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The Game
I don’t like to play ball. For marketing, that is. I wrote a book a few months ago, and released it to the world. (That’s a scary thing to do, by the way.) Part of publishing a book is the marketing, and if I’m honest, I just don’t like to play the game.

The common route to exposure is pretty much what you would expect it to be. It’s recommended that people like me reach out to the “big names” and ask them to read and possibly recommend my book to their audience. I’ve been told to write guest posts for other websites and popular blogs (not by the owners of those sites and blogs, mind you, but by people who just assume it’s easy to catch the ear of people like that). It’s also been suggested that I should purchase expensive ads and sponsor high-profile podcasts.

It’s all crap.

I’m sorry to be That Guy, but it’s true. Case in point: those “big name” Internet celebrities who have the influence to push my book into the minds of millions? Due to their fame and demands on their schedule, I am simply one of dozens (or even hundreds) of voices each month who they don’t have time for. It’s not their fault, honestly. But the sad reality is that most people who go knocking on their doors never get an answer, let alone the help they hoped to get.

What about those guest posts? First, the Big Sites, the ones you’d love to have your book mentioned on, are simply inundated with requests. Most of those sites have a “submissions” page that’s longer than a vampire erotica novel, and have incredibly tight requirements for all submissions. Requirements such as not shilling your products, which isn’t helpful at all to someone hoping to, well, shill their product.

Ads and sponsorships? Maybe I’m missing something, but paying someone to display a tiny ad on their site, mixed in with a dozen other ads, seems risky. Add to that the fact that most readers of a site that generates regular content never visit the site itself anyway, but rather read new content through an RSS reader, and you begin to see how silly it might be to actually pay money for an ad almost no one will see.

I know this first hand. My book is about freelancing, something I’m damn good at, and enjoying helping others get better at as well. So I thought it would be wise to buy an ad on one of the top freelancing websites on the Internet. This site boasts hundreds of thousands of page views each month. They have huge RSS numbers. And do you know what? Their readers ignore ads. My ad saw, on average, over 12,000 impressions a day, with no clicks. One week netted me nearly 100,000 impressions and just 5 clicks.

Yay.

The Merit
I have this really weird attitude about it all. I believe that, when someone makes something, then ships it and offers it for sale, the better the product, the better it will sell. If it’s gold, people will find it and buy it. If it’s crap, it’s doomed to fail. For some reason, I feel that quality merits reward.

Maybe it’s the old wisdom beaten into me by the elders of my childhood. Hard work pays off. The early bird gets the worm. All that jazz. I have found myself convinced that, because I wrote what I think is a fantastic book, for an enormous audience, with nearly zero barrier to ownership, I deserve success. The book should sell like hotcakes.

Guess what? It’s not. I have to believe that there are more than 250 freelancers in the world. There must be. But that’s how many have purchased my book. Not 250,000. Just a nice round triple-digit 250. That’s it.

So, my merit-based self can only come to one assumption: the book sucks. It’s only earned the results it deserved. This logic is so ingrained in my psyche that I’ve already come to terms with it. My book isn’t good, so I should be happy with the sales I’ve managed to earn so far. I’m literally grateful for my own mediocrity. How pathetic is that?

So what’s next, then? Do I accept the fact that writing books might not be the best use of my time and give up? Should I set aside any dreams I might have of reaching a larger audience and helping more people get better at what they do? I mean, if my book won’t sell, perhaps my knowledge and experience isn’t as exceptional as I’m telling myself. Who am I to profess a wisdom and insight worth selling to others?

Or, do I ignore it all and press on? I have more books to write, more lessons and stories brewing for future topics. Perhaps I could find a way to separate merit from the act of writing and publishing.

Reality
The reality is that writing, although it contributes little toward supporting my family, offers a wonderful release and purpose beyond my day-to-day design work. That said, I sometimes feel like I’m simply playing make-believe, pretending that I’m something I’m not. Some people love what I write. Most, though, don’t know that I (or my books) exist.

It’s both humbling and refreshing. It keeps me firmly grounded in reality. It manages my hopes and expectations. It fills me with that sense of risk and fear that keeps driving me to try new things and ship something that could maybe make a difference.

All I know is that I love to write (even if I’m not good at it), I have a lot to share (even if no one is listening) and I evidently require little incentive to keep trying (even if the numbers are less than encouraging). I’m either stupid, delusional or stubborn. My guess is that it’s all three.