Well, guys and gals, you’ve done it. You fell for clickbait. I can almost guarantee that you won’t learn anything new while reading this blog post, but you’re here already, aren’t you? So you might as well stay. Some people (read: me, mostly me) may need to hear this anyway. And if that bit of reverse psychology didn’t just work on you… Well. Ok, then. I’m very embarrassed.
So let’s talk about book marketing.
Book Marketing is that ephemeral magic-word that writers kind of wish they knew about, but kind of wish someone else would do for them. At the same time we kind of do some research on it, but kind of have no idea where to start. Mostly we hope that blogging is book marketing marketing (it is!) and that whenever we get our big book deal our publisher deploys a large marketing budget to get the word out on our behalf.
My background in sales and consulting has given me some insight into marketing strategies that work. Mostly it’s taught me what doesn’t work. But overall, working for a large, well-known consulting company has taught me one thing: Marketing can drive some sales, but it cannot do much for you if you don’t have a great product. By far the best marketing you can ever do is to simply have a fantastic product. It’s only once we already have the ‘fantastic product’ part down that marketing can bring in customers, because if the product is good before they even find us then they will become customers for life.
What does that mean for us? It means our best marketing is between the covers of our books (or in whatever product you all are working on). If we continually delight our readers they will come back for more, and probably bring friends with them.
I’ve told myself many times over the years, “But everyone says you need an author platform now to break into the industry!” “Agents want to see that you already have a solid readership with good engagement!” Sure, that’s true for breaking in, but all of that is secondary. It might even be thirdondary. Dare I call it fourtherary? Because having an established author platform won’t get us signed if our book isn’t good. And if we’ve written the best book ever, having a small author platform vs. a large one won’t keep us from breaking in.
A lot of people are probably thinking “Damn, I thought this post was going to really help me with marketing my book!” If you truly read the words above and paid attention, I hope it did! The problem is that I, and many people I know, don’t want to hear the truth: there aren’t any shortcuts here. The most important thing I can do for my book, always and forever, is to focus the bulk of my efforts on what goes between the covers. Thrill, delight, excite, fleabite, knight, give-a-fright to your readers again and again and they will buy your work and spread the word no matter how much marketing you do.
For me personally, I started this blog to practice my writing and to connect with people I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to meet and, yes, to build an author platform. But I continue working on it because I love it. In the future it might help differentiate me from the pack when I’m querying agents. And, like focusing on the content of my book, I will focus on the content of my posts over trying to market this blog (which I have no idea how to possibly do). But I will spend most of my time controlling the #1 thing I can control – the quality of my stories.
I’m working off a rule of 10 here: I should spend at least 10x as much time and effort on my stories as I do on my blog or anything else. This is something I need to remind myself to do every day. (Thanks for today’s reminder, me)
And, if you don’t believe this random voice on the internet, I wanted to share a passage from a book I keep on my bookshelf at all times.
Donald Maass, the very well-known, well-respected literary agent writes in the introduction to his book The Fire In Fiction (which is a great book, by the way) that: “Storytellers… may promote, but locally and not for long. They’ll put up a website, maybe, then it’s back to work on the next book. That’s smart. The truth, for newer authors anyway, is that the best promotion is between the covers of the last book… Therein lies the essence of why storytellers succeed where status seekers fail: Storytellers may seem anointed, but they are anointed by readers. Give readers stories that blow them away every time and they will become the loyal generators of the sales that make career success appear effortless.”
So… Marketing. Fun, right? What do you all think? Do you enjoy thinking about marketing? Do you focus more on the content of your posts/stories? Are there any specific marketing strategies that you think work well, or ones that you think are way over-hyped?