The M Word
I hate marketing. I think most writers do. There's something that feels dirty about it and I think it comes from having to parade yourself about and shout how good you are. Most of us are not good at doing this and us 'Brits' might be the worst . What was it that Bill Hicks said 'If anyone here is in Marketing or Advertising... Kill yourself.' But Bill also said something else; I've grabbed the image that goes round and round the internet and put it below.
As writers we're creating all the time. We're creating things that allow people to escape; to reflect on their lives; to take stock; to learn something new. And what do we want to do with it? We want to share it! We want a readership. People who can enjoy the story on their own or together.
Unfortunately, for a writer, in the middle of creating and sharing is marketing! (Sorry Bill, I know you'll be rolling in your grave.)
As a writer you have to get comfortable with marketing and, even harder, you have to understand it. I am personally getting to a stage now where I am comfortable with it (I'm actually slightly fascinated with it), but I don't think I understand it. Not completely.
So what am I doing currently?
I'm doing all those things they tell you to do:
#1: Get your book out there
#2: Get on twitter
#3: Get on facebook
#4: Blog to raise interest
#5: Submit to magazines and short story websites
#6: Use free promotion to your advantage
#7: Beg, barter and call in every favours for reviews (good or bad)
...... The list goes on.
Over the last few days I've been thinking about marketing. I've been thinking about it because I'm at the awkward stage where I have a new book getting towards completion; and I have a book out that's sales have ground to halt because I've not been marketing. (I've been writing. I can't do both!!!!)
I've not done badly with my first book. I'm happy to say that I have had more than 5000 copies go out, though a lot of that has been free promotion to get the sales. All in all I've sold just over a thousand copies and (thanks to the miracle that is Amazon self-publishing) those copies have gone to about nine or ten different countries. However, sat in front of my computer, I still feel like I'm in a silo. I've had reviews, interest, people are reading my blog but there still isn't the level of interaction I want to have. That level that will make me be able to stand in a party and confidently say 'I'm a writer,' rather than 'I'm the Quality Officer at York St John University,' and then mumble, 'oh yeah, have I mentioned I write books.'
So what have I learned in the last few days. Well firstly I ended up at a site that talked about business planning for your book. Not just once it's written, but from the outset to ensure what you want to write is marketable. This still feels a bit like the dangerous and cold world of marketing to me, but the article is worth a read. It also markets two interesting books, one of which I have bought and I'll let you know if it's any good once I've given it a read.
I suppose the main thing I got from this article was that you should know your audience.
The article talked about doing the analysis to find out who your audience was going to be before you even start writing. This didn't appeal to me too much, but what I did get from it was the reason. If you know the facts (who is the main readership of the genre your writing and how many people read it) you'll be able to better target your marketing. That seemed sensible. There is no point trying to sell a romance novel to a guy who only reads magazines about cars, so target your time.
Then my internet trawling brought me to Cynthia Hartwig's article, Top Five Marketing Jobs for New Authors. This reaffirmed some stuff for me more than anything. Firstly, get all the reviews you can (good or bad). Cynthia also suggest you give away free copies to do this. Basically, the reviews work like the blurb on the back of a book used to. People want a flavour of what the book is and if they'll like it. Like so many other things we used to put all our stock in the professionals, but these days we'd rather ask each other. Just another one of those blurred lines that is opening the publishing world up more and more.
The other key thing I got from this is to pay attention to the people you meet. Cynthia makes the good point that someone who knows you (even in passing) is more likely to buy your book than a stranger. She then suggests you should be building an email list and sending out a monthly newsletter, again this is a bit much for me but make up your own mind. Personally I'd debate sending my blog RSS feed, or twitter ID to people who were interested, but I don't want to start sending newsletters; they feel outmoded and annoying to me. Maybe this is why I'm not doing as well as I'd like?!
Another tip to come out of this article was to create a audio-book with ACX. This should probably be taken with a pinch of salt, as the article is on the ACX blog. However, there was some interesting figures about the amount of people buying audio-books and the fact that these people are actually an additional market to the conventional readers. Most people buying audio books are not readers looking for another way to engage, they are a different market of people with busy lives that want to enjoy a story while at the gymn, or on the way to work. With that little snippet of knowledge I am debating putting time into getting an audio-book together.
To finish off, I came across this pic to the right. This gives some really interesting figures on social media. The two bits of data that grabbed me where that twitter is expanding far more rapidly than facebook. However, facebook is now having a proven affect on peoples purchase behaviour, which twitter isn't.
This has brought me to an interesting question, which I am struggling to answer.
What am I marketing? Me or my writing?
I read these facts in a very simple way. If I want to build a brand identity to sell books I should be on facebook. If I want to connect with people and get my name out there, I should be on twitter.
I think the issue for me is that I skip around genres, so trying to build a 'brand identity' is pretty tough. Instead I'm trying to raise people awareness of me as a writer. I'm trying to get my name around, so that people can dip in to my writing where they feel they fit. This might be all of my writing, or they might wait until I write a certain genre. Does that make sense? I'm not sure it does and this maybe where I'm going wrong. I don't think I really know what my 'product' is!!
If you look at the facts (in the pic, right) it seems that your more likely to sell books (a product) through building a brand identity on facebook. But you are more likely to connect with more people on twitter and it's a place where people generate content. So where to be and what to do?
I struggle with the idea of building a brand identity. Branding a set of books is easy if:
a) you have several books to put against your name
b) they're all of one genre or series
You can build a brand identity around yourself but I really struggle with this, as well. To do it well you have to know the answer to those terrifying questions. Who am I? What's my look? How can I brand my personality? It makes me cringe and I don't feel like I know myself well enough to brand myself like a product.
Some people do this really well, and you'll notice it often blends with the genre they work in. For example one person who is really smart with marketing is an artist called Lora Zombie (clue in the name). I've been following Lora for a while, through a number of different platforms. Whether she means to or not, Lora has got herself wrapped up in a way that markets her and her art simultaneously. Take a look at her site and gather some hints. If you can do this your on to a winner.
The other thing to do is to just market your writing. One way to do this is through exposure, graphics and video. One person who does this really well is a writer called Adam Booth. Adam's website covers alot of stuff, as he's an artist in a lot of different ways, but watch how he markets his book on twitter. He uses a mix of reviews from others (RT'd), graphics, videos, quotes from the book, he re-brands regularly. There's a lot to be learnt here.
So this was basically just my ramblings on the awkward world of marketing. I hope you grabbed a few tips from it and if you have any answers for me PLEASE, PLEASE comment.
P.S. If you didn't get anything useful, here's a list of places that take short story submission which might help you.
Ben Warden - Editor of the #SFFiction project and author of 'Life Without', which made the top ten literary fiction e-books on amazon.