I’ve freelanced for several years now and marketing almost always plays a part in my work. I write copy for a living, and most copy is marketing copy. Whether it’s in your face and obvious or subtle – it’s marketing.
Even before I became a freelancer, I worked in small businesses and almost always, marketing fell to me. I guess that means I get it, or I’m good at it and there are results that show at least in part, that’s true.
However, when it comes to my own stuff. My own products and services I became a sniveling, whining, scaredy-cat at the mere mention of marketing. Suddenly it all becomes so personal. Ask people to buy my stuff? My God, what would they think of me?
Shouldn’t art be its own marketing sphere?
Self published authors in particular seem to have this problem. Perhaps because the work is creative and feels so personal – and in fact, is personal. To then turn around and market it may feel like you’re cheapening it. Reducing it down to the level of a handy dandy vacuum bag. And art is well art, right? Shouldn’t people just gravitate toward art? Toward the beauty, the aesthetics, the passion within? Isn’t art its own marketing sphere?
Sure, why not? Let’s go with that. And this is the marketing plan you come up with basically entails what every other author is doing:
- Incessantly tweeting and getting others to incessantly tweet your books
- Posting the buy links on Facebook
- Writing blog posts about your book on your blogs (or maybe a friend’s blog, if you have any friends with blogs).
- Badgering your friends and family to buy your books, then spread the word.
- Rinse and repeat
Yep, that’s about it. That’s about as far as you can take it if you choose only to work safe venues with people who know you and won’t think poorly of you for trying to sell your stuff. Or at least will be too polite to say you’re irritating them.
Then there is the magic approach
We’ve all read the blog post where a successful author claims they didn’t market at all. They sold twenty books the first month and then lo and behold, the next month they sold 100,000 books. It just sort of happened. It was magic.
We squeamish marketers like that approach, no actually, we love that approach, because it means that we don’t have to do anything. That the universe will just reward us for all our hard work. That the cream will automatically rise to the top (of course our books are the cream). That there are no dues to be paid. No hard work involved. That we can continue to live in the rarefied world of the author who does nothing but imagines, inks up her quills and ponders the deep meaning of life within her world of story.
Meanwhile, other people are selling books
Meanwhile, the authors who recognize that they are not only writers, but also publishers, publicists, and marketer, promote the heck out of their books. They blatantly embrace commercialism, run promotions, pay for advertising, email market, experiment with marketing approaches, and take every opportunity they can find to tell people about their books. Guess who ends up selling books? And lots of them.
Not the squeamish marketer. Not the one who worries about what people will think of them. Not the one who prays the world will step in and just make it happen for them. Yep, it’s those hacks who understand that they are their entire team. That it’s up to them to spread the word, through whatever means possible. That they wear more than one hat as authors. That when they aren’t writing, they aren’t writers – they’re publishers, marketers, and the sales team.
There is an art to marketing
For some reason, marketing has gotten a nasty rep. It’s crass, it’s pushy, and it’s just not cool. I beg to differ. Ever watch an Apple commercial? Millions of people tune in every year to watch the Super Bowl, just to see the commercials. Millions of dollars are spent every year creating movie trailers. Art galleries spend months putting together marketing for exhibitions. And people will talk about an effective marketing campaign, promo, or commercial as much as they’ll talk about the product they promote. Some of them even go viral.
There is an art to marketing. And if you approach marketing as yet another art form for you to master you may get onto something that will, guess what, sell books.
Personally, I don’t like to run with the crowd. Doing all the same things that everybody else is doing. And right now, I’m learning what works and what doesn’t. But I’m really looking for something new, different, creative, and workable. Something that doesn’t just blend into all the white noise of every other author who is selling a book. I suggest you do the same.
However, here are a few tips that might be helpful:
- Run different promos rather than the same one over and over. For example, run a 1-day freebie and promote the heck out of it. Then later run a freebie without telling anyone. Compare the results.
- Keep a log of all your promo actions. Whether it is a book reading, a free promo, a contest giveaway, a personal appearance, a special on a book promotion site, etc. By keeping a log, you are more likely to be able to track cause and effect of your promotions. For example, if you spoke at the ladies auxiliary about botany on Friday and then on Sunday saw a big spike in sales, it’s reasonable to think there is a connection. This will help you to determine what is effective and isn’t. And encourage you to do more of what works and leave what doesn’t work behind, so you aren’t spinning your wheels.
- Change your point of view. Part of the thing that makes marketing hard for us is that it’s personal. We aren’t objective. So every win feels bigger than it is and every loss does too. Try to take on the project of promoting your books as though you had nothing to do with creating the product. What would Suzie the publicist do? Or Mark the marketer? It’s not easy to do this, but if you can pull it off, you’ll be amazed at the stuff you might come up with.
- Never give up on a project. Or in your case, a book. Case in point, my first book was published five years ago and frankly went nowhere. When the rights reverted back to me, I took that book, tore it apart, edited, revised and essentially rewrote it. My plan was to use it as my promotional book. Run a free promo then drop it down to 99 cents after the free promo. In the hopes that it would create visibility for my current books. I had ten times as many downloads as I expected and to my surprise, I’ve sold copies of the book every day since the promotion. I’m not going to retire on the proceeds from the sales but it amazed me that I book I essentially had decided to write off is now doing better than it ever did before. So…you just never know.
Whatever you do, do something
We all want to believe that the universe is just going to simply reward us for all the good things we do and all our hard work – and unfortunately, that rarely happens. So sitting around and doing nothing will typically get you nothing.
If you feel squeamish, weird, odd, floopy in the area of marketing that’s okay. Acknowledge that and then do something. Anything. As long as it results in more people knowing about your book. Start small. Then do something a little bigger. A little more daring. If you can just make yourself get through those first few icky beginnings of marketing, you may find that marketing is nothing to be squeamish about. You might even like it.
How about you? Do you have a hard time marketing? Have tried and failed? Have tried and succeeded? What works for you? What doesn’t work for you? Ever done anything outrageous that paid off? Tell us your marketing tales in the comments.