Monday, June 10, 2013

Marketing for Authors: Observations from the Trenches

Hello, lovelies,

Now that I've officially signed with Curiosity Quills Press for FALL – The Ragnarök Prophesies: Book Two, I've found myself thinking a lot about marketing.

What works? What doesn't? What should I plan for? What happens naturally? And does marketing even really matter?

I think most indie authors would answer that last question with a definitive and emphatic "Yes". Marketing matters. It matters a lot whether you're signed with one of the Big 5, a small press, are self-published, have written fifteen books, or have just published your first.

How will anyone find your books if you don't tell them that they're out there?

Typically speaking, any author who assumes most of their readers will stumble upon their books and then shout them from the rooftops is in for a rude awakening. Readers have hundreds of choices put in front of them each day. Unless yours really speaks to them, without marketing, chances are your book isn't going to make it in front of most potential readers.

Hence the necessity of marketing.

But figuring that out is the easy part.

Figuring out HOW to market your novel is a horse of a different color. And this is where most of us tend to stumble, trip, and/or fall flat on our faces.

Marketing options can be daunting. But, and this is a big but, that doesn't mean hiring someone to do it for you is the best option either. Sure, marketing is tough and takes time. But expensive, ineffective marketing accomplishes next to nothing. It's a waste of time, energy, and resources. And authors don't have enough of any of the three to waste them unnecessarily.

Every day, I see site after site offering their marketing services to indie authors. I cringe when I see authors jumping on board because that approach to marketing isn't revolutionary, and for most of those I see . . . it's not very helpful either.

Here's why:

Your average reader doesn't care what a marketing company or website has to say about your book.

They care what reviewers and fellow readers say. They care about the connection they've made with you or your characters. That once a day tweet buried amongst once a day tweets for fifty other novels isn't making waves for most authors because a majority of readers ignore said tweets the same way they ignore those incessant "Read My Book" tweets from you.

Posting the same message over and over in the same venue isn't effective marketing. Neither is listing the book on a website with a thousand other titles from indie authors. If you're lucky, these efforts will bring a few readers your way, but most indie authors only make an average of 600.00 or so a year. Why spend half of your marketing budget on a plan that's only going to bring you a handful of readers when you can spend the same amount or less on more effective marketing? You want to stand out from the crowd, not get lost in a sea of tweets or posts or lists!

This weekend, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I already know about marketing, what I don't know, what I'm already doing, and what I need to do more effectively. At the urging of my publisher, I started writing down everything I already do  and everything I plan to do in the form of a marketing plan.

Turns out . . . I already do a whole lot more in the form of marketing than I thought I did. And so do most authors I know because the most effective marketing you can do is the marketing you may already be doing.

Do you already talk to managers of bookstores about getting your books onto shelves? Good. Next time you go in, take along a letter, your book, reviews from readers, and what you do (or plan to do) to continue marketing for the manager or owner to review.

Do you already tell your readers about where they can buy your books? Good. Next time someone asks, remind your readers to request your books at their favorite bookstore, and give them the ISBN to take along with them. Even big chain stores will stock a book with enough requests.

Do you let your library know about your books when they come out? Cool. Next time you stop in to visit the research section, bring a copy of your novel alongside a request to host a reading or an event at the library. Offer to bring the snacks. Paper the town with flyers about the event. Send the notice to the papers, the news and radio stations, and any city event calendars.

Have you talked to a school, a civic club, or a book or literary club about your books? No? Send them a postcard announcing the release of your next book. Or send them a copy of your book. Heck, send them a letter offering to speak at their next meeting.

Did a book reviewer choose your book to review? Awesome. Keep a running list! When your next title comes out, send out a letter (or the ARC) and invite them to review it. Keep it simple and polite. You don't want to tick off a reviewer with demands or drama.

Do you already connect with other authors? Ask them if you can guest post on their blog, and offer to return the favor. Keep your post relevant to their readers while tying it into your brand.

Host contests. Chat with your readers online instead of bombarding them with those "Read My Book" posts. Write a blog about something in your life, some experience you had while writing, or heck, even your favorite book.

In short, talk to others about your book, why it's relevant, and why they should be reading it. Bolster these tried and true efforts with fun campaigns and blitzes. That's right. HAVE FUN with marketing. Try something new. Spend time reaching out to your secondary audience in addition to your primary audience. Ask your readers to write reviews. Offer a promotion.
 
Equally as important... write down what you're already doing or what you plan to do so you're always prepared. Believe me, marketing is NOT a panster-friendly area. Having a road map in front of you will make your life a lot easier in the long run because you'll know what you're doing, what you haven't done, what works for you, and what doesn't with one quick review. Include where you want to be and how you plan to get there. If you have a publisher find out what their plan is for your book(s), and make sure your plan fills in the gaps.
 
Finally, if you do opt to use a marketing/book tour service, know what you're getting before you send the money. Make sure your service is going to do more than tweet your book alongside a thousand other books or cram your book into a list alongside every other book they've ever tweeted. Ask them to see a sample marketing plan or list of sites that have participated in previous tours. If they can't provide you one or refuse to, chances are you're better off saving your money for something that readers will notice. Like swag. Readers respond to free or fun stuff a lot better than they do tweets or listings you could do yourself, for free.

At least those are my observations from the trenches.

 

xoxo,
Ayden


*Note: Not all marketing services are built the same. Always opt for a service that offers an array of wrap-around benefits and services. They do exist!

Fade - The Ragnarok Prophesies: Book One - On Sale at: Amazon US | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | Books-a-Million

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