MANEUVERING THROUGH TODAY'S MARKETING ENVIRONMENT
by Guest Authors of the Writer's Journey Blog
It must be the subject matter, but this is a long post. As such, I have refrained from photos and promotions and simply linked the contributors’ names back to their work. Thank you all so much for responding to my query, and I genuinely appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. I have an idea we will all learn something from this post!
Of all the issues today’s writer faces, marketing is the trickiest and probably for most, reviled. No one likes it and yet it is essential. That beautiful work of inspiring prose will not reach an adoring public or put a cent in your coffers resting there in your Documents folder, read by your mother and a few Facebook or Twitter friends.
I don’t know the Secret. I am constantly searching and trying new options. I have had some limited successes but to tell you the truth… The differences and similarities in what writers are using these days included in this article, caught me by surprise. There are great ideas in here. I will be trying several of them in the future. We should get together and talk about this more often!
One of my responses showed his frustration when he said, “I’ve spent lots of time and money on marketing my debut books—and then realized that no amount of advertising can save them because they are not marketable. So, the lesson I have learned is that first, you need to research the market and then write a book that fits the market and meets the readers’ expectations.
Also, splurge on the cover, as it is the first thing a reader will see. You can have the world’s best story, but if the cover sucks and if the story doesn’t hit the right tropes, the book won’t sell. Ever.” P.C. Darkcliff, Author of the Deathless Chronicles.
Next, storyteller and songwriter, Mike Turner has this to say. “I’m convinced that “marketing” is the true “dark art” of the writing world! I rely heavily on social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter - I try to take advantage of every opportunity, in posts and comments, to mention my book and how to obtain it. I’ve also begun approaching local independent bookstores about carrying my book on a consignment basis - be aware that many bookstores are resistant, if not hostile, to books published/marketed on Amazon, whom they see as their direct competitor (I don’t understand that mindset - if they don’t carry my book, they don’t get to make any money from its sale, and they need to deal with the reality of Amazon in the marketplace). I also actively pursue opportunities to do video/print interviews, guest blogs (like The Writers’ Journey Blog), podcasts, library reading/signing events, and the like, always looking to reach new audiences as potential readers, fans, and purchasers.”
I found Celestial Echo Press (Gemini Wordsmiths) to have an interesting and informative opinion on getting out there with your work. I had not thought of conferences in the context of marketing. (Not now, but maybe post Covid I will definitely consider this option)
“Each day thousands of books hit the market. If you are one of the lucky authors to complete and publish, now you’re ready to sell. Your novel has to stand out from the crowd. You have to market to achieve that stardom. And successful marketing comes in many forms.”
We at Celestial Echo Press employ several strategies. Aside from social media and tapping reviewers, one marketing tool we use is making appearances at conventions such as Philcon, the longest-running sci-fi convention in the country.
In fact, that is where we hawked our latest publication, TIME Blinked, a time-travel baseball novel written by George W. Young. We held a book launch and signing because attendees at the con were the target audience for this genre of novel…. Ann Stolinsky & Ruth Littner Celestial Echo Press
Steve Carr of Sweetycat Press who supports the #WritingCommunity on a consistent basis says, “Marketing is the least fun I have as the publisher of Sweetycat Press. I primarily publish anthologies, so marketing works best when both I and the authors work in tandem to promote an anthology. I encourage the authors to announce to their networks (friends, family, local writing groups, Facebook groups, and other social media sites they belong to) that the anthology is available for purchase, almost always on Amazon.com. Since any extra money earned above that which pays for the publication costs, advertising, and website fees, is used 100% on publishing the next anthology, the more anthologies that everyone sells, the better. It’s a team effort.
The problem with marketing anthologies is that there is no way to know who has purchased an anthology unless an individual tells you they have purchased it. I’m very careful not to spend more money on advertising (on Facebook or other sites) than I think I can earn back through sales. It’s all about watching the bottom line. Financially, I underwrite everything I publish, so watching the bottom line is really important. But, even so, a lot of my marketing strategy is based on gut feeling and a sense of what sells and what doesn’t. Some more experienced publishers have it down to a science. I’m still in the learning how to use a Bunsen burner phase.
