With my dear Novel Matters friends as witnesses, I would like to formally apologize to the marketers of books, one and all. Bless their little pea-pickin' hearts.
I'm not proud to admit this, but I was pretty sure they spent too much time at the water cooler, if you know what I mean.
I was wrong.
I wanted them to do more, to try harder, to find my unique set of elusive readers. Instead, they asked me to write books (historical romance would be nice) to make their jobs easier and certainly more profitable.
Now that I'm officially my very own marketer and publisher (Authors are and always have been their own marketers, but Indie publishing forces me to give up my delusional dream that someone is sweating over my sales numbers and calling important people to garner endorsements, interviews, and movie deals. This is my job and my job only.)
Marketing a newly released book is a tough job. I recognize that now. If I can make my book stand out among the 1.5 million books released each year, I'll be successful. Piece of cake.
But I live in the middle of nowhere. How am I suppose to reach the world with my masterpiece?
Simple, become a marketing genius by reading books written by marketing geniuses. Easy.
Not so easy. The marketing geniuses (MG) don't agree on much. Some want you to build a tribe. Others encourage building loyalty by giving things away. (Nothing like a little guilt inducing to sell a few books. I should be brilliant at this. After all, I'm a mother.) Another promises making a killing on Amazon without blogging, tweeting, or updating my status on Facebook. Frankly, that's appealing.
Since marketing is the job of the author, whether we publish with legacy publishers or go independent, won't you join me? I'm consulting the MGs and cherry-picking what makes sense for my sanity and my book's audience. I'll be doing this the next few times I post.
Let's start with James Scott Bell's ebook on marketing, Self Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books. I was attracted to Bell's book because I've met him, he's making a living at writing, and because he says there are only 5 unbreakable laws.
I have the attention span of a gnat. This sounded doable.
I love Bell's writing style. I felt like I was sitting across from him in a coffee shop. He's on my side. He wants me to succeed. And he's a great cheerleader. I was dipping my quill in ink before the end of Part One.
Here's a rundown of his laws and my reaction:
Law #1: You Must Think Like a Publisher
This, in large part, means writing a book that people will want to buy, preferably in a genre that's popular. My genre--women's fiction--doesn't make Bell's list of popular genres. So far, I'm not off to a promising start.
But Bell presents a side to ebooks that I'd not thought of before. Say I decide to write a mystery. And since this is my fantasy, it sells pretty well, and my readers look forward to my next caper. But true to form, I get a literary bee in my bonnet and write a molasses-paced Mid-Atlantic plaster restoration romance. My readers are disappointed and barely glance at my next blood-and-guts murder mystery. Silent scream. End of fantasy.
This kind of genre jumping doesn't have to mean publishing suicide with ebooks. All that's required is a nom de plume for each genre I try. This could be a fun way to try on different genres to see which one--and this could be surprising--makes my heart beat faster and actually sells. In fact, Bell is big on self-determination in his book, which really appeals to my artist self, but he's also practical: "Spend your time developing the books you want to write most, but which also have the potential to sell to a large audience." It's all about balance.
Law #2: You Must Write the Best Books You Can
No argument here. Bell quotes another ebook author, Mark Coker, The Secrets of Ebook Publishing Success: "Eighty percent of your books' success will be determined by the quality of your book. The other 20 percent is distribution, marketing and luck." Bell gives pointers to beginners, intermediate, and advanced writers about how they can sharpen their storytelling skills to increase their chances of success.
My goal is to write a better story each time out. Publishing as an independent doesn't change that goal. If anything, I'm working harder than ever to make my story stand out by investing cold hard cash on a highly qualified editor. The very good news is that I control 80 percent of my book's success. I like having that much control. Note: This doesn't bleed into other parts of my life.
Also in this section, Bell gives the clearest instructions on how to develop a heart-grabbing pitch I've ever heard or read. It's worth buying the book just for his pitch pointers.
Law #3: You Must Prepare Your Book With Quality Controls
Bell caught me off guard in this section, in a good way. I'd completely forgotten about the back of the book, and that the copy--after the cover--is what really sells the book. In fact, he gets into the nitty-gritty of the front and back copy, all the boring stuff like copyrights, formatting, and an author bio. He also touches on the all-important art of categorizing your book on Amazon to get paying customers to your book page. (Next time I post I'll be talking about another book that does a more scientific and thorough job of assigning categories to your book.)
As for covers, Bell highly recommends working with a professional to avoid a cheesy cover. I have to say that I worried most about my covers. When the reader first sees the cover, it's about the size of a postage stamp. The cover shoulders the job of attracting a reader by setting the tone of the story and clarifying the genre in a tiny space. The cover is my foot in the door, so I hired a photographer and graphic artist to help.
Law #4: You Must Develop and Work a Marketing Plan
Bell contends that every marketing plan, at the very least, consists of a pricing strategy, social media presence, newsletter/email program, and reviews, interviews and guest blogging. This section made me tired. For instance, besides writing your own blog, Bell encourages authors to make thoughtful comments on other author's blogs, all for the purpose of building a relationship that becomes mutually beneficial. When my release date looms, that author will be more inclined to have me as a guest blogger, and I can invite him/her to do the same. I like this sort of partnership.
But have you noticed how many author blogs there are? The trick is to find author blogs that appeal to your audience, read them faithfully, and yes, make thoughtful comments. This will be my dead-of-winter January project.
In short, Bell takes a mainstream approach to marketing (social media, newsletters, email lists). There's nothing in this section I hadn't heard before, but he does refine and give first-rate advice for success. I'm thinking I need a mini me to get all of this done.
Law #5: You Must Repeat Over and Over For the Rest of Your Life.
Holy cow, Bell! Over and over? Now, I'm really tired.
Not only over and over but more and more. "...the more books you have available, the better you'll do."
Bell suggests short fiction and writing, writing, writing. Actually, I like the idea of writing short stories. They're an especially fun way to experiment with other genres, but would that mean 23 different nom de plumes?
I appreciate all that Bell includes in his book, so much more than five laws, and I highly recommend this ebook for all authors. Thanks to Bell, the important stuff will get done (he has a great section on priority setting) and I may dabble in other genres. Let's see, a nom de plume? How about Brenda Paris? Zaleena Hopstetter? Buck Tumbleweed? Jetta Stargazer?
Silliness aside, what's your marketing plan? Who are you listening to? What works? What doesn't? Help!