Truth is, I’ve had little time for marketing since the release of my second book, The Last of the Living Blue. Probably all for the better. For my sanity, if not for sales.
“The books will sell themselves,” some say. I’m not so certain. I’ve always been a big believer in the direct correlation between hard work and success. But I’m also learning this. I’m not a salesman, don’t make a good one, and don’t care to be one. I’m a writer, and a rather quiet, solitary sort. I’m a writer because I love to write – not because of some calling to sell myself and my work. However, I do write for others to read… Thus, the dilemma.
So, if sales are up to me (and it appears they are) well, looks like I’m not going to be retiring from my day job any time soon. I never thought cleaning cabins or digging ditch would be my calling either, but by now I know I’m damn good at both, so might as well…
Food for thought.
Live a life worth writing about.
Find your inspiration in your world.
There is always a story around me to share.
Take the time to listen. To see and feel… and write.
The one rule I’ve always believed in for writing: write regularly, and write well.
So, life goes on.
House building, the summer social scene (yes, would you believe, even way the heck up here – this time of year, at least?), back to work on Ginny’s book, and waiting out the monsoon storms before placing another log on the wall of the new cabin. Horse work is on the back burner this year, and ditch work put off until the monsoons settle down. And still there’s no shortage of work. Only a shortage of daylight and personal energy.
Simple living. I once read a quote by Dave Ramsey that went something like this: “Live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later.” I think it’s safe to say I know no one else who lives like us. Not in this country at least. Years ago, we decided it made more sense to move out and camp for the summer, rent out our big house. Then we sold that, and moved out for good. Now, we’re down at the Little Cabin. If you stop by, it might look romantic. A tiny one room log cabin over the Rio Grande. Candle light, cozy, a cute outhouse nearby complete with crescent moon cut out on the door we leave open only when we’re in there. The view down river is too good to miss.
Then there’s the reality of sponge baths and doing dishes in a bucket on the picnic table. Three of us in a whole house smaller than most of your bedrooms and some of your bathrooms. Peeing out in the rain. Digging through a box under the bed for a change of clothes (it’s easier to just wear the same old thing – heck, clean clothes are going to get dirty sooner or later). Hauling water. An abundance of dirt and bugs. A step above camping. At least we have solid walls. Not quite a solid foundation. The northeast corner is taking a dive and the over easy eggs in the cast iron pan on the wood cook stove I fry up in the morning always make a left hand turn.
Yes, we’re building bigger. (There’s a lot to be said for a toilet and kitchen sink…) And we’re building it ourselves. And that, my friend, might be yet another book!
That said, I thought I’d share this on my blog for all fellow writers and anyone else who’s interested. This stems from a conversation with a friend/fellow author who asked me to share my secrets for selling books. I had to laugh. I have no secrets, and don’t sell a lot of books! However… I have made a few observations, and for him and anyone else interested, here is what I’ve learned in these past six months in which I’ve had two books published. (Seriously, has it just been six months? Okay, Gin, you can take a deep breath, and relax… before you get back to work!)
I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and have only touched the tip of the iceberg of this topic. Still, it’s a lot to take in, so please take your time. Skim it over now, maybe come back and read in depth when you have the time. Then please, share with me (and other readers/writers) your thoughts on this after you’ve had time to read and think it over.
Reading, writing, publishing, marketing. The wide world of books. It’s all a changing game. What worked once is no longer certain. What worked yesterday may not work today, and if it works today, please don’t count on it to tomorrow. And no one has the answers.
So, what do we do? Follow each passing fancy? Or stick with what you believe in. Be true to yourself. Honor your work. And keep on writing.
I use the term “Marketing Madness” because I swear it is enough to drive you mad – or make you mad – if you let it. Or you can turn your back and walk away, but that’s probably not the best answer either. Because the bottom line is this: you wrote a good book, and people will want to read it. So, marketing, in its simplest sense, is letting people know about your book (or whatever product you are trying to market). It’s reaching people, which really is what writing is all about anyway. Only different…
In this changing day and age of publishing, we writers by default must learn about marketing, yet the marketing stage is hardly set. There’s no clear road to follow. We are all forming it as we go along. There are no set rules, and we’re forging new ways all the time. Learning from others – sharing what has worked, what has not – helps tremendously. If nothing else than by opening up ideas we may have not yet considered. And giving each other the well needed pat on the back, simple encouragement to keep on going. Just the same, remembering that what worked for one may not work for another, and/or the game may have changed yet again by the time you try it.
I personally find this marketing thing difficult and frustrating. I feel I am selling myself when all I want to do is write. Yes, I know, terribly idealistic. So, we learn, we grow, we try, and we know there is no fairy godmother that’s going to wave her magic wand and suddenly we’ll have everything we ever dreamed of, sales like Steven King, be all we want to be, find ourselves as an overnight success and talking about our latest book with Oprah on TV.
The Big Secret?