For anthologies, and probably all books, the first key essential in marketing is choosing the right cover. I’ve been extremely lucky with having great covers designed by Priti J, David Harms, and one upcoming anthology cover by Norbert Somosi. I get almost immediate feedback about covers once they are revealed. No cover is going to please and delight everyone, but if a cover gets a lot of negative reaction, then I know I need to make changes to it, but as I said, I’ve been lucky with who designs my covers, so that hasn’t been a big problem.
The other thing about marketing is that it’s a lot like getting a short story published (something I do know a lot about). Just like an editor who reads submissions for stories and is looking for well-written content, if the contents of an anthology are good, then readers will be pleased, and word-of-mouth will generate more sales. For some reason, there is a general reluctance by people who buy books on Amazon to write reviews. Other than asking everyone to do that, which usually doesn’t solve the problem, you have to publish a book or books that get people talking. Hands down, having one individual influence another individual to buy the book is the best marketing tool out there.”
The more I read my fellow writer’s thoughts on marketing, the more I realized everyone seems to be walking the same high wire without a proverbial net and at multiple heights. Here are some of their thoughts!
Marketing Strategies by P.A. O’Neil. “I’m not exactly what you call “tech savvy,” so the majority of my marketing has been by word-of-mouth or Facebook posts. I have used their advertisement feature, it is very low costing, but other than getting my name out there, I don’t know how they relate to sales of my book. I have tried going the News Release method but that has never panned out. The most promising thing I have ever done is create Facebook Page just for my book, Witness Testimony, and Other Tales. On the page, I thank people who have sent me a photo of them with the book, as well as share background information about how the stories were inspired. There are almost 300 members who, in turn, will share those posts on their page. That, along with the over 15,000 followers of my P.A. O’Neil, Storyteller, has created a worldwide marketing campaign.”
Deborah Ratliff. “With my first mystery novel scheduled for release this spring, I am constantly searching for helpful marketing tips, and one thing stood out to me. As part of a large writing group, I noticed authors tend to market heavily to other authors. While those who write do read, we often forget to look for reading groups, book groups, especially those dedicated to our genre. The ‘writing experts’ tell us to write to the audience we want, but do we market to that same audience? Our best readers may not be in the marketing areas that we choose, and it is vital to the success of any novel to find a way to reach them.”
Christy Miller. “I reach out to my target audience. Groups on Facebook are a fabulous wealth of help and advice. If I’m going to write an Arabian horse book set in the middle east. I reach out to breeders in that area and get them involved, including their animals as characters, and even they can be an inspiration for my stories. The people I contact are going to buy the books, tell their friends and create a fan base and niche market. It is much more special to people if they are included in the process.”
Dawn Debraal. “Marketing is a tough nut to crack. I don’t have the first idea of what to do, so I will be interested in what the other authors say. I have friends give books away in exchange for a critique. I’ve been bombarded with ads on Facebook, which makes me think this is not the ideal marketing tool. Don’t tick the people off that you want to sell a book to. I purchase other authors’ books and read them, critique them, and then when my book comes out demand, they do the same! Luckily, I only have one co-authored book which comfortably lives in obscurity because I don’t know how to lift it up.”
This Is A Marketing Plan? by Jack Mulcahy. “My marketing efforts consist of establishing a presence, mostly by using Facebook. I have a fairly large number of friends, and I also belong to nearly twenty writers’ groups. As for group participation, I mostly post links to markets and share articles from various other writers’ blogs. I’ve created two blogs, but only one is still active. I don’t have any readers, have no idea how to attract readers, and don’t know what to blog about. Several other writers, more successful than I, have told me just to keep writing and submitting, and not to worry about a blog.”
