A recent conversation about self and independent publishing led to me voicing my thoughts on what to do once the book is released. This will also hold true even for the traditionally published, as the publishers provide them with less and less support. We must be able to be businessmen, not just “artistes” or we shall never succeed in writing as anything but a hobby.
You can’t just write it and put it out there, you have to push the little darling, or it will never amount to anything. Your story may be the best thing since Gutenberg started the presses clunking, but no-one will know about it unless you tell them. Yes, this means marketing and promotion. No, you are not allowed to hide in your corner and pull the introvert blanket over your head. It won’t hurt…much.
My marketing training is for a business similar to, and completely different from, what we writers do. However, the biggest lesson I learned in over a decade of doing it, was Word O’ Mouth. I don’t know about you guys, but I still find new books, authors, and heck, even Human Wave, by listening to those I like and respect talk about what they were reading. How do you find new books? How do your readers find them? If you can open a dialogue with your readers (not a traditional thing to happen between writers and readers, but we are entertainers. Why not?) ask them how they found you.
Those of us who are small press, or self-published, don’t necessarily need to worry about branding so much until we have multiple titles available, but what we do need to worry about is maintaining a professional appearance. I saw this (see it, heck, I still do it) in my business. If you don’t look good, your clients aren’t going to hire you (buy your book) and if they do, they aren’t having you back. So what does this mean for us? Editing, reducing typos and misused words or phrases to an absolute minimum, and good covers. Also, good website. Which, believe it or no, can be had for cheap, and easy.
I’m not talking about flooding Twitter with enthusiastic pitches to buy your book, as I suspect that doesn’t work (although I’d love to hear solid data that shows it does). Instead, I see that we are in a bit of a morass when it comes to marketing as writers right now, never knowing what will or will not work. As self-published authors, we cannot and ought not expect overnight success.
Instead, we should work on creating a network of readers (who will often also be writers) and teaching them to spread the word about books and stories they love to read. In other words, create a word of mouth campaign talking about your work. Ask your beta readers to review your work (honestly, always honestly) once it is available to give your work a push right out the door.
Start with an attractive blog. I like WordPress, which has free templates that look great, and an easy interface even for the less websavvy. Update it regularly with solid content. Skip the fluff, and keep the tone accessible. You may want to put up free samples, or talk about your writing process, or… the possibilities are infinite.
Reach out to your local small bookshops, libraries, and experiment with other venues. I took a copy of my novel and business cards that were designed to take people to my blog and had a link to buy the book as a qr code on the card with me to a farmer’s market where I was working (with the other business) and was rather surprised at the interest I generated with it. I’m not saying this will work for everyone, just to think outside the box when it comes to spreading the word.
I haven’t yet tried internet ads. I know a good friend ran an ad on facebook for one of his stories, and at the end of the run, he saw no results in his sales. Personally, I tend to ignore ads on facebook, and most other places. Try it – I think you will find that you, too, tune them out unless you are thinking about them for some reason. Again, if you have had success, I’d love to hear about it.
Be willing to try. Give the baby a push, you never know what will come of it!
I think you're right about the Word-of-Mouth factor. Word-of-Mouth often has an intrinsic crediblility since much of it's between friends and close associates. It not only pushes a product along, it can kill the same product outright.
While I don't want to become a slave to marketing, and can appreciate anyone's reticence to submit to it, you're right about how cheap a website can be put up. But you have to use it. It seems I've helped a lot of people build websites, but so very many of them aren't technically savvy. They don't have the individual drive to keep maintaining their sites. It doesn't interest them. They just want to do what it is THEY DO.
But what we all need to do is be in business. Many of us don't enjoy the business part, but that's what keeps a person in the business…treating it as a business.
I think it's really about having a strategy with marketing tools that works for an individual. If you're not using a tool, like a website, it can turn away your prospective clients. That lack of taking care of your site, and the resultant Word-of-Mouth, can push you right out of the picture.
You can't get far on just fumes. You have to give your marketing plan some gas for it to do you any good. And I think marketing is an essential art of any business. Unfortunately, too many of us haven't had a background in it and it's easy to screw up a decent plan by being hit-and-miss with it.
The lack of interest may be avoided by thinking of it as starting a conversation with your readers about things that interest both of you. This could be as narrow as your own writing, but ideally you will offer more to your readers than a sales pitch. Once you get to know your readers, you can add even more variety of topics to not only your website or blog, but to your writing, as well.
As for maintaining momentum, yes, it can be difficult. What I used to do in the office, and I am carrying over to the writing, is to set aside designated times to market. My weekly blog post for ASM is marketing, in an oblique manner. My writing blog is a more direct marketing, and I try to update that at least weekly. By creating a plan and putting it on a calendar, you will be surprised at how habitual and unobtrusive your marketing can become, with of course special events creating more stress, but also more excitement.