This morning I saw an ad on writing blog posts faster with robots.
And it perfectly summed up the disgust I feel toward what it takes to keep my name out there. That we must now rely on fucking ROBOTS to be able to keep the pace.
I can’t do it.
When I launched For the Birds, I believe I did a stellar job of pushing that book out to the public. And I had fun with it. I set up ads through Facebook and Amazon. I had a blogging schedule and created some pretty great content that helped share little known facts about the book. I posted regularly to Instagram and Tiktok, both of which were a huge help in boosting sales and exposure of my book baby.
I was proud of my efforts, and pleased with the results. It all paid off, because For the Birds ended up having the most successful book launch of all my books. I worked damn hard for that, and because of that, I had more people read For the Birds in the last 6 months than some of my books have in their lifetime.
But I was also not getting anything else done—writing, in particular. All my energy was put into pushing For the Birds out to the public and watching my sales numbers react. It was addicting. It was also clear that if I stopped the full bore marketing machine, I would also stop any forward momentum of sales.
It became a choice between marketing and writing, and marketing kept winning out.
I figured I was burnt out on writing, anyway, so why not put all my energy into marketing. The truth was, I was too distracted to actually write. There were too many voices in my head about trends I needed to follow, book teases I needed to share, new content I needed to create about the same thing… There wasn’t room for blissful creativity because I was too busy paying attention to everyone and everything else in my mission to sell more books.
Then November came, and I was forced to pause my marketing strategy. This year, I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo and write a book in 30 days. I have plans to release a series in 2023, but book 2 has proved to be difficult to write. I’ve actually started three different books for the second book in the series, all of them flopping because I couldn’t work out a storyline worthy of the character I’m writing about. I knew if I wanted to actually get this novel written, I needed to drop everything and focus on it. And the fast and furious pace of NaNoWriMo was the perfect environment.
And it worked! The novel isn’t done, and what I’ve written needs a complete overhaul. But the bones are there, and I feel so much more confident about this story, and the series.
Meanwhile, I also got a new job, which has taken most of my energy as I learn my new role. I’ve also taken on a new volunteer position with my writing club by managing their website—another position that requires attentive learning. I have a few freelance jobs that landed on my plate that have really helped fund my holiday and end-of-year expenses.
And my book sales have tanked.
I thought I’d be more upset about that. I’m not. In fact, November has come and gone, and I have not made a Tiktok video. My Instagram is more about life than books. My energy is where it needs to be, and that’s not on marketing.
Because I’m not a fucking robot. And I also won’t use one to keep the machine going.
I am not against marketing or promotion. It’s a necessary part of growing a business. If people don’t know about your product, how are they going to buy it?
But I also believe in authenticity.
Back when I worked at the newspaper, part of my job was to post to social media. A common practice among businesses is to use a posting service that will continuously churn out content, and there inevitably came a time when my boss presented the idea to me.
I have always thought this was a garbage practice, because social media was supposed to be a place where people connected. I felt that, even as a newspaper, we could share stories on a more personal level and connect with our readers through the status update and through comments. Eventually I lost the battle of wills, and an automated service began posting to the paper’s social media about once an hour, just so a small percentage of our posts could land in people’s newsfeeds.
It’s not a unique practice. Today, a good majority of businesses are utilizing posting services to push their content. Everything from social media to blog posts to … I don’t even know. If you Google “AI marketing,” you’ll find all sorts of ways to use artificial intelligence to reach the masses.
What does it say about our society when we have to use robots to keep the pace?
I don’t want to be the old curmudgeon in the room, scoffing at all these newfangled ideas while reminiscing about the good old days. I believe in progress, and love how technology has advanced in ways we never would have imagined even 20 short years ago. My career has depended on technology, and I’ve been fascinated as I’ve learned how to do new and interesting techy things.
But I also need to support my mental health. And staying in the fast lane, trying to keep up with the breakneck speed of keeping my name in people’s minds is unsustainable. At least for this moment.
It’s the holiday season, and I have done zero marketing to get my books out there as possible gifts. And I’m okay with that. I’m entering the new year with a goal to let go of societal pressure to be noticed in a sea of people trying to do the same thing. Instead of pushing out content to sell my books, I’m more interested in reducing the noise of social media and focusing inward. I’m more interested in massaging the storyline of the book I’m writing, with no hard deadline on when it needs to be done. I’m more interested in going slow, being present, and enjoying the people around me instead of trying to make an impression on the world.
I’m more interested in feeding my soul, not sucking the life out of it. And if I need to use robots to keep up, I don’t want to be a part of it. I’ll put my marketing hat back on eventually, but you can guarantee it will be ME behind the machine, and not an artificial source working to push out a bunch of garbage just to contribute to the noise.
For now? I’m in creativity mode. And I’m happy to stay here.
In all irony, I close with this Instagram post from Brianna Wiest (because social media can still be a place for inspiration), who perfectly shares the space I’m in now, and the place I plan to be as I enter 2023.
In everything you choose, you must first ask: but what will this do to my soul? Will it bring me closer to a heavenly state of being, or anchor me into the ache of this world? Will it make me more of the person I was meant to be, or will it distract me from the true work? Will it pay the bills, but bankrupt my being? Will it impress others, but disappoint the child inside me waiting to see what I do with my freedom? Will I arrive to the end of my life proud that I did this? Will I choose now, or will I wait until I am forced to make the decision I already know is right today? Will I spare myself the suffering? Will I have courage?Brianna Wiest