Monday, September 2, 2013

Five Golden Rules of Marketing

Every writer who decides to publish must tackle the task of marketing. 
Some authors market solely through the internet; others emphasize in-person events.  Most do a combination of both.  Whether an author dedicates 80 hours a week to marketing or just one, she looks for strategies that give the most return for the time and money invested. After all, each of us has a lot more to do than market our latest book.

Most authors are happy just to stay afloat.
There is plenty of information about marketing out there, floating like flotsam (or swimming like hungry sharks) in the wake of the shipwreck of the traditional publishing industry.  Some of the opportunities that drift our way are free, most are increasingly expensive.  Are any of them effective?  Your guess is as good as mine.  In the constantly changing landscape of marketing it’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine the best way to reach potential readers. 
So I’m not going to tell you which piece of driftwood to cling to or what sea monster to avoid. The truth is, whatever you encounter along the way, the best marketing tool you have is you.  My "golden rules" of marketing are about you, and how to keep yourself successful and sane while navigating the high seas of publishing.

1. Pace yourself.
Decide how much time per week you can dedicate to marketing, and stick to that limit.  For most authors who have friends, a family, and/or a day job (in other words, something of a life), this means that what used to be your writing time will now be writing time and marketing time.  Yes, your writing WILL suffer when you publish. But that’s okay, as long as it doesn’t suffer too much.

Do not, I repeat do NOT, make a list of all the marketing things you think you should do and then enslave yourself to that list.  Instead, prioritize marketing activities within your personal time limits.  When your time is up, stop marketing! Go back to writing or to your friends or your family or your day job. If you do not pace yourself, marketing will take over your life, to the detriment of many other things that are more important and provide more happiness and fulfillment.

2. When you see a chance, take it.

Is that my next great marketing opportunity, or just another
monster ready to eat up my time and money?
Be an opportunist. When in doubt, try it out - within the constraints of time and budget.

There is little that’s come across my own desk, marketing-wise, that I have not tried. A guest post on a friend’s blog?  Sure!  An account on Goodreads?  Why not!  A Facebook page?  What the hell!  A special offer on a blog tour?  Well, let me check my bank account. [clickety clickety clickety] Ok!  I can do it. 
Has everything I’ve tried worked?  Some of it has, some of it hasn’t.  Most of the time, quite frankly, it’s hard to tell.  This brings me to my next golden rule:

3. Stick with what you enjoy.
Note that the most important consideration is not what “works”.  It’s what you enjoy, in part because it's often hard to pin down what works, but mostly because this is your time, your life, your adventure. You deserve to enjoy it. 

I also have the very deep conviction that if you do not enjoy marketing, potential readers will pick up on the negative vibes and go elsewhere for their next novel. If you despise Facebook, then don’t open an account just to sell books. If you are uncomfortable meeting people one-on-one, then maybe book signings aren’t for you.  If you love to hang out with fellow geeks to talk fantasy and sci fi, try attending a con.  All of this because. . .

4. . . . You are looking for friends, not readers.
At its heart, marketing is about making connections.  In the process of making connections, we also seek to determine what the other person is looking for, and whether the product we offer matches their needs and interests.

Since my first publication, I’ve met many people who say they don’t read the kind of story I write. That’s okay. Willingness to read Eolyn has never been a prerequisite for becoming part of my circle of friends and acquaintances. 
More often, I’ve met people who like fantasy but for one reason or another choose not to purchase my novel at the first encounter. That’s okay too. Almost invariably, 3 or 6 or even 12 months down the road, these same people turn up with book in hand and the unmistakable glow of the satisfied reader.  I loved this novel!” they say.  “Will you please sign it?”

Those have been some of my best moments in publishing, and they might not have happened if I’d made the reader feel in any way uncomfortable for not buying my book at our first encounter. 

5. Remember, you are always NEW!

We may never know how many authors have met their doom
on the high seas of publishing.
In the self-publishing world, there’s a curious emphasis on the book blitz and the opening push to launch and sell a book.  I call it “curious” because this is a glaring holdover from traditional publishing, a world that is beholden to large print runs and upfront investment that demands a quick and certain return. To this day, if you publish with a large press and your book does not catch fire within the first six months, you and the entire print run will be cast overboard and sunk to the bottom of the publishing ocean, never to be seen or heard from again.

Small press doesn’t work this way, and I think self-published authors could learn a lot from the small press model.  As our editor at Hadley Rille Books, Eric T. Reynolds, likes to say, we are always new.  While the launch is also a special event at Hadley Rille, the steady marketing pressure that follows is equally, if not more, important. Marketing efforts are applied throughout the contract life of a book. Our books may not hit the dramatic sales peaks characteristic of the book blitz, but they do sell steadily for a very long time after the release.  And there are always, always new readers out there who are delighted to discover our titles.

Well, I am at my official word limit, so I will finish here.  I hope you found something useful in this post, and that sooner or later your marketing efforts will land you on the beach of your dreams.
. . . Or if not the beach of your dreams, then at the very least a place with dry land, ample shade, fresh water, and some new and interesting friends.

Happy endings are in the eye of the beholder; this one
looks pretty good to me!

Posted by Karin Rita Gastreich


Terri-Lynne said...

A whole lot of good information here, Karin, and wise advice. I'm always wondering how much marketing actually helps, but you're right--if it's fun, who cares? I mean, we WANT it to help, but if it doesn't, at least we've had a bit of fun, met some new people, had a moment in the sunshine. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Enjoyed the post, Karin. I think the most frustrating thing about marketing is you never really know what works. I've done blog tours and saw books sell during the tour, then learned my mother happened to get several people to buy my book that week. So were those sales from my Pimpin' Mom or my cleaver and conversational blogpost? But I'm learning to pace myself after the frenzy of the first few months of my book launch, just like you advise. If I don't I'll never get another book published.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Thanks, Terri & Sharon!

Sharon, I hear you -- those first few months are especially challenging. And you are so right about mothers! They are the second best marketing tool we have. ;) Good luck with your book; I am sure that once the frenzy passes you will find yourself working on your next novel.