Episode 64: Why Writers Rock at Marketing (and how to do it right)

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey Word Nerds! Welcome back to DIY MFA Radio.

Today’s episode is all about the m-words of writing: marketing and money. These topics are often hard for writers to discuss, but I wanted to address them for a couple of reasons. First, they are super-important. And second, I believe that all writers can be awesome at both at the creative and the business sides of their work.

As writers, we tell ourselves a lot of lies. Sometimes these lies are just part of getting through what needs to be done, but sometimes they can hold us back. I’ve heard many authors say “I don’t care if I make money, I just want to write,” or “I don’t want to sell out. I can’t promote myself.” It’s as if we equate suffering and starvation with good art.

Finally, I hear some writers say “If I make something amazing it’ll just sell itself.”

What a lot of us don’t realize is that we’re living in a paradox. On the one hand we say “I don’t wanna corrupt my art” but on the other hand we say “If only I could make money doing what I love…” How do we reconcile this contradiction? That’s what this episode is all about.

We can sustain ourselves.

Frankly, I find the idea that we writers can’t (or shouldn’t) sustain ourselves with our craft insulting. Here’s why:

  • It paints authors as too fragile to handle the reality of sales and marketing.
  • It implies that because we’re “word people” we’re too stupid to crunch the numbers.
  • It debases the value of our work.

About that last point, I definitely believe that we writers should be compensated for our work, but I also I think we need to see beyond just getting a paycheck. We’ve all heard the saying that writers can “die from exposure” but I can think of at least a dozen examples from my own life where I have made $0 from a project but got a huge return on that investment down the road. Think beyond the monetary value of a project, and instead focus on the overall value that project and the relationships you build through it will bring to your career as a whole. Find the balance between giving away your work and getting paid for every word.


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Here are 4 reasons why writers are awesome marketers:

People think of writers as reclusive. They think we lack social skills and couldn’t network our way out of a paper bag. But we have a lot of skills that make us well-equipped for marketing and sales.

  1. We know how to use words to change people’s minds. This is magic.
  2. We are engaging storytellers. This makes us interesting people to talk to.
  3. We know a lot about a lot of different things. Information is power. 
  4. Plus, because we’re good at observing others, our interpersonal skills are off the charts.

Writers, you have the skills to rock at marketing. You can play this crazy game, and you can win. You just need to know the rules.

The #1 Rule of Marketing: Everybody wants something.

I’m not trying to be cynical. I’m just telling it like it is. Every human being on the planet wants something.  I call this the “What’s in it for me” or WIIFM factor. As writers, we are AWESOME at dealing with the WIIFM factor because we think about it every day… only with our characters. All we have to do is refocus this skill that we already have and we have the potential to rock at marketing.

In the end, marketing comes down to connecting these two dots:

  • What does the other person want/need?
  • How can I align that want/need to what I can bring to the table?

Once you connect those two dots, everything else will fall in place. After that, it’s simply a matter of crafting your message with the other person’s needs in mind. There are a LOT more techniques that can help writers become even better at marketing, but this is a huge topic and I can’t squeeze it all into one podcast episode.

In this episode, I wanted to start the conversation because so many people are afraid to talk about marketing and money and all that sales-y stuff. If you have questions or topics you would like me to cover in a future episode, comment below or shoot me an email.

Also, I wanted to give a super mega shout-out to my friend and mentor, Jane Friedman who has been a true pioneer in breaking this taboo that the book world has around money. If you aren’t already familiar with her website, you absolutely must check it out and follow her blog. Also, in this month’s issue of Writer’s Digest Jane shares a breakdown of her earnings as a way to break this taboo even further. A-mazing!

Link to Episode 64

(Right-click to download.)

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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome.


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