The internet tells me that a writer must behave like a small business, specifically a fisherman as far as I can see. Whether you’re selling stories or fish-food the How-to guides treat the internet like an ethereal ocean. It’s a new sea and so that must be the reason why there aren’t any maps, just lots of experts.
You do as the experts say; link up Facebook, Twitter, your website, and more if you never have to put a load of washing on, or write a book, as if you are making a virtual net. The hooks in my case are my little blogs and the bait are the keywords that you have to type into boxes on the website and Google Analytics, who told me nearly a quarter of the new people who hit my site yesterday were in America and into exercise of some kind by the way.
All that makes you, dear reader, a fish. I am supposed to bait you, trick you into biting on my hook and draw in my net. And that is a sale. Not that I have started my final edit. But theoretically, the experts tell me that is how it works.
But you are not a fish, or a consumer or whatever else the Guides say. You are a person, and a person who reads. You have your own character, needs, desires and proclivities and blogs and stories are not really fish-food or hooks. Reading, in my opinion, is the most interactive thing you can do. The words get inside your head and you respond and, on a good day, you can feel the warm water lapping at your back or taste the salt in an imaginary lagoon.
I boosted a post on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. That's where you pay £44.00 for Amazon to put your writing in the feed of people who Facebook have identified, in my case, as readers of books. The post was about getting the hang of self-promotion and incidentally mentioned mutton, that is adult sheep meat. Now I know Facebook are a money-grabbing-mega-monster-manipulation tool of the oppressors and everything and fans of hill-farmers may well read a lot of books, but if these algorithms Radio 4 are always going on about are so sophisticated why were most of my clicks from North Yorkshire and Northumberland, where mutton sellers live?
What the How-to websites neglect to mention is that the marketing industry is built on a lie. The best way to sell anything, even fish-food, must be by word of mouth.
I’m not talking about the professional word of mouth you read about if you Google the phrase; Influencers or Consumer Reviews and whatnot. I’m not knocking them; I do a lot of internet shopping because it allows me to sit in my kitchen and type some more, and I did look at customer reviews to get my salt-grinder, pictured. But me and my friends don’t spend much of our evenings discussing clothes or condiments; ‘Nice dress’ or ‘Oh pink salt’ and we move on.
I signed up for Goodreads because the How-to Guides told me to do it for marketing purposes. But the reason I keep logging on is to see what other people with similar tastes or interesting things to say are reading. For books I need real-life peoples’ word of actual or virtual mouth. It might use virtual methods but it’s between actual people I know, or nearly know. No amount of marketing can actually influence that. And you can’t talk with your mouth full of hooks.
But various boxes flash up on my screen after I upload a blog under the heading SEO, which stands for Sadistic Excruciating Oppression, and tell me to add between 1 and 3 Keywords. But I’m a person too, and even the simplest one of those is hard to sum up in 1 to 3 words. We might all know a few people that could be described that way; really-nice-person, or twat, but not many.
If the internet is like a new ocean, then there are eddies and currents and tides still forming and influenced by complicated people who talk, not like SEO fodder but people. The marketeers aren’t tricking us, they’re kidding themselves. I am a sedentary self=publisher from Inner London. This morning my Facebook feed contained ads for replacement blades for some type of heavy machinery and an inflatable kayak. I did enjoy a mental clip of me rowing down in the canal in a bright yellow boat, until the old style printing press I was carrying toppled over and pierced it. And my work keywords are ‘blog’, ‘self-publishing’ and ‘books’; if they’re so wonderful why did a noticeable number of people identified by Google as sporty click on my site yesterday? Could it be that they Google sport and talk about books?
While I am still going to sell myself like fish food because I am ‘giving it my best shot’, I will be serving it with a sizable pinch of salt. And you never know, it might bring my stories to a few more people’s attention. Some might give it a punt. One or two might start talking?