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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Marketing for Writing Dummies

After more than a year of being a published author, I feel like I've learned some lessons along the way. Dare I say, I'm beginning to feel like an expert in some areas of the independent author game. Remember how Twain defined an Expert: Anyone more than 20 miles from their hometown, carrying a briefcase. In truth, I may not be an expert, but I have learned a little about this book marketing game.

Step One: It Takes Money to Succeed

This may seem obvious, but trust me when I tell you it's not. And any sliver of success in marketing is always based on trial and error.

We all know the story of Hugh Howey, right? Hugh wrote the Wool series and has sold approximately a gazillion books over the past six years or so. Everyone I know likes to point to Hugh's huge following like it can happen to all. When Hugh published the first version of Wool, more of a short story than a novella he admits, the title took off like it was on fire. The secret to his success? Well, it wasn't a big marketing budget because Hugh admits he didn't spend a dime on marketing his first book.

Here's a hard truth for the rest of us: We ain't Hugh Howey. It may happen to the occasional author, but it has about the same odds as winning the lottery this week.

Most of us are going to have to spend some of our otherwise hard-earned money if we expect to see any traction for our titles. But what's the right amount, people ask? Truth be told, no one seems to know. But, dare I say, it's more than zero.

I have several writing friends whom I share ideas with from time to time. One person asked me a while back, how book one in my WWIV series did so well. They were comparing our debut novels; I'd sold about 2,000 copies, they - about 20. When I asked how much they'd spent on marketing, the answer shocked me. Zero, nothing, zilch. That, my friends, is not the correct answer in this case.


Step Two: Spend Your Money Wisely

Let's just get right to the point on this step; I have no idea where you need to invest your cash. I know where I've spent cash in the past, and I can sure tell you (in a general tone) what has and hasn't worked.

One great idea - Sign up for a Book Blog Tour. I spent about $150 one a twelve stop tour about three weeks after the release of my first book. I experienced immediate results in my sales numbers as the tour progressed. In a very unscientific study, I figured I sold approximately $345 in books as a direct effect of the tour. If I could triple my money on every investment, this would be an easy game.

One not so great idea - Make a trailer and do literally nothing with it, except publish it to YouTube. Next, if you really want to watch you cash dissolve, promote it on said channel. Be, sure like me, to direct the watchers of your trailer absolutely nowhere when they finish. Don't send them to your web page, don't bother creating a landing page, and have absolutely no call to action when they are done viewing the video.

Book trailers can be a great marketing plan. Promoting them on YouTube is a sound idea. Just learn from my mistakes and have a slightly better plan going into the promotion. (In my defense, I had no idea what I was doing. But I still managed to spend several hundreds of dollars and received almost 6,000 views. I don't think any of this sold a single book, but I sure liked watching the counter go higher and higher each day).

Step Three: Be Patient and Don't Give Up

Try something, give marketing a shot. Tell yourself you're willing to spend $250 this quarter in marketing. Do some research and find out what's worked for others. Two things will happen: 1) it will force you to actually speak with (or email) other authors - people in the same boat as yourself, and, 2) you may find something that works for you. You never know until you actually try.

But a word for the wise, other people's results may not be the experience you achieve. For example, if I ask my friend the romance writer what she does for marketing, I may get a different result than her from my post-apocalyptic novel. You may have to try and find success more than once. That's usually the way this works.

Do your research, do it well. One common phrase you will hear when it comes to marketing and success is this: There is no one secret formula. Every writer's experience is different. Be ready for that going in. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

I'm sorry I couldn't divulge any great marketing secrets for you. There just aren't any. So get out there, spend a few bucks, and find something that works for you. If you're not in the mood to spend money, research free book marketing and see what you can come up with. Or, try to become the next Hugh Howey - good luck one that one!


Thanks for reading this post, and have a great week!


e a lake


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