If you want a clear-cut roadmap to success, you won’t find one. For every road to success there is a different path, a different challenge, a different obstacle that will block your way. It’s not on purpose. Instead, it’s because each of us is different, and each of us faces different experiences and opportunities. If the road to success were paved in red carpet, everyone would be a millionaire, and we could all suck our lollipops and eat our tangerines in perfect harmony.
Books are no different. In fact, with the publication of your first novel, the road for an author just got a lot harder, not easier, and filled with enough potholes to bring down a Hummer. Again, it’s not because life is supposed to be difficult and hard and challenging, but unfortunately, that’s often what happens. This is the time the real writers often get separated from the pretenders, as the reading public has fickle, ever-changing tastes. If the Big 6 publishers can’t figure it out, then there’s even less hope for you.
So does that mean you’re just supposed to stand in a corner and wait for the spotlight to come to you? Absolutely not. But it does mean that after you publish your debut novel that you shouldn’t expect success and fame and fortune to soon follow. Sure, it does happen for some, but there’re a whole lot more midlist and bottom-of-the-list authors than there are highly successful, highly compensated, career defining ones. And it does mean you have to keep at it and keep plugging away, as you keep churning out those labors of love. You can’t get discouraged if your book doesn’t fly off the shelves and into people’s hearts. And you can’t start attacking and berating reviewers if they don’t love your book as much as you do. Going on the offensive only leads to a missile fight that you will inevitably lose, even if your missiles are bigger than the other guy’s.
As for the marketing, you can’t just leave it all up to the publisher either. You have to step in the game, get your hands dirty, your feet wet, and your teeth cleaned to have a dog in this fight. But that doesn’t mean you should take to the social networking stratosphere and Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and LibraryThing till you’re blue in the face, and your eyes are crossed from staring at your computer screen too long, while you’re up all hours of the night. So how should you choose what to do? Pick what you like. I know this can be a foreign concept for some people, because it sounds way too easy. Marketing is number crunching and analysis and hard work and understanding people, and it can be done effectively from the comfort of your own home. Just as it can be done effectively, if that’s your shtick, out in the real world at conferences and speaking engagements. Or maybe it’s a combination of the two. But in the end, it’s what works best for you.