Reluctant Marketer

I’m a reluctant marketer. That admission is, in this day and age, a cardinal sin for an author. What I’m supposed to say is that self promotion is near and dear to my heart and that there’s no way I’d rather spend an afternoon than accosting total strangers and enlightening them about the wonders of my book. But that’s just not true. I simply don’t enjoy self-promotion. Things would be quite different if I had a publisher or agent, setting up book signings, author talks and interviews. If someone else trumpeted my achievements, I could go along and modestly discuss my writing, my books and my life. But there is no one out there who is pushing me forward, so it’s up to me to break out of my natural shell and drag my book into the light of day.

To put it another way, I love writing. Selling is something I’m not comfortable with but I’m learning it’s a necessary evil. For authors who self-publish, 100% of the marketing falls on their shoulders. For someone like me who’s published by a small publishing house, only 99% of the marketing burden is our problem. Those remaining lucky few who have been published by one of the big guys only have to take on about 98% of the marketing themselves.

I know I’m not alone in trying to figure out the least painful way to market my book. It just doesn’t follow that someone who finds joy in sitting alone behind closed doors for the hours and months it takes to craft a book would morph into a creature that delights at putting itself out there in the world once a book leaves the computer and hits the presses. So I’ve written this page (or two) with the aim of helping others stumble, however reluctantly, along the brambly path of marketing their book.

So, now that you’ve got a book, what do you do with it? How do you put it about where people can find it and just maybe buy it? I’ve listed a few points here which let you know what I’ve done and what I think works.

1.The first and most obvious step is to get yourself a website. I go into a little more detail about my thoughts on websites on my Website page but basically, you’ll want a place to send friends, family and acquaintances to read about your book. And hopefully, over time, others will go there hunting information as well. Give them a place to read about you, your work and to buy your book.

2.The second step is get your book on Amazon. Whether you like it or not, Amazon is the God of booksellers. There are a plethora of sites out there that feed from it, link to it and talk about it. Amazon has a lot of tools to help Author’s promote their book. Check it out and see if you’re taking advantage of everything on offer.

3.Get yourself some business cards or other handouts to give to people who ask about your book. Don’t just rely on their memory to lead them to your book when they have time a week later. See my Handouts page for some thoughts on options here.

4.Garnering reviews (preferably favourable, but you don’t have control over this) is the next step. Once you have your reviews, you can put them on your website and hold them close to your heart. If you’re lucky, someone else reads the review and actually buys your book. Interviews are also a simple way of letting people know about you and your book. See my page on Independent Reviews for more.

5.The next major marketing tool available to every author is social networking. I’m talking about things like Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, Twitter and blogging (in my mind, blogging is very different from having a website, though I acknowledge the lines blur). In this arena, the sky is the limit both in the time you spend on it and the ways you use it. I suspect most people reading this know more about it than I do since social networking isn’t really my thing. But I’ve put a few of my thoughts on where it works and why on my Social Networking page.

Now we’ve reached the pointy end of the stick. What I’ve mentioned so far is what can be done from the safety and privacy of your computer. The next step requires you to get out of the house and into the cold, cruel world. Since I haven’t done this yet, I won’t go on too long about it, but I feel I have to mention the painful bits for completeness.

6.Book signings and talks at trade fairs, local markets, bookshops, libraries, etc. are how many authors get their name out there and their books sold. You can approach any number of organisations to offer an author talk and you can bring along a box of your books to sign and sell. Just remember, if you sell your books yourself, you have to be a business and collect sales tax for the government which is a hurdle I haven’t yet tackled.

That pretty much covers what I’ve learned about self-marketing of my book. I think the two key things to remember are 1) don’t be embarrassed to let people know you have a book – how far you go down the path from telling to selling is really a matter of your comfort level and 2) keep an open mind and eye to see what others are doing; adopt what looks like it will work for you and abandon what doesn’t. And, whatever else happens, keep writing. Remember, you’re an author and don’t lose what you love for the sake of becoming what you don’t.