Book marketing is about SHOWING UP!
Libraries and bookstores are dangerous places for writers, especially aspiring authors. On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself looking around at the shelves and piles and stacks of books, thinking, “What could I possibly have to say that hasn’t been said before?” The other day, I was walking through the mystery section of Phoenix’s main library and found myself on this train of thought:
I wonder how many books the library buys just sit on the shelf and never get checked out. They sit there quietly watching people wander the aisles, hoping, “Pick me! Pick me!” They quiver with excitement as the hand reaches out … to grab the book next to them … again. Each time they’re overlooked, they’re saddened that they’re not living their purpose.
I also wonder about the path of the books that wind up at the dollar store.
The point of this post isn’t to discourage you. It’s to say, I GET IT! It’s a big job to write a book. Bigger still to publish a book you can be proud of. But the really hard work is in creating an interest in your book in the middle of a very crowded field. Bowker (the company that issues ISBNs) estimates there were 391,000 self-published books last year. If you read many book publishing blogs, it’s easy to get down, because so many of them focus on how so few authors are able to make a living at writing and how few authors actually sell books, mostly because they’re just not very good marketers.
When I first started this blog, three years ago tomorrow, I began with one post and zero readers. Then I added another post. And another post. And slowly the readers came. Now we’ve got lots of regular readers, and new people are subscribing daily. I still get distracted and step away from the blog occasionally, and I never post as often as I want to, but I keep at it, and in doing so, I’ve accomplished more than 95 PERCENT of all bloggers. That’s right. It’s estimated that as many as 95 percent of the 152 million (or so) blogs in existence have been abandoned by their owners/creators. Which just serves to emphasize that one of the most important parts of marketing is to actually do it regularly – to decide to show up and keep showing up!
At the start of this blog, I talked a lot about how important it is for authors to think – and act – like marketers. The problem is that very few authors do. That’s why they’re don’t sell very many books and get discouraged. Most authors – most business owners, I think, regardless of their industry – would much rather work on their area of expertise than take on marketing tasks. But if you’re a solopreneur, or an author with aspirations of making a dent in the Amazon chart or guaranteeing that your book gets checked out of the library, marketing has to be a significant focus.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t like marketing. It doesn’t matter if you (think you) are not good at it. You must embrace it, or let your fantastic book wither away in a tiny, unexplored corner of the Internet where a handful of people will be lucky to stumble across it. Remember, 95 percent of bloggers quit. How many authors do you think quit marketing, or never get started in the first place? So how hard is it, really, to gain at least some recognition for your book?
Books are such interesting items to market because they’re so personal. A book is not a commodity like tires or groceries or things we use and replace. Nor are most books a significant investment, like a car. They’re in the middle there – things we buy to help us solve problems or entertain us or give us ideas or teach us something. Sure, a voracious reader can plow through a couple books a week, but that’s rare, and he or she is more than likely not your market. You are looking to connect with a reader who will value your story or your information or both. And the only way to do that is to find him … which means marketing to him.
This means creating a website. It means blogging. It means learning to use social media for things other than posting pictures of adorable animals. It means learning how to create short videos. It means learning how to write news releases and what to do with them. It means finding a Toastmasters group and getting over your public speaking fears. It means partnering with nonprofits that share your goals and vision. It means asking for opportunities, instead of waiting for them to come to you.
Yep, at the very least it’s going to take the investment of some time. I run the Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion Meetup, which meets twice a month for a couple hours per session. Though there are 120 official members in the group, we’ve got about 25 aspiring authors who regularly show up to get educated and share ideas about various aspects of book publishing and marketing. At the end of every meeting, we each announce the action steps we plan to take before the next Meetup. Then we publish those action steps on our closed Facebook group. And at the beginning of every session, we start by asking whether or not people met the goals they set for themselves. This provides accountability and support. Maybe there’s a similar group in your area. If not, who do you know who could help you start one?
If you want to spend less time on the marketing, you’re going to need to spend some money. I’m getting ready to launch a marketing mastermind for authors (and aspiring authors) who want to move off the sidelines and really master the art of marketing. If you’ve been reading this blog quietly for some time, but have not acted on any of the dozens of marketing ideas we’ve discussed – particularly out of fear that you still don’t know all you need to know – perhaps this mastermind is right for you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an application.
Marketing is not an innate skill for most people. I was blessed to have masterful teachers – but I also had a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to work hard to master the things I learned. You’ve written (or are writing) a great book. Now it’s time to invest in yourself so that you can get that book into the hands of the people who need it!
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.
Check out Laura’s newest book, Practical Philanthropy: How ‘Giving Back’ Helps You, Your Business, and the World Around You. A percentage of all book sales is donated to Art4TheHomeless.org and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.