Marketing Your Writing

A fellow writer told me how much he enjoyed my last blog on staying positive.  So I’d like to share a topic that’s been on my mind:  how to enjoy marketing.

Marketing means sending out your work, generally getting it rejected, and sending it out again.  And again.  And again.

Oh, once in a while, you’ll hit gold.  My first poem submission got accepted right away to Tesseracts7.  And once you’re at a certain level, or an editor “gets” you, you can sell immediately.

But all authors who make their living with their words, even bestsellers, face rejection.  And we all know rejection doesn’t taste like chocolate raspberry torte.

So what’s a girl or boy to do?

I read Kris Rusch’s blog on discipline.  Her trick is to find the love in what you do.  So, for example, she runs and listens to her iPod because she loves music enough to break out the running shoes.  She doesn’t read fiction until after she writes because otherwise, the day is over and she’s read a book and hasn’t produced anything.

This makes sense.  And yet, I wasn’t feeling it.  How was I supposed to find the love in querying editors who said “No, thank you,” “You certainly have voice, but I’m not sure our readers will connect with it,” or just didn’t respond at all?  How was I supposed to relish it?  Sure, I liked the ones who said “Send me a full,” but that didn’t happen enough to suit me.

While I mulled this question over, I picked up Martha Beck’s book, The Joy Diet. I love this book.  Ten steps to joy.  One of them is Treats.  She said most of us don’t treat ourselves enough.  We don’t act kindly towards ourselves.  That doesn’t mean buying a Maserati, necessarily.  A treat just do something you love, whether that’s having a nap or singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (all singing parts).

So where do the pigs come in?  It’s Beck’s analogy.  You can train pigs to stand on their hind legs and push shopping carts with their front trotters.  How?  By operant conditioning.  By giving them a treat every time they do a tiny step.  Pig goes near shopping cart?  Treat.  Pig hops on hind leg for a second?  Treat.  Treat.  Treat.  Pretty soon Petunia Pig can buy your organic lettuce and run your credit card for you.


I realized that the discipline aspect didn’t appeal to me.  After four years of medical school, two years of residency, and one year of emergency medicine, followed by years of medical practice, devoting myself to my baby Max, and writing, I’ve had discipline up the wazoo.

But not enough treats.

I still got ‘er done.  I had set my goals to turning around my short stories and trying to do five book queries at a shot.  If I get deep into querying, I’ll zone out, continually hunting this editor or that agent.  An hour or two will go by and my husband will say, “Hey.  I thought we were going to watch the Tudors.”

But after the first marketing deluge, it was a joyless process.  It was mostly stick, no carrot.  Which is mighty dull after a while.

So.  I decided that if I didn’t relish the marketing itself, I should just enjoy the treats.  One book query a day (which makes 365 a year) and then immediate treat, whether that’s playing with Max whole-heartedly, reading Glamour maagazine, doing yoga, or whatever.

Natalie Goldberg wrote that when a boy first reads the Torah, he is given a bit of honey so he’ll always associate learning with sweetness.

By setting my goals low and achievable, and administering myself some honey, I find myself looking forward to marketing.  If I send two queries, I say, “Good job, Melissa!” instead of “Only three more to go.”

So my recommendation is, whatever’s blocking your quest du jour, whether that quest is marketing, de-cluttering the closet, or building a rocket ship, try to find the love.  Like my husband likes to quote, if you enjoy your job, that’s eight more hours a day you get back.  And if you can’t love that job–or even if you relish every sweet moment–remember to administer yourself treats.  Regularly.  For fun.


Our new dog, Mika, who certainly enjoys treats

copyright Melissa Yuan-Innes, 2009