By over-focusing on the marketing stuff (which I accept as necessary, but still find less fulfilling) I’ve put my muse in the corner.  She’s unfed, untended, and lonely. She’s whimpering. I vow here to revamp my schedule and put writing first in the day, marketing stuff second. I think this will help a lot.  I’m feeling better already just writing this article.  I always forget that for me, getting back to my writing life makes many other problems fade to the background and find their rightful place on my priority list. Here, let me say it in cave-woman so that I might actually remember. “Writing. Good. Write more. Good. Write first. Good.”

  • Limit Marketing Time: I need to find a Goldilocks solution here—the “just right” amount of time to spend on the marketing stuff that gets the necessary tasks done, reduces the time-suck, and makes me feel like a strategic thinker again rather than someone wielding a mallet at undefended rodents. Don’t quite have that quantity worked out yet, but I’m thinking maybe 1-2 hours a day, 2-3 days a week.  I heard Ethan Canin say, “Every word you write in your blog is a word you didn’t write in your novel.” Words to ponder.

  • Figure out what I can pay for and what I must do on my own: Accepting the lack of the aforementioned giant pile of dough, I still need to hire for some things.  This is the exact reason that I chose not to self-publish and to work with an indie/partnership publisher in She Writes Press.  Publishers know some stuff. They have spent years honing their skills and they don’t have a learning curve like mine.  My hat’s off to those completely self-published types.  Great for you! But for me and my flabby left brain, it’s way more efficient to pay for someone else who already knows some things than it is for me to take the time to inadequately learn it, screw it up, then pay for someone to correct my errors. (Newbie Author Confession #6.  Been there, done that.  More than once.)

  • Reframe spending as investing: The writing process itself has always been an imaginary playground for me.  The magic of writing is creating something out of only my imagination and the resources I use to support it. The fact that it’s all free is amazing.  But once the book is written, if you have any notion of commercial success, it’s important to see it as a business venture.  What business at which we actually expect to make money do we ever imagine requiring no investment?  The answer is none.  Now you can certainly overspend and put in more money than the venture is worth.  (This is where business-y people start talking about ROI.)  But I was being too cheap.  I was thinking that if I could do it myself, I necessarily should do it myself.  I mean, hey, just because I probably could figure out how to change the oil in my car if I had to doesn’t mean that it’s not a more efficient, wiser plan to hire the handy folks at 10-Minute Oil Change to do it for $29.95, right?  Same principle here.  Invest appropriate amounts of money to buy efficiency and reduce left-brain agony. 
  • Avoid the hucksters: While there are some genuine experts offering training, books, and services for new authors, there are also a bunch of folks slamming programs together and charging boatloads of bucks for their “expertise”.  The trainings that I’ve valued have been recommended to me by people I trust.  The ones I’ve found by responding to online promotions…not so much.  I haven’t wasted much money on these, but I have wasted some serious time.  I’ve signed up for what seemed to be a free online workshop, only to find out that in 90 minutes I get one or two nuggets and a ton of hard-sell for their very expensive services which promise to make me a best-selling author followed by frequent emails hawking even more expensive services.  After attending these, I feel the need to take a shower.  No more.  Judicious use of time.  Yes, this might mean that I miss some good stuff.  But then I’d also have time to write.  (Re-read Get Back to Writing bullet point above.) Here’s a tip for sorting the useful from the over-hyped.  In jewelry stores—not that I spend tons of time shopping in them—the most expensive pieces are the ones under the glass that have the price tag turned over so you fall in love with it before you know how much it costs.  The freebie trainings where they don’t tell you that they’re selling a service are like this.  If they don’t start at the top of the seminar saying what their services are and what they cost, it’s a set-up. Think of those time-share seminars. I’m just sayin’.  There are a few terrific freebies out there, I know.  But I’ve heard a lot more time-share shtick than I’m proud to say. I'd rather pay a do-able fee for a real webinar than attend a freebie hard-sell.  
  • Welcome the fun surprises: Okay, so I held my nose and began to actually participate in Facebook and Twitter and other social networking efforts.  And yes, there’s still some useless crap out there and it can be a time-suck.  But I’ve also found not only some extremely valuable information with occasional real inspiration, I’ve also met (both virtually and in person) some truly lovely, generous people with great things for me to learn. I've had opportunities unfold because of these acquaintances. AND...I’ve even begun to feel I have offerings from which others benefit and that my participation isn’t just a time-suck, but a genuine exchange. I’ve met amazing people I’d never have had without participating in what I’d previously thought to be a loathsome medium.  Lesson learned.  As I get better and more selective, such treasures are in higher ratio to my time spent on the annoying and worthless exchanges.  Color me stunned because I never thought I’d have informative, meaningful, or fun exchanges on social media.  
  • Embrace new learning: I’ve been putting a new frame on exercising my heretofore-flabby left brain.  Rather than calling all of these administrative tasks “icky” as I have for so long, I’m working on re-defining all that I’m learning as my personal brain health program, stretching myself, and keeping my capacity for learning and developing new types of mental acuity going forward; my “memory skills preservation strategy”, if you will.  I really do believe that by learning not only new things, but new types of things, that we are doing what we can (short of giving up Diet Coke) to help our brains keep their elasticity.  Brain calisthenics, check.  
  • Finally, finally set perfectionism aside:  This is a lesson I have had to learn so many flipping times I cannot even write it without getting a little irritated. (Perhaps even that statement’s tone indicates that I’m yet a work in progress.) I might not do this whole book promotion thing perfectly.  There might not even be a perfect way to do it.  And maybe there are some rather perfect-ish things to do that I might miss by limiting my on-line time.  Ommmmm.  I’m Betsy, and I’m a perfection-aholic.  “Hello, Betsy!” One day at a time. I'm just trying to be thoughtful, strategic, and open to learning and participating in those things that are right for me and what I can manage given the other commitments in my life.  Balance. Balance. Balance.  


            With these principles, I’m stepping forward into what I’m calling “Marketing and Platform Building 2.0”.  This is where the icky tasks are reframed, accepted, completed, and relegated to their rightful places and I get back to writing my next books.  After all, the best way to promote a first book is with a second, right?  Or so I learned from one of my virtual friends. 

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  • So glad you're finding this useful!  As for me, I'm still struggling to get at that writing time.  I'll get there.  I've made a vow to myself.  Hope you're all nurturing your muse.  Mine's still whining a little.  

  • Avra Wing

    So wise. And generous. I need to just keep thanking you!!

  • The idea of a "massive team" sounds wonderful, Marci.  But then, I'm sure even with a team there is a balance to be found.  Congrats on your upcoming launch, btw.  

  • Marci Nault

    Love it! Every author goes through this. There are two sides to being a published author - the creative writer and the working author. Balance between the two is very hard even when you have a massive team like I do working for you. It's still in the authors hands to make certain it all gets done. Thanks for posting.

  • Alonna Shaw Writing


  • Oh yea!.  The left brain worked and I figured out how to edit my post, post publication.  See, all that left-brain exercise paid off.  Wee too!

  • Thanks, Alonna.  And I just realized I have a typo in his name.  It's Ethan Canin, of course.  Gotta figure out how to edit this.  Hmmmm

  • Alonna Shaw Writing

    Betsy, you covered many of my thoughts about how to best utilize my time. I agree with the learning curve. My favorite line: "I heard Ethan Canon say, 'Every word you write in your blog is a word you didn’t write in your novel.' Words to ponder."