The Dip or the Dead-End?

My guest today is Mary Gottschalk, author of Sailing Down the Moonbeam and most recently, A Fitting Place. Mary shares her insights into marketing and the challenges marketing presents to writers today. I encourage you to visit Mary's blog and to take a look at her books. Mary is an excellent writer and someone I look to for guidance in many ways. Now let's welcome, Mary.


Back in the days when I was a financial consultant to multi-national corporations, I loved Seth Godin’s little tome called The Dip.  In it, Godin offered a way to deal with that awful feeling of being ”stuck” … with those days when you’re wondering why on earth you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing.

Godin, a popular management consultant in the corporate world, draws a distinction between “a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing” (the Dip) and a situation that “will never get better, no matter how hard you try” (the Cul-de-Sac or dead-end).

I find Godin’s wisdom relevant for writers, particularly for indie authors who are laboring in the field, trying one trick after another to market their books, with varying degrees of success.

Even as I was still in the writing stages of my novel, A Fitting Place, I found myself resenting the seemingly endless hours I spent on social media, garnering information about titles and book blurbs and covers and printing options and, of course, marketing strategies. Pundits (social media people, mostly) kept telling me how useful this information would be. I had no reason not to believe them, but I wanted to be writing, not making lists of websites to contact and contests to enter.

I grew grumpier with every passing day.  I abhor repetitive tasks. The ever-growing list of to-do’s made it almost impossible to enjoy a bike ride or read a book—assuming I actually found time to get on a bike or pick up a book.

Even more, I hated the idea of asking strangers to do something for me.  This quirk goes back a long way.  At age 7, I was the only one in my troupe who failed to sell her quota of Girl Scout cookies.  That pattern followed me throughout a successful career.  In the early years, I never had to send out resumes because I had mentors who believed in me and opened doors on my behalf.  In the later years as a consultant, word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients meant I never had to advertise.

As a consequence, I was woefully ill-prepared by both temperament and training for the kind of self-promotion that an indie writer needs to be successful.

We’ve all heard, of course, that you’ll be more successful if you focus on things that you are good at as well as passionate about.  Marketing failed on both counts.

At the same time, I didn’t like the idea of being a quitter.

Should I just buckle down and do the marketing tasks, regardless of how unpleasant they seem? Was this a dip that I could forge through, eventually developing the marketing skills to generate significant sales?  Or was this a cul-de-sac? Would I spend days and weeks on a repetitive series of tasks I hated, with little to show for my efforts?

What Godin’s little book offered was a way of thinking it through.  What I soon realized was that my measure of success with A Fitting Place is not how many books I sell or how many contests I win.  It is the simple pleasure of having a reader tell me that my novel made him or her think differently about the complexity of human relationships, about the need to break down social stereotypes about gender, about the importance of taking responsibility for your own decisions.  It is the delight of sharing life experiences with book clubs and writing groups.  And of course, it’s always nice to be told that A Fitting Place is a “page turner.”

From that perspective, I already know that my novel is successful.  Selling another 1,000 or 50,000 books will not materially increase my level of satisfaction.

An intensive marketing campaign would almost certainly be a dead-end rather than a dip.

With Godin’s help, I have begun to get some balance back in my life.  I now have time to take a philosophy class, to go for a bicycle ride, and last but not least, to dig into my waist-high “to be read” pile.

I would love to hear how you’re dealing with challenges of marketing.

Meet Mary:

DSC_4440-Edit_2-2Mary has made a career out of changing careers.

She spent nearly thirty years in the financial markets, first in New York, and then in New Zealand and Australia, eventually returning to New York.

Along the way, she dropped out several times. In the mid-1980's, at age 40, Mary and her husband Tom embarked on the three-year sailing voyage that is the subject of her memoir, SAILING DOWN THE MOONBEAM. When the voyage ended, she returned to her career in finance, but dropped out again to provide financial and strategic planning services to the nonprofit community.

AFittingPlace_FrontCover_3.5In her latest incarnation, she is a full time writer. Her first novel, A FITTING PLACE, was released in May, 2014.  She lives in Des Moines, Iowa.

Links:

http://marycgottschalk.com/home/

http://twitter.com/marycgottschalk

http://www.facebook.com/mary.gottschalk.9

Amazon:

A Fitting Place - http://amzn.to/1m57778

Sailing Down the Moonbeam - http://www.amazon.com/Sailing-Down-Moonbeam-Mary-Gottschalk/dp/0979799724