Ah, Marketing, wicked devil that exists as the bane to independent writers everywhere.
Is there a magical incantation that will stop this evil? A mystical word that will banish you from the peripheral borders of my self-ordained kingdom?
No, dammit. At least I haven’t found one yet.
Marketing is a common topic of many a writer’s blog, offering generalized tips, dos and don’ts, and an occasional rant at the newbies to back off. Some people get terribly upset if you cross some sort of invisible line out there in the virtual world.
I have been at it for a year now, a long, slow year of valid attempts to get my work noticed and purchased. All the while, I’m observing what is getting noticed and postulating why.
First of all, I learned late that you have to start a solid marketing campaign before the book is live. I made sure all of my friends and colleagues knew the book was coming out; but to really push to the public, I didn’t start until after the first edition was up. There are a lot of things about marketing a book that I didn’t know anything about – picking a sub-genre, posting on Goodreads, Smashwords, how to tweet, where to find readers, etc. And while there is a ton of info on the web about these topics, there is no way to read all of it first and understand it without context, and there are a lot of contradictions between experiences. In other words, what works for non-fiction doesn’t work for science fiction, and what works for romance doesn’t work for urban fantasy. One author might get away with using a certain marketing tool that is useless to someone else. So, I began researching little-by-little, and trying different things to see what happened.
I did a give away on Goodreads with a decent response on people adding the book to their shelves while entering the drawing. I sent out copies to the US and Canada. Hopefully they read and liked, but I haven’t seen any reviews. There is no evidence that any of the recipients even cracked eh spine. I decided to pay some money for ads on Goodreads and Facebook–there were a few click-thrus, but not much evidence of successful sales.
I continued the journey. I changed the price. I offered the book for free, and joined a few book club sites. This didn’t multiply things. My Twitter account, mainly a dead thing I found useless for everyday life, gained hundreds of followers instantly.
I was rewarded with spots of far greater attention, such as being nominated on Noveltunity as one of the Book of the Month votes, and a #Pushweek by Rave Reviews Book Club. Sales increased by a few volumes.
Then, I pushed harder to find a real publisher, someone to help market in places I didn’t know about and couldn’t reach.
Before the internet (ancient history, right?), finding info on publishing came from magazines, library books, and Writer’s Market. My mother purchased my first copy of Writer’s Market as her way of encouragement. We lived in a small town amidst the Kansas plains, and it was difficult to find anyone who knew the ins and outs of getting written work into the hands of a publisher. Finally, I’ve gotten success in finding a publisher – now for the magic to happen with marketing and sales!
Marketing “experts” will give you all kinds of generalized tips on how to make this marketing beast bow to your whims. Many of them are just like me, treading water in an extremely large ocean saturated with self-published books both well-written and terrible.
I’ve read quite a few the last few months, and I try not to judge too harshly, but some are too awful to even continue to read. Many are good, but end up being too long or riddled with typos. I’m trying to learn from these, see if there is something these writers do that brings the market to them.
There still is nothing magical that I can find.
Other than putting a scantily clad couple on the cover. I see A LOT of that.
Photo Credit: Orin Zebest via Flickr Creative Commons