I hate to break the news. So far, I found there isn’t one. It’s about hard work, like it or not. And it’s up to each of us. No one will do it for you. Someone may point you in the right direction, but chances are, they won’t even hold your hand or carry you there. If you’re lucky (and you know I think luck is made up of hard work… and a good dose of, ah, guts) they’ll give you a helping hand if you’ve fallen down.
It’s up to each of us to get our name out there, our books sold, and establish a market presence. And we find out, it’s not that painful after all. Especially if it means people are reading our books, which is why we’ve done all this work anyway.
Does it ever stop? Not from what I hear. So… we have to get used to it. Find our own style. Like with finding our own voice in writing, perhaps we have to find our own way to succeed in marketing.
I would love to share more and learn more on this topic which isn’t always the most fun to address, but matters to all of us authors trying to get established in this crazy, changing world. We all can learn and even enjoy with the support and encouragement of each other.
I enjoy bouncing ideas back and forth and learning from others. Yes, these are interesting times and I realize there are no set rules – we’re in a very changing game here, and want to learn all I can, but be smart about my choices. I do not want to ever devalue my work and be a 99cent seller. I would like readers to read my work because it’s good, not because it’s cheap. Likewise, I have not heard one positive confirmation that paying for publicity or marketing works wonders. Let me know if you’ve heard otherwise. Save your money, and get to work.
If I’m good, sales will come in due time – but not by sitting on my hands. Hard work does not frighten me, and I don’t believe in fairy tales.
The truth: Be true!
I’m thinking there are other things we can do beside compromise our integrity. Get the word out our way – sincerely, honestly, and ourselves. Slowly, but surely. Blogging, giveaways, personal appearances, personalize anything/everything, like correspondence, and writing everyone back. Treat our readers with respect, and trust they will in turn respect our work.
I’m not finding sure fire answers. I guess there are none. Yet I shall always believe one can build success on a combination of sincerity, belief in your work, and working hard.
So far, here is what I’ve learned in these past six months about marketing in a nutshell.
What’s worked for me:
– Blogging. It’s me. It’s real. It’s sincere. I’ve been told what I do is not “proper blogging.” My posts are too long, too personal, too rambling. Yes, that’s me. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. Though after six years at it, I’ve not only established a decent following of over a thousand people who care and I in turn have learned to care for, I have met many a real people because of blogging. Friends. Fellow writers, readers. People I converse with on a first name basis, and know the name of their wife, kids, dogs, and the town they grew up in. This is good stuff.
– Facebook. But minimally and with caution. It’s shallow. It caters to those who would rather “like” the latest picture of my pup than read real news, though so many of us turn to it to find some happy medium of keeping up to date and not losing touch with friends and family. I have no interest is posting selfies and telling you what I ate for dinner, but I will share my latest book and building news and blog posts. I found this summer I don’t have (or take) the time to look at the feeds, so I’m probably failing at the FB game now. I no longer look into what other folks have put up. I’m sorry. If you really want me to know, write me. I respond if I’m written to personally but otherwise, the random checking into other people’s lives has lost its interest for me when I barely have time for a bath.
– Reviews. Do your darndest to get folks to read and review. Ask people. Be personal. Don’t send out a mass mailer, but a personal note. Give them your book. You’re not asking a favor – you’re sharing a gift. Though… getting them to POST those reviews, well, that’s not always easy. Everyone is busy. Respect that. Then bug them to get it done!
– Endorsements. Take a chance – ask! I am wonderfully surprised by the person who could have hit “delete” but instead said “sure” versus the colleague I swore would have been interested but now can’t find a minute to write me back (Note to self: Be the person you want to work with! Treat EVERYONE with respect, and respond in kind.)
– Giving away pdf copies. It doesn’t cost you anything, but you get people to read it. If it’s good, and it better be or you don’t want your name on it, they’ll like it, and they’ll spread the word. Slowly but surely. Trust this one. The more readers, the better. Give it away! Maybe you lost one sale, but chances are, you’ll get a whole lot more because of it.
– Book signing. Once again, anything personal. I’m proud of my book. I want to share it. I’m shy and thought this would be torture, but it’s not. Readers are good people. Share your time and enthusiasm with them.
– Going beyond local and finding your niche. My local following… isn’t. More of my readers are from far and wide. I’m proud of this. Look far and wide. Not everyone works best from their front door. Find which way works best for you.
What didn’t work:
– Anything close to home. I’m not a social person or part of the nearby community, so this should not come as surprise to me that they didn’t care that one of their “locals” was being published. I thought suddenly they’d care. They didn’t.
– GoodReads. Their giveaways and support for authors. Not yet, at least, though I’m not done trying. So far what I found is that they attract quantity, not quality. And they are attracting a younger market than my readers. I know my readers and most would rather curl up with a book than sit at the computer surfing social media. Though, some of them do that too…
– Writing groups? I don’t have time…
– Twitter and other social media. Once again, I’d rather be sincere and be me. It’s not my style, my audience or my way of reaching out.
Of course this is the bottom line. And it’s not as easy as one would think.
You write to be read. So, you write a great story, but really – who has time to read now a days? Seriously – like remember the old summer reading list? Now we’re all too tied up and life’s too complicated and sitting down with a good book seems a million miles away most days.
