gargoyle grumpy

The Irascible Indie. Part 5, Confessions of a Non-Marketer

The Irascible Indie is back! She’s emerged from her dark and dusty corner (coughing and sneezing), insisting she must opine on that perpetual bugbear: MARKETING

I’ve just reread four blog posts from 2015, written by my grumpy alter ego, the Irascible Indie. They are mild rants about various aspects of being a self-published (aka “indie”) author. I was actually quite impressed with how well-written readable they are. Anyone who’s interested can find them here:

And now, here are the Irascible One’s views on marketing…

Not a day passes without at least one blog post popping into my reader about marketing — lists of tips and tricks, how-to articles, and stern warnings that failure to market means failure as an author. Marketing is the bitter pill you must swallow after the thrill of pressing the “publish” button.

Okay, I admit it. I have a skeptical attitude toward marketing. As soon as I see certain words — SEO, clickthroughs, keywords, analytics — I get that uh-oh feeling. After reading multiple posts about picking the right keywords and other magic formulas to romance “the algorithms,” I’m left with the feeling that the authors of those posts live in a different universe. Their screenshots (which are hard on my eyeballs) do not resemble anything I see when I try to follow their instructions.

Reading about marketing makes me feel like a kid forced to wear a scratchy woollen sweater — you know, the kind that drives you crazy and makes you want to scream and stomp your feet. It’s itchy! I hate it!

Not good enough? Okay, let’s take a look at my reasons and figure out if there’s anything to them besides a contrarian attitude.

Reason #1 I hate advertising. I’ve perfected techniques to ignore ads, both in real life and online. I don’t want to inflict ads on anyone but enemies. Besides, ads cost money. Why should I pay someone to say “Buy my book!” for me?

Reason #2 I don’t want to be responsible for anyone’s personal info, especially now. Look how Google and Facebook messed up with that. I’m not going there. And I don’t want to send emails that are disguised “Buy my book!” pleas to people who trusted me with their addresses.

Reason #3 What could I possibly say in a newsletter that I’m not saying right here in my blog? I’d rather spend my time writing stories, novels, and blog posts than trying to manufacture stuff for which someone would be happy to exchange their email address. And too many newsletters are offered via annoying popups. (A popup, by the way, pretty much guarantees that I’ll never sign up for a newsletter.)

Popups are about as desirable as junk mail.

Reason #4 Advertising is expensive, and not always effective. We authors (wannabees, aspiring, self-published, and indie) are a huge market for legitimate and bogus services alike. Even with a budget and plan for advertising, you need to sift through all the options, recognize the scams as such, and figure out how to leverage use the legitimate ones optimally. Unless you get it right, your ROI is likely to be poor. (See, I can throw jargon around too!) Don’t get sucked into believing that liberal applications of cash will do the trick.

Reason #5 Getting reviews to improve sales is a tricky business.  For one thing, it’s too easy to offend the Mighty ‘Zon. You can’t buy reviews (not that I would), you can’t exchange books for reviews, you can’t do review swaps with other authors, reviews have to include disclaimers, etc. Even an honest mistake can result in reviews being pulled, reviewers losing their privileges, authors losing their Amazon accounts — forever. And then there’s the torturous process of finding reviewers. In my random visits to book bloggers’ Review Policy pages, I inevitably see variations on the “No longer accepting books for review” theme. Natural, organic reviews from real readers are the best, but they can be few and far between, and an author has no direct control over that process.

Reason #6 Marketing isn’t simple. That’s why trad publishers used to have staff for it. For this indie author, there are too many options, too much advice, too many services with cutesy names and acronyms. It’s all a blur, and the prospect of figuring out what might work is dizzying. I’d rather be writing, or reading. (Hell, I’d rather be cleaning the bathroom.) The answer, of course, is to select one or two of the least daunting strategies, take small steps, and refuse to be overwhelmed by the flood of advice. And keep an eye on your expectations.

There’s an idea floating around that authors who don’t embrace marketing aren’t as hard-working and “savvy” as they should be. They don’t treat their writing as a business, so they deserve to fail. I resist these labels. I’ve happily put my energy into writing, editing, book descriptions, formatting, cover design, and presenting information about my books on my blog and elsewhere. Patience is my middle name (well, not really, but you know what I mean). I’ve whittled my expectations into elegantly slender shapes. If that’s not enough, so be it.

And yes, having said all this, I know enough not to whine about my sales!

Thank you, Irascible Indie, for your views on marketing. Now, back to your dusty niche, leaving me with a nice target to wear on my blog. I’ll relay any comments to you, including those that try to change your mind (such as it is). Bring ’em on!

Target-like image. I love those colours!

Gargoyle and “target” images courtesy of Pixabay


  1. I agree with everything you say here.
    I often wonder, when reading a solicitation from an “author” to buy their book on marketing, whether they have published anything other than works on how to market your book! Of course, in some cases the answer is yes. However in many others the answer appears to be no!
    Yesterday I popped into my local library who indicated that they will (almost certainly) add my latest collection of poetry to their shelves (as they wish to promote local authors). I think that this “marketing”? has achieved far more than any amount of “buy my book” promoting by myself.
    Having said the above it is, ultimately a case of “horses for courses”.


    Liked by 3 people

    1. True, Kevin! There are no simple solutions to this one. Some writers are good at both writing and marketing, others not so much. And luck is a significant element, as well as how each of us defines success.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. At the moment, I am having a holiday from all things marketing as I have a book to finish. Not the way I am supposed to be doing it, according to all those experts, but my post- flu brain cannot cope with anything else!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve heard the best thing we can do for our books is write more books. And often, those experts are selling marketing services of some sort. Each of us has to work out this conundrum for ourselves. Hope you (and your brain) recover soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Why might one pay people to say “Buy my book!” for one? Because people unconsciously discount what the producer says about their own product on assumption of bias but don’t always apply the same discount to what someone else says – even if they are intellectually aware it’s paid for rather than spontaneous. That in no wise makes advertising justifiable.

