Build Your Own Audience So You Don’t Need a Publisher
Carmina Valdizán Shares Two Strategies That Paved the Way for Her Novels
Access to real-time information and convenient online sharing of opinions can be competitive challenges for self-publishing of books and essays, less inclined towards immediate stimulation. One antidote is an ongoing stream or staggered portions of valuable information targeted to a precise audience, explains Carmina Valdizán, a freelancer and author in Guatemala.
The multifaceted writer has a literature blog called Choque de Egos (clash of the egos). She is also a passionate reader and reviewer of books, the host of a YouTube show La Ciudad de Los Libros (the city of books), a columnist, and a content-marketing manager. Without a doubt, her talent is creative communication.
Valdizán recognizes that self-publishing entails plenty of challenges, but she feels fortunate to have a responsive audience. One of the internet’s flaws, she explains, is “the circulation of plenty of fake information that people are not used to validating.” Even fact-checking sites have proved misleading, so we then rely on the “analytical capacity and critical thinking of the users” to somehow assess the merits of content sources.
“The web and social media are like a huge ocean, and you are a paper boat trying to navigate on it.” Amid that vast expanse, Valdizán explains that self-marketing is a slow process, and long-lasting results require investment. Items that garner immediate attention lose their luster just as quickly, since they lack “an inherited essence, something real and tangible. Selfies and comforting words are not enough.”
To carve out a space and garner credibility on the web, one must “share interesting substance, while knowing that the audience enjoys the trial-and-error process.” Valdizán adds that amid the experimentation you must use a method and be careful with your content and how you share it: the internet is neither a personal diary nor a platform to worship your own personality.
The Guatemalan writer identifies two key ingredients or strategies that expand one’s audience: persistence and consistency. “If you are not persistent, people forget about you, and if you are not consistent, people do not know what to expect from you.”
In her case, she writes about literature, books, and orthography. Although she sometimes comments on other topics, she seeks to stay on topic and respect her limits: “Readers pay attention to you for a reason, and they hope to receive more of that from you.”
The most challenging part and crescendo of her career has been novel writing and publishing. She is self-publishing her first novel, a romance titled like her blog, Choque de Egos. To break up the project and gauge audience responses, each week Valdizán releases a new chapter of the novel on her blog and through a cell-phone application, Wattpad.
Valdizán is also researching for a historical novel that will use fiction to explain life in 17th-century Guatemala. This requires help from scholars who often view her with suspicion, given that the objective is a novel. She has to lean on the credibility she has acquired with her more serious endeavors and her status as an expert in the field.
She acknowledges the challenge of respecting history within a captivating story: “I profoundly respect the history, so I understand their concern. Nevertheless, I am a reader too, and I know readers seek entertainment in a novel as a return on their time.”
She also faces the challenge of a dispersed, international audience for her work. That means local, conventional publishers are reluctant, so she will self-publish this one too.
On the other hand, her work over the years has given her a great advantage: an established audience of online readers who engage with her. Whether people will read or not is one less thing to worry about. The reader has the last word, she says, but self-publishing in this era requires “a good editor and an effective self-marketing strategy.”
Fergus Hodgson contributed to this article.