And if there are readers out there, which I still believe there are, how do you reach them? Well, that’s what this is all about, this marketing madness thing.
And that’s where reviews come into play.
This is a big one, and tops the list for “to do” because it really does matter. Though I honestly haven’t figured out why yet. I’ll let you know if/when I do. For now, I just know this. It’s a numbers game, maybe, but it’s not a bad or evil one, I don’t feel compromised, I just try to encourage readers to share (and post) their reviews.
Try anyway. Keep trying. Give away. The more you give, the more you get. That’s nothing new – we should all know that already.
How do you go about getting reviews? Start by asking. Personally. And then, you got it, follow up. It’s a bit of a dilemma. People promise. They mean well. But at the end of the day, where the heck are the reviews and the reviewers? Seriously, getting people to post reviews can be like getting water from a rock. (Once again, note to self: treat others how you wish to be treated! I’ve learned to post positive reviews for writers who could use them, and deserve them!)
There are places you can actually pay people to review your book. Let me know if that works for you. I haven’t done this and have no intention of trying. Maybe I’m a cheap skate, but I believe my writing is good enough that I don’t need to pay someone to read it. I think the point is, I want someone to WANT to read my books. And I want the right people to read my books, not some random person who is just doing it for the money. It might be the slower way of doing things, but once again, for me, it’s the sincere route, and the way I’ve chosen. I’m not going there. Not unless you convince me otherwise.
Reviews matter. They are important numbers our industry (books/publishing) bases our success upon. They help other readers find books, choose books. They need not be elaborate or fancy. Some are. That’s great. Some aren’t. And that’s great too. Not everyone wants to read a long one (or write a long one). Although those long one do help the curious book explorer understand their selection well, those short and to the point ones matter too. One of my favorites, from reviewer Lisa: “Damn good read.” That works for me!
Of course I need to elaborate on this. It’s a huge topic, but I’d like to put it in its place and keep it small and manageable. I personally think that’s all it is worthy of. I am, after all, not a social butterfly. The following is based on a conversation with fellow writer, Kayann Short.
Social Media is hot right now. It’s new, news, ever changing… and flaky. You can play the game and go for the latest greatest, which may be something new and shiny next week, so stay on your toes. But if you do choose to play this game, ask yourself this… Is it you? Are you being sincere? Are you willing to give as much as you get? (Remember that 80/20 rule for those of us who use these things not just for entertainment, but for business: give 80 percent of the time and be lucky to get responses back the other 20.) Does it have substance? Are the people hooked on social media your readers, your target market? I wonder.
On the other hand, would the impact and importance of community involvement, writers groups (personal networking, etc) as well as writers and readers working together (as in book events, signings, etc), be more valuable than randomly reaching the masses impersonally with spam and twitter?
Is social media the modern way and the way of the future for writers? I don’t think so. I think it’s fickle. And I don’t want to be.
I’m not saying I’m ruling it all out. I’m open minded, just hesitant. I’m trying to learn the new rules, but I see too much fly by night, flitter, twitter, missing a backbone, spineless, give it a try, let it go, and try something new… The latest, greatest, bubble gum burst lasts about as long as that flavor… That’s my hard, harsh take on social media so far.
This is my style. Keep it personal. Be real, be me. Book signings, community events, anything personal. Get to know your readers, and the bookstores.
I was petrified of doing this at first. But it’s not as painful as I thought it would be. In fact, it’s really FUN. And an incredible opportunity to share, meet, learn.
Learn from your readers.
Learn what touches people.
Learn who your readers are!
Keep it personal – that’s my rule of thumb. I hope I’m always open to hear from my readers. There’s a lot to learn if you’re willing to listen. And you might even meet some great folks along the way. Icing on the cake, but what would a cake be without it?
Writer’s Leagues, Groups, Conventions
No, really, there are some amazing groups, organizations, leagues… Join! Participate! Share! There’s something to learn from everyone if you’re willing to listen. Find your niche, and find like minds or at least, like markets. Share ideas. Listen to what others are going through, and share what you’ve learned. I’m new to all this and learning all the time but am learning it’s fun – you’re dealing with other writers. And they’re in the same boat you are in, paddling madly to get to the other side and still looking at the same side of the river bank.
Help each other out, and maybe the tide will be more likely to turn.
Do you want to find and follow the next trend, or learn what works best for you and develop your own style? I’m big on being sincere, true to myself, true to my readers. All I can do is hope that in the long run, this approach will pay off.
I don’t want to be silly thinking my books will sell themselves, nor turn into a door-to-door salesman when what I am is a writer. We each must find what works best for each of us, I suppose, but certainly be willing to work. Ultimately, I want to be sincere. I still have to look in the proverbial mirror at the end of the day, and I want to like the person I see staring back at me.
What works for you? What ideas and suggestions do you have? Any advice you’d like to share? What are your thoughts on Marketing Madness?
Please take a moment to leave a comment so we all can learn from each other. Or if you prefer, you can always write me personally at gingetz at gmail dot com.