Marketing involves putting yourself out there. You’re declaring to the world (or, at least, to the portion of the world that might actually care) that you’re a writer, that you’ve told a story, and that you’re looking for readers. In order to make that pitch successfully, you have to actually believe your work deserves to be read.
This is one reason why quality is so important. If you turn out a high-quality book, then you’re going to have a lot of reasons to be confident in your work. But confidence doesn’t come naturally to everyone, even when it’s deserved. So, you also need to know what to do when you don’t have the confidence to stand up and say, “Buy my book!” (Actually, you should be more tactful than that, but that’s a different post.)
The first thing you need to do is discover if you should have confidence in your work. Find a group of readers you can trust and use those readers to test market your work. Make sure the readers are qualified to read your work and are committed to investing in your future. This requires two things:
1) You want test readers who actually read the kind of work you write.
2) You want test readers who are willing to tell you the truth in a constructive manner, even if the truth hurts.
(Please recognize the difference between having confidence in your potential and your product here. It’s easy to think something is finished when it’s not; but, even when it’s not, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe in your abilities to produce something great. It just means you’re not there, yet.)
As a graduate student, I have been told that I “attack” what’s not working in a piece. The person who said this wasn’t saying something derogatory, and he wasn’t complaining. My criticism, while potentially painful, isn’t destructive, it’s constructive. I don’t “attack” to tear someone down, I “attack” to help build up their skills, so they can fix what doesn’t work and maximize what does.
(Personally, I’d much rather hear about what doesn’t work in a piece I wrote than what does, if I have to choose between only one kind of feedback, because it lets me know what about my piece needs to be better. Ideally, a test reader will let you know what works and what doesn’t.)
So, if you’re struggling with confidence, it might be that you know your piece isn’t ready, at least subconsciously. If, on the other hand, you have approached several qualified test readers who’ve told you the piece is ready, then you need to look somewhere else for your answer.
It might be another area, outside the work itself, that isn’t ready. You might not have a good grasp of your publishing options. You might not have a good grasp of how to market your work. You might not know who your readers are or how to reach them. There are a lot of areas in which our confidence can flag and any of these can erode our ability to effectively market our work.
So, ask yourself: “What is holding me back?”
Try to find a problem you can fix, and then fix it. Maybe your website isn’t up to snuff. Maybe you tried the self-publishing route, but you really want the boost that a traditional publisher can give you concerning the merits of your work. Maybe you’re worried about being a one-book-wonder.
Whatever the problem, fix it. Then, try again. Confidence is something you can build, and you need that confidence if you’re going to have that bright, stellar writing career you deserve. The truth of that is in your hands.