Unlike advice about how to write, I have no desire to quibble with advice on how to market or promote books. Social media, paid advertising, giveaways, email lists, etc. I have nothing to say about any of them.
BUT: must every indie author even worry about marketing? Consider the following questions:
- Do you see marketing as part of the same exciting creative process as writing?
- Do you think of marketing as a tough challenge to whet your mettle?
- Is marketing a kind of hair shirt you have to wear to expiate your writing habit?
- Maybe marketing is a form of torture you wouldn’t inflict on your worst enemy?
- Or perhaps you see marketing as a waste of valuable writing time.
Just about every author who says they love writing, just have to write, will stop writing only when they die, also says they hate marketing, but they have to do it if they want people to buy and read their books. Otherwise, what’s the point of writing and publishing them?
Even authors who have embraced marketing don’t seem to have found the magic bullet. Some report success with a specific form of paid advertising; others say it absolutely didn’t work for them. Solutions that worked a few years ago no longer do. My impression is that it’s pretty much a crap shoot, and can be expensive.
Here are my unvarnished (and unjustified) thoughts:
On the one hand, I hear that prospective purchasers must see a product (i.e., a book) a minimum of 7 times before they decide to buy. On the other hand, you shouldn’t constantly promote your books via social media. For me, the more times I see a book being touted, the less interested I am in buying it. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it relates to my attitude toward TV commercials. The first time: Oh, how funny! Second time: Still funny. Third time: Oh, here’s that again. Fourth time: Man, this is getting old. Fifth time: I’m getting to dislike this intensely. Sixth time: Aargh, not this stupid thing again! Seventh time: Click off. (Full disclosure: I haven’t actually watched TV since 1992.)
I hate advertising. Why should I inflict it on others?
You must promote. But you must do it indirectly, by engaging prospective purchasers with your personal charm (and brand). They’ll be so intrigued by you and your ideas and your way of expressing them, they’ll hasten to buy your books. Well, maybe…
Writers’ blogs (and maybe social media) attract mostly other writers. There are fewer writers out there than readers (although that might be hard to believe), so you really ought to attract readers. The trouble is, readers are too diverse to attract as a block. So you have to target by genre. But what if your books are in multiple genres or mashed up genres, or no identifiable genre?
A blog isn’t enough. You need to publish a newsletter. The point of the newsletter is to build an email list. Then you send your newsletter to the people on the list. Of course, they have to sign up for the newsletter. As bait, you offer one of your books, or at least a short story, for free. But I hear the trick is to retain the signups after they collect the freebie. And anyway, no one reads free books. I have no time to read the newsletters I seem to have signed up for. Why should I expect anyone to read mine (if I published one, which I don’t)?
Besides, I already have a blog. Why should I also produce a newsletter?
Here is my take on an indie book marketing decision path:
- Decide if you really want to market your book(s)
- But don’t believe you have to
- If you want to sell more than a few dozen books a year, you probably do have to market
- In that case, figure out what avenues suit you
- If none of them suits, you’re not going to achieve those sales
- So suck that up, and either quit publishing or live with lower sales
- Review your reasons for writing and/or publishing
- If writing gives you joy, write
- If publishing gives you joy, publish
- If marketing gives you joy, market
- If any of 8 through 10 give you grief instead of joy, don’t do them.
This is my last word on marketing.
Does anyone have any thoughts about book marketing, or experiences they wish to share?