A couple of months back, I wrote what was supposed to be the start of a three-part blog series on book marketing. It was intended as a sort of all-encompassing thing, covering the ins and outs of mailing lists, back matter, social media and blogging. I’ve had a few people ask me when the follow-up is due, so this is something of a response.
I hold my hands up: I couldn’t write a complete guide to book marketing. Why not? Because book marketing is constantly evolving. What might have worked yesterday (submitting your book to free promotion sites for enhanced coverage) might not work today (oh, those free sites now restrict books due to changed Amazon Affiliate rules), as is the nature of a rapidly evolving business.
However, I think there are a few sure-fire ways to stand out from the crowd when it comes to book marketing, and funnily enough, they don’t really include any ‘marketing’ techniques. Allow me to reminisce a little before elaborating.
I’ve been publicly writing for over a year now, this very website enjoying its first birthday last month. When I started out, I tried to cover every angle. My blog was a place for writing tips, marketing tips, and publishing tips. On social media, I signed up to every site — Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn — and shared my own posts, as well as other useful writing posts. And sure: I gained many writer followers, many of whom I’m very good friends with today as a result, so I definitely don’t regret that.
However, some time around late 2012 — I don’t remember the date exactly — I had something of an epiphany. I realised that all this social media targeting fellow writers wasn’t actually going to sell me any books, not directly.
Now, let’s hypothesise a little here. I personally believe that all writers experience an epiphany moment in their book marketing conquest when they realise that social media — when scheduling tweets and targeting them at other writers — doesn’t sell books. I also believe that the majority of writers, in a mad panic, resort to extreme social media measures as a result.
What are extreme social media measures? Extreme social media measures are a misguided, fearful belief that if something isn’t working, then one clearly isn’t trying hard enough. So the writer throws a tweet out about their book. Then another. And another and another, and before you know it, the entire Twitter feed is basically just an enormous advertising billboard, only down an ignored back alley rather than in Times Square.
Let’s talk about Times Square for a moment. I’ve just spent the best part of a fortnight in New York, hence the recent lack of blogging, and it really is an amazing city. The hotel me and my friend stayed in was just a five-minute walk from Times Square. On the walk down there one afternoon, I was stopped by a man who claimed he was giving away ‘free music’. After extending my hand to take the CD, I was surrounded by a crowd of people who shoved their free music in my hand, before begging for a donation. Sympathetic (and a little bit naïve) to the cause of fellow artists, I reached into my pocket for a couple of spare dollars and prepared to hand them to one of the guys before he claimed that, ‘usually people give us $20-$25’. As a result, I kindly handed them their CDs back and walked away with my dollars.
This experience is akin to extreme social media measures, or forced marketing. Fearful writers often resort to the online equivalent of these book marketing tactics when they are lost for ways to market, and this is entirely forgivable morally, but the internet doesn’t have much when it comes to morals, so you’d better be prepared for a backlash.
Am I saying that social media is useless as a book marketing platform? No, but it isn’t a place for blatant harassing. Advertising is fine (in moderation, like all things), because advertising can consist of several things — linking to competitions, discounts, etc. Trying to force someone to buy your book won’t make you stand out in a crowded field. This is what the majority of writers on social media do. Ironic really, isn’t it? By trying to stand out from the crowd, writers can slip into an unnoticed abyss of hourly Buffer scheduling and superficial followers.
The trick to standing out from the crowd in book marketing? Simple: write a good book, have a professional editor take a look at it, give it a bloody nice cover, put it up for sale, then pursue monthly marketing opportunities when you’ve got a few releases available. At the same time, be genuine on social media; be helpful on your blog; never stop researching. Getting the book for sale is the key part — everything else in book marketing is a bonus based on what you enjoy.
Okay, all that might not seem so simple, but it’s simple enough to understand. Writing and marketing shouldn’t be a slog. When it comes to book marketing, find something you enjoy doing, and do it to the max.
Oh, and just remember not to panic when something doesn’t seem to be working. If you’re contemplating escalating your output, just imagine what you’d think if someone were to do it to you, and remember my Times Square story.
So, first things first, I’m back from New York! I had a great couple of weeks, eating approximately ten thousand hot dogs all the way from Harlem to Coney Island (Coney Island wins in the tastiest hot dog showdown) and walking some serious distance. Great city, and I’d definitely return, even if the jet lag from the return flight was brutal.
I’ve got a little announcement to make. Remember Killing Freedom? Yeah, that book I’ve been working on for the last few months. Well, it’s finished! Completed, edited, and proofread. All I need to do now is format it, have a final read through, then send it out to a few reviewers. After that, it should be ready for launch. Keep an eye out over the next few weeks…
Otherwise, thanks for all the patience whilst I’ve been away on holiday. Got a hell of a lot of emails to be replying to, so I’d better get straight to it. Good to be back!
Image courtesy of uitdragerij via Flickr