Writers: How to Market Yourself on the Internet

By Daulton Dickey


In an age of mass communication, an image-obsessed age, an age in which instant gratification isn’t the exception but the rule, and in an age in which billions of people have access to this wonderful invention we in the “know” call “a series of tubes,” marketing is the hinge on which success or failure turns for a writer. And take it from me, a bona fide loser, turning yourself into a whore whose name trips from the lips of people matters. Not “people who matter.” Fuck them. When your name is on the lips of other people, then the “people who matter,” whom we’ll henceforth refer to as “Associates of Social Significance” (or ASS for short), will leap onto the bandwagon, as ASSes are wont to do.

What’s important to remember when traversing this series of tubes is that you should know your audience.

—But I don’t have an audience, dumbass, you might say.

And that’s a valid comment—although I hope you’ll keep the name calling to a minimum in the future.

So the question remains: how do you market yourself on the series of tubes and amass an audience? This, in turn, raises another question: —Why do I, a writer, need an audience independent of finding one through my writing?

We’ll take the second question first:

Setting aside the ontology of numbers, “numbers” as symbols that ASSes associate with potential sales figures matter, and that’s our focus here. If you amass an audience on the series of tubes, and if it’s a large audience, then that might be sufficient reason for an ASS or two to all but demand—through force if necessary—to read your book. And if your book is at least on the high-end of a staff marked “shite” at the bottom and “mediocre shite” at the top end, then at least one ASS will throw a contract in your face and jab a pen in your hand—inadvertently leaving a permanent manmade stigmata—and order you, on pain of all ASSes ostracizing you, to sign the fucking contract already you fucking idiot.

That I had to explain why you need an audience is kind of mind-blowing, so I will sum up the above paragraph thusly:

I  = WA

[Where “I” = Interest, “W” = Writer, “A” = Attention]

(The above summary requires the following assumption: the asshole who wrote that is an asshole. Now I know that that’s technically probably not a necessary assumption, but it is important to keep in mind that you’re a pedantic motherfucker.)

Now for the first question:

How do you market yourself on the series of tubes and amass an audience?

This question is complicated and involved, and it might get a little weird, so bear with me. Amassing an audience is all about paying attention to what others are doing, and have done, and copying their approach—is not the right answer. There’s a reason that so many writers are playing the “look-at-me-and-my-numbers” tactic: because it can work for people.

That it does work for people, however, is a sort of pyramid scheme. If a million people do x and one person succeeds, then people doing x will have justification for their use of the tactic. More people might even jump on the bandwagon, so to speak. As a result, so many people using the same tactic become, at one point or another, noise. The people who stand out don’t always stand out because of numbers; they stand out because they’ve done something to make themselves stand out—they’ve marketed themselves differently. Sometimes it is numbers, but sometimes it isn’t.

Setting aside the whole numbers game, let’s look at people who do things differently.

I wake up surrounded by lizard corpses, lying in a pool of phlegm. A power tool is running in the next room. The pitch lowers and rises again, as if the power tool is cutting into something. I get to my feet and amble, on the balls of my heels, to the door. But I don’t open it. Instead, I . . . There’s that sound again: lowering and rising, lowering and rising.

People who market themselves differently, people who examine what the others are doing and alter those tactics, are the people who succeed. They stand out because they’ve adopted different tactics. Like, for example, saving a firefighter from a burning building and then posting a photo of it to Instagram with a tattoo on your forearm in plain view, a tattoo that says “I’m a writer.” Or you could be the son of one of the world’s most famous living novelists, and you could publish your books with a different name, and publish a recent book, a book about which the reviewers will mention you and your father every fucking time; and then you could become a published writer and then ridicule people on Twitter for daring to try to promote their books—without realizing that you’re published through a corporate entity that does most of your promotion for you (by virtue of the fact that it’s a corporate entity, which opens you to possibilities that are closed to most small-timers)—accompanied by a healthy dose of your father’s notoriety.

But anyway . . . 

Look, the point is this:

I’m not going to tell you how to do things differently. That’s for you to figure out. But what I am going to tell you is this: don’t do what everyone else does and expect to get noticed; sure, a few people will get noticed, but, going by pure statistics, those people won’t include you.

Now before we part, I have one thing to say about self-promotion. (I’m a writer who specializes in experimental and avant garde fiction.) Many people print “self-promotion” onto a piece of paper, set the paper on the floor, drop their pants, and squeeze a deuce onto it. Some people act as though self-promotion is a faux pas. (I’m currently working on my third manuscript.) Keep in mind, however, that the people who frown on self-promotion express their opinions via Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, WordPress, and so on, and most of them do it with their names and pictures splattered on their pages while developing and crafting a coherent online persona.

I agree with the hypocrites, and I suppose I am one too: self-promotion is terrible. (My current manuscript is a memoir about bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, death, and memoirs.) Why should people promote themselves when they can’t get other people, including mainstream websites, to do the promotion for them? The answer: they shouldn’t. (I have a couple novels available on your favorite online marketplace.) No one with any dignity or respect should ever invest in the self-promotion concept.

Daulton Dickey is a pataphysical surrealist currently living in Indiana. He’s the author of Flesh Made World, Still Life with Chattering Teeth, and other books he failed to publicize.