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The role of fear in book marketing

The word courage written on a scrap on paper

Last year, my friend and I decided to start a YouTube programme interviewing writers about their passions - the books, TV and films that mean the most to them, and how they've influenced their writing.

Neither of us have a lot of free time to edit or 'faff' so we decided that live was the way to go. I deliver live webinars and workshops all the time so I won't find it stressful, right? Wrong. As the launch programme approached, my fear increased and for the two nights beforehand I didn't sleep - real lie in bed wide awake all night insomnia - terrified I was about to make a fool of myself.

Those of you who've worked with me know I often talk about the importance of putting yourself 'out there' to build connections with readers before you feel totally polished on a channel, but this is the first time in a long time I've felt that sort of fear myself. Writers are often introverts to whom 'blowing your own trumpet' or drawing attention to yourself feels alien, and there's also a sense of panic that comes with the unfamiliar - what if something goes wrong? What if I look stupid?

In the end, it’s all been fine - better than fine, it’s been a joy to be part of - and the response has been lovely. I’m not going to lie, there are a few moments watching myself in there that make me cringe - but those are thoroughly outweighed by the pleasures of this project.

And after all this - there are some key insights that I thought it would be useful to share about what this process has taught me about the role of fear in book marketing.

Authenticity makes it easier

The premise of our whole programme - Getting Carried Away - comes from a desire to celebrate enthusiasm. Emma and I share a tendency to get overexcited about the things we love - this is something very real in both our personalities. The opening to the programme even says ‘Leave your cool at the door…’

By basing the programme on something genuine, we’re not setting this up to be anything it’s not. Viewers expect enthusiasm and excitement, they don’t expect polish and cool. This means when there is the occasional lapse into incoherent fangirling (talking about Kurt Russell with DL Marshall, for example) this may not be ideal, but it is in keeping with the spirit of the programme - so I can feel less frightened about making a fool of myself.

In your book marketing, think about what you have a natural tendency to do - geek out, obsess over small details, wax lyrical on a particular subject, whatever it may be - and embrace that. Because when you do this, even to excess, at least you’ll be ‘on brand.’

Consider being transparent about the process

When you’re trying new things and starting new projects, you’re not an expert - and you don’t need to be. For your audiences, the journey is usually as interesting as the destination. Being transparent with our guests, and our audiences, about how new all this was to us, led to some of the loveliest moments in the programme.

Many people are afraid of looking like they don’t know what they’re doing. But the flipside of this is that your audiences will also understand that sense of being unsure, trying things out and hoping for the best. Content that is open about the challenges, practical and emotional, associated with this, is likely to resonate with these audiences.

With all book marketing activity, there will be an element of ‘hiding the wiring’ - and you should never share anything you’d prefer remains private - but consider how much of the process you’re going through you might be open about. As an example of what I mean, I’m working with a few authors at the moment who are starting to build or develop their profile on Instagram - and rather than launching straight into polished ‘I know exactly what I’m doing on here’ content, we’ve found that sharing some elements of the journey to explore and learn what works well for them on the platform is a lovely, engaging form of content in itself.

Nobody ever scrutinises you as much as you scrutinise yourself

This is true of life as well as book marketing, isn’t it. There were sections in the programme where afterwards I lamented to Emma ‘Ah I look like an idiot!’ - she dutifully watched them back and said ‘What are you talking about? You just look down a couple of times - it’s fine.’ And most people wouldn't notice it at all.

The truth is, the things that make us cringe about ourselves will completely fly over 99 percent of people’s heads. We can’t help but notice the foibles and flaws in what we’ve done - and it’s fine to have a moment of humility realising we’d like to be better - but don’t let it stop you because chances are, you’re the only one who’s noticed.

Collaborations are your friend

The thing that has helped above everything else in this project is that I haven’t been alone. Doing this with Emma, a good friend, has made me feel safe and much more confident.

Consider how you can collaborate with other writers - or other creatives in any discipline where there might be that audience crossover - in your marketing activity. By supporting, celebrating and working with others, you not only widen the audience for what you’re doing, you also get moral support, encouragement and camaraderie, all of which greatly reduces the fear factor.

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