The very traits that can make someone a wonderful writer – humility, sensitivity and introspection – can also conspire to make that same person an absolutely terrified (and ineffective) marketer. That’s a problem because, as you likely already know, the ability to market oneself and one’s books is a must for the modern writer. If this is the paradox you’re currently facing, you have three choices:
- Don’t bother marketing, and continue writing as a hobby, without ever getting read beyond a small circle of friends and family
- Drastically change your personality so that you’re reinvented as a brash, extroverted marketing machine
- Change the way you think about marketing so it suits who you actually are.
The first option is a nonstarter if you really wish to sell books. The second option is probably impossible. So that leaves us with the third option. And, fortunately, it’s a relatively easy adjustment to make. In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts that can help you reframe what marketing really is, and let you see that you are perfectly capable of effectively reaching buyers and building a career.
1) Marketing is only pushy if you actually push.
Worrying about being “pushy” is a top concern for writers seeking to market. For many of us, already overly sensitive to criticism and fearful of being judged, the thought of going out into the world to “hawk our wares” sounds like a good excuse to experience a panic attack.
But what if, instead of pushing our message at people, we pulled those same people toward us? What if we build a genuine human relationship with our prospective readers and nurture that relationship over days, months and years?
Here’s a scenario: you see a musical act perform at a local festival. You really enjoy them, so you sign up for their email list. Over the weeks ahead they send you an occasional MP3, maybe a brief newsletter with some funny stories from the road, perhaps some photos of them in the studio recording their next album. You’re enjoying getting to know these people, and you start thinking of them as virtual pals. You tell some friends about them, and they get on the list too. A couple of months later, you get an email from the band saying “The new CD is ready, and I’ve got a discount code for you!”. You’re excited, and you head over to their site to place an order. So, what happened here?
Did they market to you? Yes, they did.
Were they in any way pushy? Nope.
Did you resent their attempt to sell you a CD? Heck no! If anything, you may have been annoyed if they didn’t tell you about the new CD.
There are myriad ways to pull prospective customers to you without ever pushing anything on them. They key is to offer value, be human and remember that people want to be treated like friends, not sentient ATM machines. If you think that you can find a bunch of people who don’t know or care about you and sell them your book right off the bat, you’re fooling yourself. Plan your marketing around pulling people toward you and nurturing a relationship and you won’t ever be thought of as pushy. You’ll be thought of as a goodhearted author who cares about people.
And those are the folks who will dominate bestseller lists in the new publishing environment.
2) Find a solid marketing tactic you feel great about, stick with it and ignore everything else.
I’ve been marketing for 30 years, but even I get overwhelmed by the volume of strategies, tactics and “breakthrough” promotional tools that get bandied about. If it makes my head spin, I can understand why a marketing neophyte might want to curl up in a ball and spend the rest of the day watching Law & Order reruns after being confronted with the marketing landscape.
Relax. You aren’t running a presidential campaign, you’re trying to sell some books. There’s no need for some crazily complex marketing plan that combines a zillion different tactics. And there’s no need to allow yourself to be pushed out of your comfort zone into technologies and processes you don’t understand. You just need to find a simple tactic that works. And then keep doing it.
For some, it’s personal appearances. For others, it’s focusing entirely on sending out review copies. And for others, it’s creating a podcast and building a listenership. Personally, I teach a tactic that builds an email list and allows writers to forge a growing relationship with a “Tribe” of their own (as the musical group mentioned above did). I like that tactic because I know it works (I’ve been doing it for 20 years) and it’s fun to build real friendships that blossom into sales.
In the end, though, you get to choose your tactic. Make sure it fits your personality and that it pulls, not pushes. And then just get really good at it. And forget everything else. If you keep things simple, you’ll actually get things done. Make things complex and, well, those Law & Order reruns start looking really good
3) Prospective Readers NEED You to Market to Them!
It’s time to ask a very serious question – one that deeply matters:
Do you truly believe that your work is necessary?
To put it another way, would the world be in any way a better place if your writing was widely read? Would people be happier? Better informed? More inspired? A little less stressed? Whether you’re writing a deeply philosophical work or a book of knock-knock jokes, the ultimate result of someone reading your book should be that, somehow, his life has been enhanced.
Writers are, at their cores, alchemists. They turn isolation into connection, fear into courage, murkiness into clarity, tears into laughter. A great book (like the kind you write!) can transform a life, or it can make a tough day seem a little brighter. That’s real value, and it’s something worth celebrating. And it’s something worth telling people about.
If you still think marketing is all about “hawking your wares”, please consider this:
There are people out there who need to read your work. The education, inspiration or entertainment you’re ready to provide them can greatly improve their lives. If you can make someone’s life better, you owe it to them to share that important news. Doing anything less would be a major disservice. You’ve put your heart and soul into your work. But if you don’t stand up and advocate for it, who will? Your marketing efforts shouldn’t be a business activity – it needs to be a mission.
Get going and start advocating for your work. There are people out there who need you.
Jon Bard has been helping authors for 25 years as the co-owner of Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers . He recently introduced his course Easy Author Marketing – The Simple Solution That Sells Books.
Free gift for DIYMFA readers: To learn more about Jon’s unique take on book marketing, download Jon’s free eBook: The 10 Minute Turnaround: Overcome Your Fear of Marketing & Start Connecting with Readers Now! It’s yours with his compliments, and you can get it right now at this link.