I hate marketing.
The verb marketing, not the noun.
The noun marketing, I really like, actually. I’m fascinated by good marketing campaigns and curious about how they’re put together.
When I see good marketing, I’m intrigued by it.
My local theater used to have the best marketing campaign. They sold these refillable buckets of popcorn and cups of soda. Plastic buckets and cups that you could bring with you to the movies and fill up for $3 a piece.
Then, once a week they’d send out a coupon for a free drink if you bought popcorn.
I went from never buying movie snacks to buying them every single time.
My local theater found a way to make spending $3 on like ten cents worth of popcorn and Diet Coke feel like a bargain. Which makes going to the movies feel like even more of a treat.
In other words, they’ve found a way to make me spend more money on movie night and feel like I’m getting a deal.
That kind of marketing makes me smile.
But the verb marketing? Marketing that’s a thing I have to do?
Oh, God. I hate it.
I hate it less than I love writing and teaching, so I do it anyway. But it literally makes me physically ill with anxiety.
I usually only go into full-on marketing mode once a year. This time of year, actually. If I found a magic lantern, I’d ask my genie to give me a way to just make stuff and have people buy it without me having to actually ask them to.
That way I wouldn’t have to lay awake at night with all this nonsense spinning around my poor head:
What if they hate me?
What if everyone’s just pretending to like what I’m doing, but they really only want my free stuff and they all (all!) think it’s ridiculous for me to sell something for actual money?
What if I offer this thing and nobody wants it? I mean, nobody-nobody. What if I launch, and this time it falls flat as a pancake.
What if I have to get a day job?
What if I hate my day job and it sucks all my juice and I can’t write anymore and I end up a burned out sixth-grade teacher that doesn’t have any business teaching anyone’s child?
See? Marketing turns me into a maniac. I’m determined though, to reframe my thinking.
I saw a meme this winter that said, basically, that hating snow will not mean less snow, but it will mean less joy. The same goes for marketing.
Hating marketing won’t make it less necessary if I want to be a successful entrepreneur, but it certainly means less joy.
If I want to be an entrepreneur, I have to market.
Sadly, just slapping up a website (the virtual equivalent to hanging a shingle) doesn’t work. I have to figure out how to drive people to my thing (for me that means writing workshops and classes, and my books and blog posts) and convince them that they need what I’m offering.
It helps to believe in what you’re selling.
I really do think that workshops are essential for writers and that paying for a workshop led by a qualified mentor who cares about your success is invaluable.
I really do believe that when I write a blog post, it’s something that might help someone else.
I really do believe in my books.
Authenticity in marketing matters. If you are selling something you don’t believe in, it will come through. (Especially if you’re reading this post because you hate marketing, too, and you’re not some kind of evil marketing genius who can make people want to buy crap they know sucks.)
It also helps if you’ve done some work to build you audience. After three years, I have 14,000 people on my email list, another 18,000 belong to my Facebook group, and that many more follow me here on Medium.
That’s a lot different from marketing into the void of the internet — where, incidentally, all of those people are. It means that some people have tapped into me, so that my stuff at least makes it to their periphery.
And you have to just learn to live with how daunting it is to realize that most people don’t want to buy something from you — even if they like you fine and believe in what you’re doing.
I was able to get 50,000 or so people to click a follow button or give me their email address. Only a tiny fraction of them will ever buy something from me. Very tiny. Less than 10 percent. Less than 5 percent, even.
There are 7 billion or so humans on the planet. I need such a tiny percentage of them to buy something from me in order to make a living that they barely amount to a drop in the ocean.
When I think about it that way, at least I can breathe.
I think it’s an almost universal thing that writers hate marketing.
Writers, as a group, tend toward introversion. We work alone. We live in our own little worlds. Having to crack that open and go find people to buy our stuff can feel daunting.
We just want to write and not worry about finding people to read. It’s so tempting to think: if it’s good enough, people will find it.
Why can’t I just write my novel, send it off to my publisher, and start thinking about the next book?
Why can’t I just write my blog posts, toss them out into the ocean of the Internet, and let Google do its magic?
Why can’t I just upload my book to Amazon and just get royalties without having to worry about stupid stuff like ads?
When I talk about marketing to Ninja Writers, there’s always a contingent that says that they’ve just decided they aren’t going to do it. They’ll just get a traditional publisher, they say.
They point out some famous writer who was shy and never marketed anything and they say I’m going to do that.
Well. It doesn’t work that way. None of this works that way.
Unless you’re writing for you family (who you still probably have to market into actually reading, if we’re being totally honest,) the post-writing part will always include marketing.
There are roughly one bajillion writers out there and they’re all competing for reader attention. Even your mother has to decide to read your thing instead of Stephen King’s thing, right? You can probably use love and guilt to market to her, but that won’t work for most other people.
If everyone else is louder than you or more clever with their marketing, it doesn’t matter if you’re a good writer, you’ll definitely be an invisible writer.
Not buying does not equal I hate you and I think you suck.
It’s not personal when someone passes. That’s the thing I struggle to remember. I bet it’s hard for you, too.
It’s not personal when an agent or editor passes on one of my novels. Or when a reader doesn’t clap for one of my posts. Or when someone doesn’t buy whatever I’m selling.
The worst part is that my anxiety over marketing isn’t even really tied to the actual experience. I have never had a campaign where no one signed up for my course. Not once.
The work I do the rest of the year is my best marketing.
All the writing here on Medium. The Facebook group where I spend time developing and nurturing the Ninja Writer community. The free classes I offer.
All of that stuff, I love. I wish I could only do that stuff, I love it so much.
But, I can’t. And hating marketing doesn’t make it go away. It just means I have less joy.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the original Ninja Writer.