a chicken-and-egg conundrum

On the constant pull between creating and promoting

a chicken-and-egg conundrum
Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

Yesterday, I was suddenly seized by an idea to revive Tales for Dreamers, but over on Substack this time.

I was frustrated by the lack of discoverability I'm seeing here on Ghost, especially now that I am no longer on social media. And from what I'm seeing of Substack, it reminds me of the early days of blogging.

But this time around, instead of jumping into whatever newfangled idea has gripped me, I spent some time mulling over what I was trying to achieve, and had some discussions with KrA on this.

The bottom line is this: I'm yearning for discoverability. I want to reach more readers. I want to increase the size of the audience for my work.

Wanting to start Tales for Dreamers over on Substack is an idea to reach and introduce more readers to my works of fiction.

Writing is often a solitary endeavour and, for someone like me, who craves constant praise and encouragement from the outside world, I seek all the validation I could possibly get all the time.

While that is a very valid desire, the truth is also that I don't yet have a vast enough body of work to justify the time and effort I'm looking to spend in promotional endeavours.

Dean Wesley Smith explains why this is folly, and of the kind that newish writers fall prey to, in his book, Magic Bakery. A succinct treatise on copyright for laypeople, the book explains the importance of inventory using the example of a magic bakery.

Imagine you are setting up a bakery and you have only two kinds of products to offer – a chocolate chip muffin and a blueberry muffin.

You'd have customers come in, take a quick look around, and if they really want either of the two muffins, they might buy one and leave.

But, and this is the important bit, there is nothing in the bakery to keep them coming back for more, unless they wish to keep eating the same type of baked good over and over again.

The metaphor as applied to writing pertains to the bakery being your store or the retail platforms where you sell your books — it could potentially house all the intellectual properties you own and will ever create in your lifetime — and the products being the ones, i.e., books, that are actually up for sale.

So if I have only 2 novels, 1 novella, and a handful of short stories up for sale, that is not enough to fill up an entire bakery where customers could browse for hours/days/weeks/months/years, and it is not enough to keep readers coming back for more.

Yet, that temptation to invite more and more readers into my world right away is so strong, so alluring, that common sense often flies out of the window.

Like it did yesterday.

Like it did last November when I started offering Tales for Dreamers as a weekly paid subscription service, only to announce its termination at the end of 2023.

So on the one hand while I'm trying to write more books, I'm also looking to take on the work of promoting more, but it is clear to me now that this is an untimely endeavour.

I keep circling back to this over and over again because I desperately want to see some results, some uptick in sales, more subscribers to my newsletter, something that will move the needle in a tangible way, something that tells me I am on the right track, like an overall uptrending graph to represent steady growth in this business.

Aah! The constant tug of war between long-term payoffs and short-term gains.

I read 3—4 newsletters in the course of a month, perhaps a few more all put together. I love what I read so much that it is impossible to not have the same desire crop up in me for my writings. Perhaps that is why I'm constantly thinking of ways to write and share my words to more and more readers.

But as has tended to happen in the past, that initial enthusiasm fizzles out too soon, especially when it is hard to find and keep readers, as is so often the case in these days of an overcrowded Internet.

So I have to remind myself, over and over again, that this is a long-term game. That I'm much better off in the present moment writing my stories and publishing my books, than I am trying to solicit new readers via social media or Substack or from anywhere else at this point in time.

That is an issue I can tackle when I have enough wares in my bakery.

Right now, I have plenty of tasks to complete, tasks I've been sitting on, namely, designing covers and writing sales copy and publishing the stories I've been writing, without needing to add any more to this never-ending list.

I find myself straying from this path often, but instead of chiding myself for that, I'm going to congratulate myself today for catching myself in the midst of straying and gently nudging myself back to what really matters.

This has made it easier for me to realign my focus, acknowledge how hard it is to stay focused when so many market gurus keep showcasing ways to market and promote, and carry on doing what will truly move the needle for me in the long run. Write the next story. And the one after that. And the one after that.