My friend Becky and I seem to have this running “discussion” about marketing our books. She recently shared her thoughts on the matter in this blog post, to which I added a brief comment.
Then I decided a more lengthy response was in order…so here we are.
My Thoughts About Marketing for Independent Authors
Step 1; Write the book
Seems pretty self-explanatory and definitely obvious so we won’t go into any detail about it, other than to say if you ever want sell a book, it’s the only place to start (plagiarism notwithstanding).
Step 2; Sell the book
This is where many authors drop the ball.
In fact, when I released my first novel, Living the Dream, way back in the day, I made the very mistake(s) I’m about to tell you to avoid – so pay attention, because I’m speaking from experience.
First, let’s start with some assumptions;
Assumption number 1 – you didn’t write your novel for fun.
This is not to say you didn’t have fun writing it, I’m sure you did (editing – that’s a different story!). No, what I mean is that your ultimate goal was to sell books.
I wrote a blog post about this very topic a while ago (Do We Write for Love or Money?)
There may be some who are insulted by the concept of producing any form of art for money, but as Dr. Samuel Johnson said ““No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”
Let’s face it, you spent months, maybe years, writing that book…did you do all that work just so it could take up space on your hard drive? If so, you can stop reading and go do something else…there’s nothing for you here.
Assumption number 2 – you don’t have a publicist or a PR firm at your disposal.
I once entertained the thought of hiring a publicist – until he told me how much his services would cost. I don’t remember the exact amount, but it was far too expensive…especially when he wouldn’t promise me any results. I was of the opinion that if you’re going to charge me hundreds of dollars to increase my sales, you should at least promise me tangible results, or, at the very least, work on strict commission.
He didn’t share that attitude.
Assumption number 3 – you get tired of people asking you if you’re making money yet, and you’re even more tired of telling them that you aren’t.
This can be very annoying, and somewhat demoralizing for independent authors. When people learn that you write books the conversation usually goes from “Wow, you’re an author? That’s cool!” to “Are you making any money?” pretty quickly.
Not that they’re trying to be rude or inconsiderate, they’re usually just curious.
And of course we try to find creative ways to answer, like “I’m not getting rich, but it’s getting better.”
The take-away from this is that you need to sell your book.
I’m no expert. I can’t tell you that doing this, that or the other thing will result in a sudden influx of cash. If I could, I’d be writing this from my yacht. What I can offer are a few tips of what NOT to do and a couple of suggestions that might help you a little bit.
First – some do’s:
- Be aggressive. How aggressive is up to you. I like to strike a balance that is not too passive, but not obnoxiously aggressive either. I’m still experimenting.
- Be supportive of other authors. The independent author community is huge, and growing every day. Mutual support helps all of us. If you can’t buy books by other authors, at least help promote them – they will usually reciprocate.
- Utilize social media. Things like Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging, etc are FREE and provide access to millions of people. Take advantage of it (again, I’m still experimenting with different methods, but it works). (Side note: some people seem to get offended by “paid promotions” on facebook – but I use them. Once or twice a month I create a “buy my book” post and pay to promote it. I never pay more than $10 and it reaches a few thousand extra people. In my mind…it’s $10 well spent. Of course you can spend hundreds if you want…I don’t want.)
- Block out time for marketing. Writing time is precious for all of us, especially if you have a day job, but it’s critical to save time for your due diligence. Believe it or not, I probably spend 2 hours on marketing for every hour I spend writing…maybe more.
- Steal ideas. That’s right, I said it. If you see another author doing something to sell books that you think might work for you, it’s okay for you to do it too. Hey, there’s more than one commercial during the Super Bowl, right?
- Monitor your sales on Amazon. If you don’t know how to do this…find out. It’s easy and it’s the only way to figure out what is working and what isn’t.
- If something isn’t working, stop doing it. Pretty simple. Try a new promo idea…run with it for a week or two, while monitoring your sales numbers. If you don’t see results, move on.
- Remember – the only stupid idea is one you don’t try. Getting your book cover tattooed on your butt and posting the picture on Pinterest may seem idiotic, but you’ll never know until you try.
And now the don’ts:
- Sit around waiting for your book to sell itself. Believe me, it won’t. Books are notoriously lazy.
- Assume that what you’re doing is enough. Unless you are interviewing chauffeurs and body guards…keep pushing.
- Do the same thing over and over. Marketing is a continually evolving endeavor – that’s why you don’t see the same TV commercials for Coke and Pepsi today that you saw when you were a kid (unless you’re 11).
- Listen to the naysayers. There are people who will tell you that marketing is a waste of time. Ask them how many books they’re selling.
- Be afraid. Remember the old saying…If you want something you’ve never had, you have to be willing to do something you’ve never done. Maybe you’re shy and don’t want to get out there and sell yourself. Too bad – nobody is going to do it for you.
- Be aloof. I don’t want to hear any of that “I’m an artist, not a salesman” crap. If you’ve ever gone on a job interview you were selling yourself – this is no different. Well, maybe a little different…but you went on that interview because you needed a job. Think of marketing the same way.
- Pretend you don’t care if nobody reads your book. You do. If you didn’t you wouldn’t have finished it…or even started it for that matter. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to share your work with the world…warm up to that concept.
- Believe me. Don’t take my word for any of this…find an author who sells a lot of books and ask them if I’m right or wrong (if I’m wrong, please let me know).
- Give up. There is an audience for every book…keep going until you find yours.
I think that’s about all I have.
As I’ve said many, many times…I am no expert, but I have learned a few things in the past 5 years. Hopefully I can save you some time by imparting these nuggets to you.
Conversely – if you have any tips for me – lay them on me—I am definitely not too proud to listen to your advice.
Oh – one more thing…my newest book, Eyewitness Blues is now available in paperback and digital formats…buy it! (too pushy?)
As always – thank you for reading