    I tend to boggle marketeers when I converse: I say their techniques don’t really fit my experience; they say I just need to adapt them to my core audience; I say my core audience is people like me; they say I should write ad copy that attracts people like me; and I hit them with the crazy truth that I can’t stand being on the receiving end of any of their tactics which is why they don’t really fit my experience.

    The one “advertising” method that does work on/for me is interest funnels: the idea that if one creates lots of interesting posts/articles/&c. and shares them freely, some people will be interested enough to seek out more, and – if they like other articles &c. – some of them will look at one’s bio, see one writes books, and think “If I like their articles on horror, perhaps I’ll like their horror books”.

    That said, even focusing my blog on topics that feed into my books feels a little icky, so I mostly blog/social mediate what interests me.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I definitely share your ideas, Dave. It’s interesting that others’ endorsements of one’s books should carry more weight than one’s own, even though paid for. That’s why literary prizes and awards are advertising gold. They are assumed to be unbiased and pure accolades of experts, and are not paid for (one hopes). But indies are largely barred from those.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Tell the Irascible Indie that I think she’s spot-on. 😉

    Advertising is, in my opinion, a vast waste of money. Not just for indie authors, but for most things. The only reason most advertising exists is because big companies have money to spend, and advertising firms popped up to convince them to spend it. Most people automatically tune it out–it takes a massive campaign to actually reach even a few new customers, and authors don’t have the ability to do that.

    Personally, I’ve never bought a book because of an ad. I buy books because someone I know recommends them, or because it’s an author I follow and want to read more of their work. I’ve never seen an ad and thought, “OK, I’ll go buy that.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. But in order to buy a book, you have first to learn about it. There are many good books in this world, that you cannot hear about… just because marketing is difficult and the target groups are very difficult to reach.

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  5. I know that you can’t give away a book in exchange for a review, but you can give away a book in hopes of a review. From Amazon’s website:
    Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.

    A lot of books I’ve read lately, whether I got them free or paid for them, say something at the very end like, “Thank you for reading my book. If you enjoyed it, or even if you didn’t, I’d appreciate it if you left a review on your favorite review haunt.” That has never bothered me as a reader, and it’s even actually reminded me to go post a review.

    Heehee, I’m with you on those pop up banners!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You’ve now given my third reason I’ll probably not be a published author (self or otherwise). The first draft takes more than enough time. Re-writes definitely make them better, but that takes more time and when is enough,enough? Trying to figure out the ins and outs of self-publishing are not easy, even with good steps and pictures. The marketing is the straw that would break this camel’s back. That is the beauty of blogging–publishing is just a button away. It’s for the lazy (Iike me.) Sorry about taking the opportunity to kvetch on your dime. Good post btw.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pat! I was actually hoping to get a variety of opinions, including kvetching. It might be helpful if we forgot the word “marketing” and thought in terms of engagement and communication.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m thinking we should feel okay about doing the stuff that feels right, rather than everything we read/hear about. I keep reminding myself that desperate writers are easy marks for purveyors of all kinds of services.

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    1. I see my blog as a kind of newsletter, so it makes no sense to start another one. Some say offering a story in exchange for email addresses works. Too late for me, though; I have 4 free stories, without strings.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. This has been a truly intelligent and valuable series Audrey.
    I am with ‘Irascible Indie’ here all the way. Pushing a book can back fire as well. I noticed one writer had a ‘sponsored’ place on Amazon and has had some savage reviews, mostly because folk don’t like having someone’s work dropped in one their search (secondly in my opinion it’s an irritating cover).
    Sometimes we just have to keep on plugging our own way

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our intentions and expectations have a lot to do with how we end up feeling about our writing. If nothing but a #1 bestseller and moneymaker will do, we doom ourselves to disappointment. But if our purpose is to write from the heart as best we can, to present our work attractively, and to be grateful for whatever attention it earns in the way of purchases and reviews, we may derive considerable satisfaction.

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      1. I agree with all my heart on this point Audrey. In this state of mind we as writers are completely free in our writing and not looking over our shoulders at ‘the market’ and ‘opinion’

        Liked by 1 person

  8. We’re soul sisters! Twins! I’ve just read the five “irascible” articles and I agree with all of them. I’ve lived through all of them, in fact. When I began writing some 40 years ago, I hoped for a raft of regular readers and a modest income. Neither happened. Now, after some adjustment of my attitude, I write because it’s what I love to do and I’m very fortunate that I can afford to do it. I love doing the technical stuff involved in publishing in print and online, including the covers. I print enough copies for my friends and let it go at that. Marketing? Never!

    I do love the photograph of the Irascible Indie!

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  9. I consider myself an “absent author” in that I create book which I don’t market. They are there if someone wants to find them. I’m a fine artist primarily so the books I create often are a part of an art exhibition. And I’ll do ebook versions because sometimes people can’t afford my fine art, can’t afford a printed book but they can (and do) afford an ebook – so it pleases my fans when they find ebooks on my website.

    Sometimes when talking with someone I mention that a book of mine exists that is related to an artwork of mine because otherwise the person wouldn’t know. However there’s a line in my opinion between making someone aware that a book/work of art exists and trying to sell, sell, sell for sell, sell, selling’s sake.

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  10. I heartily agree; due to laziness, fear, lack of money, technophobia etc. I avoid much of the above. I do have a paid for ( not a lot ) website which people may accidentally alight upon. I don’t send out a newsletter ( not much news! ) or have an emailing list. People can read my blogs – or not…

    Liked by 1 person

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