Ann Christine Tabaka – poet & author. “My marketing strategies are pretty much that I do not have any. Oh, I tried purchasing ad space on various Literary Websites, and in Literary Publications, but … I never noticed any sales following those ads. I spent money and got nothing in return. Mostly I use my Social Media Sites to advertise my books. I enjoy making fun memes/ads and posting them on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Twitter. I cannot say how much success those ads have brought me, but I do sell a book or two most months. I am sure it is mostly my friends who are supporting me. I doubt that I ‘grab’ any new customers since I am not a well-known writer/poet.Where I live, there are no venues nearby where I could do readings, etc. Our small local libraries do not host readings or signings for local artists. I have had two book signings at our one small local bookstore. Again, only my friends who came purchased books (and very few of them did). I am uncomfortable reading my work, and mess up terribly when I try to.
I am always asking [on social media] for people that have my books to leave a review on Amazon, but it does not seem to do much good. I get very few reviews, and when I do, I still do not see any increase in sales. For me, it comes down to this … I am not well known, and do not have a lot of experience in hawking my books. I have come to look at my publishing as a hobby. I spend money and do not make money back. But if I played golf as a hobby, I would be paying greens fees and membership dues, replacing equipment, etc. So, in the end, it is what it is.”
Amrita Valan. "When my debut collection of poems Arrivederci was published in May 2021, I tried to promote the poems by raising overall awareness of them on social media. Any open mic that I participated in I read out poems from the collection. I also posted excerpts of a few poems I liked best on my wall, page, and groups. And when my book went online, I plugged it as much as I could in 20 odd groups and inboxed a few who were interested in further details. I keep channels of communication open and humbly request reviews from editors and publishers as this all goes into creating awareness. I realize I should also request reviews from friends who bought my book. And perhaps get them to share my book on their walls. I am daily learning how having good friends over social media groups helps, as they promote your book for you as well. This is something that I am eager to work towards. Other than that, accepting any opportunities to be interviewed so I can talk about my book or post the links also is another option to market my books."
Jim Bates. “Unfortunately, I would give myself a D – when it comes to marketing. I read with interest what others are doing to promote their books, like a friend of mine, Paula Readman. She’s in touch with Amazon and frequently runs ‘specials’ on her eBooks. She does videos and puts them on Facebook. She stops in local bookstores (she lives in England) to offer them her books. She brings books to events she attends on the off chance she will talk to someone interested in purchasing a book. She promotes her books through her local paper and radio station. I envy her creativity.
My first book was published last year. The publisher Gill James promotes my book and all the other books she publishes through her newsletter and other postings. She’s very active in that regard and I truly appreciate her for doing that. For me, what I’ve done is pretty pathetic. I’ve listed my books on my blog. I’ve started to link to Facebook whenever a book of mine (five, now) gets a review. Just to get the word out. I’ll also continue to do something I started last year, which is to once a month promote one of my books on my Facebook page. Again, to get the word out.
In the future, I’d love to attend a book convention, but Covid stops me from feeling comfortable being in large public gatherings. I’d love to do a book reading/signing but have yet to find a venue here in the states to do that.
So, I will keep muddling along. One of these days, I plan to quit spending so much time writing and really delve into the market side of this endeavor. Until then, I’m afraid I’ll still be an incredibly poor participant in this essential part of our business.”
Justin Wiggins. “The way I go about marketing, whether it is promoting my books, my friend’s music, books, businesses, publishing companies, or podcasts, is through Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and by word-of-mouth when at work, out at coffee shops, bookshops, restaurants, pubs, writer retreats, or at a literary gathering with friends.
By doing this, I have found great joy in cultivating an artistic community globally, cultivating my craft as a writer, promoting what my friends do, expressing great gratitude and joy to my community, and to all the people who have taken the time to read something honest and hopeful I wrote for people of all worldviews.”
There you have it! I hope you got some good ideas and enjoyed the post. If nothing else it lets us all know that we are not alone in our pursuits. Thanks for reading.