Stop Thinking Silver Bullets

Socializing probably confused you. You’ve forgotten that social networking is older than Facebook or Twitter. Turn out at my first book signing was ok, the staff thought it was good, and realists thought with 10-12, it could have been better.

During the event (which was fun, by the way), I met a number of people, one in particular; Donelle R. Lacy. I mention her in particular because she is a writer like me. As such there was something of a common language, and more important a pool of like-interested contacts. The defect glaring in my rearview was that I passed over inviting my local friends. Why? Well, call me socially inept, but I thought I’d feel like a loser if I looked out at a crowd that ended up being all my friends. I mean, that’s like asking your Mom for a thorough critique of your novel.

But see, like with Ms. Lacy, I forgot that friends bring with them contacts. And even if they had all been friends other people would have seen a crowd and that would have generated interest even if the crowd itself had sentimental motives—dang, personal affection!.

And that’s the key. During the discussion, Ms. Lacy asked several writer marketing questions about how to get exposure . . .  It’s amazing the way a book signing, dresses you in a light suit of authority . . .  They were questions I didn’t really have good answers for because I’ve only generated maybe 90-100 viewings between my paperbacks, Facebook, Smashwords, Amazon, etc . . .

But, that’s what sparked the concept for this blog. See, every indie writer (and traditionals for that matter) is looking for that silver bullet. What is the one thing I do or series of things I do that ensure I’m a success? There’s a reason for the phrase “There is no silver bullet.” See, every time someone finds a silver bullet, they use it and it works. Guess what? Some bright-minded competitor (other authors) sees it worked and they do the same thing. That’s why when you walk through a book store aisle there are lots of books, packed tight, spines out 98% of which will be ignored and only that one book stands out. Take Twilight‘s cover for example. Looks pretty striking by itself, now put it in the appropriate section and it gets lost in the thick of competing books about emo girls with dark covers, fallen angels, werewolves, vampire chicks, other chicks with curses (and tattoos) and some hunky, hairless boy wishing he looked like a man.

The point is, the silver bullet stops being a silver bullet because everyone mimicks success. If there’s a silver bullet, it’s undiscovered and only works once. So in the meantime, let’s talk about what actually works.

This advice has been around since my Dad’s time, you know, back when years began with 1’s and 9’s.


It sounds boring and archaic, but accounting for the popular myth if everyone is using the same tricks there’s only two ways to get attention for your product. Be louder, which in the case of an indie writer is impossible, unless you’ve got stacks of money. Or be nearer. Even a shout can be beaten by a whisper in the ear.

It’s not fast, and it’s not glamorous, but again back to old time wisdom, real success is built slowly and steadily. So network. And I’m not talking about Facebook. Sure, that’s one aspect, but it’s only one leg. Make a page for yourself, make one for each story. Make a blog, etc . . .  Then, get off the computer and hit the pavement! You don’t have to make an obsession out of it, but realize that the only way you’re going to get more readers is by casting a big enough net that you find those enthusiastic fans who will do what fans naturally do. Tell other people.

In practice? Do a book signing, check. Step every other? Talk about your book. You’re in the checkout line, cashier says “How are you doing?” “Doing great, sold my first book the other day.” Hanging out with a friend of a friend, “What do you do? Well, I’m an independent speculative writer, who does something boring on the side. I wrote a book about . . . ” Get a t-shirt, a car magnetic panel, things that start conversations or at least leave a subliminal mark on passers by. Put a copy on your desk at work, as a conversation piece. Pass it around the office for free if that’s what it takes. Donate an autographed copy to your library or a local auction, etc . . .

And this is all stuff you do during your everyday activities so its not an extra chore that you have to do, it doesn’t interrupt your ‘other work’, its just what our forefathers and folksy folk in small communities still do, its called being social. Let that sink in. Sure, it feels lame that you “know” all your fans, but personal impression/personal service is going to give you a bigger mind share than many other writers out there. On top of that, isn’t even Walmart trying to pass itself off as personal? There’s something to be said for “I know the guy who wrote that, he’s . . . ”

So stop looking for one shot that’s going to fell a million readers and start thinking machine gun and boxes and boxes of ammo.

This entry was posted in Writing Shop Talk and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Stop Thinking Silver Bullets

  1. Wonderful blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused .. Any tips? Cheers!

    • jsclark says:

      Write would be my first suggestion. Do the writing then worry about the marketing. But as you do, I would start with a free blog, wordpress is good. I think it looks professional to have a chosen domain with no extra tags, so I went for a paid option once I had a book to publish. But as I said in the blog, do everything. Hit it all, so start early so you can build up your presence.

Comments are closed.