“M” is for Marketing: If You’re an Author, You Have to Do It!
This Buddhist proverb came to me the other day as I wrangled with the prospect of spending yet more of my precious writing time learning about marketing and promotions. See, I love to write, but I hate to market. Unfortunately, like an intricate Celtic knot, writing and marketing are inextricably wound together for any author who hopes to sell what she writes. And I was bemoaning my lack of a master marketing teacher. “I’m ready,” I promised the Universe. “Where’s my marketing guru?”
My marketing guru showed up in the form of super-agent Janet Reid who, in her daily blog, said to authors (I’m paraphrasing here), “The information is out there. Learn it, do it, stop bitching, and get to work.”
I’m still not very happy about having to spend so much time marketing, but I understand the necessity. Like a trip to the dentist, I’m never thrilled about it but recognize the benefits. Up until now I admit I’ve mostly marketed the way I plant a garden: sporadically and with more good intentions than actual know-how. While an eclectic approach might work for a flowerbed, it isn’t optimum for actual . . . you know, marketing. Trust me on this. So while I don’t have a master leading me down the rosy path toward marketing success, I have managed to pick up some recommendations I’m happy to share. Because here’s the thing, buttercup. Marketing tools for a writer are like termites in a Georgia house: You’ve either already got them, or you’re destined to—so deal with it before the need arises.
Before I offer some advice, let me just say this. If you are a reader and not a writer, I beg you to consider that the author of that book you’re reading may have chewed her nails down to the nubs trying to figure out how to get her book into your hands. You are that most sparkly and special of all elusive unicorns: a reader. You are difficult to reach, but oh, so appreciated. Of course, with so many authors waving books at you, it is no wonder you might feel a tad overrun. For every fifty books that cross your path, you may only read one or two of them. Thank you for reading, even if my book isn’t the one you choose. Somewhere out there an author is giddy with delight that you’re reading hers. I’m thanking you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of us.
If you are a published author, then you already know how tough the marketing aspect of this business can be. Publishing is not an easy business, but it is a business, and we fare best when we remember that. And I’m preaching to the choir.
If you’re an unpublished author, please take this advice: enjoy your freedom. Enjoy being able to focus on craft and story without worrying about marketing or promo. Delight in the ability to indulge your passion without the distraction of the M word. But do take the time to learn all about marketing—before you need it. Be ready. Because if you’re serious about this biz, you will either eventually sign a contract with a publisher or self-pub. Either way, the bulk of the marketing falls on your shoulders, and it is quite a load. If you’re writing a book, it isn’t too early to start learning about marketing.
Okay, so I promised some recommendations. Here are a few books that I urge you to read sooner rather than later. These titles are suggested again and again, by people a whole lot smarter than I am:
Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-by-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales by Dana Kaye (This one is highly recommended by Janet Reid.)
If you know of other marketing books for authors that you would recommend, please mention them in the comments.
Just a few other marketing tips to share before I sign off for this week:
Social media is a wonderful tool, but it is unlikely you have the time or energy for all of it. Choose two or three venues that you enjoy and put your heart into them. It is better to be effective in few than ineffective in many.
Keep learning, because the marketing method that works for authors today may be passé tomorrow. Everything has a curve to it. Try to find the method that is on the upward, rather than the downward, trajectory.
Reach out to other authors. You’d be surprised how many are willing to help you by featuring you on their blog or hosting a giveaway of your book on their Facebook page. One of the best things about the writing community is the sense of Tribe. Let people help you, and be willing to help them. ADDENDUM: In the comments, author Pat Wahler shared some great advice: “I heard a presentation on building an author platform last week, and the speaker’s biggest tip was to connect, network, and be relentlessly helpful. Go to conferences, meetings, workshops, writer groups, and book clubs. Offer to do presentations. Meet people–it’s the best way to gain new readers.”
And always remember, no matter your marketing strategy, the best way to sell books is still the old fashioned way: word of mouth.
Due diligence is imperative before tossing your hard-earned money at a marketing company. Because there are thousands of authors, and because authors need to market, there is no shortage of marketing and promotional businesses out there. Some are valid, some are not. Get recommendations from other authors before you click the PayPal button.
Be patient, be patient, be patient. This is a tough business and success is, for most of us, going to be a slow and arduous climb. The overnight blockbusters like E.L. James are pretty much one in a million. We stand a better chance of being struck by lightning twice while collecting our lottery winnings in the middle of a Martian invasion than we do of hitting it that kind of big. Write because you love it, market because you must, and build a body of work. If you’re destined to be that one-in-a-million author, you’ll find out soon enough.
I welcome your comments. Please share your experiences, thoughts, cat videos, whatever. 🙂 Seriously, what’s your stance on marketing and promo for authors? Do you have a success to share? A horror story? This is the place for the Naked Truth, so I hope you’ll comment.
Next week I’ll be interviewing Gothic mystery writer Terry Lynn Thomas, author of The Spirit of Grace and Weeping in the Wings. She is also one of the nicest people you’ll ever want to meet, so I hope to see you here next Wednesday!
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