Summing Up What I’ve Learned From 2002 (No Magic Marketing Technique Exists, Be a Storyteller First, Don’t Bang People on the Head With Your Book)

Before I throw in the towel on this blog, I figure I should try to see if I can come up with posts I can write about.  If I can, then I can see sticking around.

Part of the struggle in coming up with posts is that there is no magic answer out there when it comes to marketing.  A lot of people said what they want out of this blog is marketing advice.  But the truth is, there is no surefire strategy that will work equally for everyone.  I’m afraid there’s a lot of disappointment in store if people expect someone to come up with a marketing strategy that is guaranteed to work.

So maybe instead of trying to scramble around in an effort to find the impossible answer, I should focus instead on trends and issues we face as self-published authors, ways we can produce as professional a product as possible, and the emotional ups and downs inherent in this business.  What I’ve discovered is that some marketing methods work awesome for some authors but fail for others.  There are too many variables involved in the whole thing (like genre, personality type of the author, preferred social media use, goals with publishing, target audience).

In a nutshell, I think the best marketing technique is the one that the specific author is most comfortable with.  Will there be guaranteed sales?  No.  If you’re selling well today, can you quit your day job and write full-time?  Only if you have a huge emergency fund with some additional money set aside to cover your taxes.  Sales fluctuate way too much to believe that what you’re making today is the same as what you’ll be making tomorrow.  Plan for the bottom to drop out.  Yes, sales can rise.  You could end up selling better tomorrow than today, but why take your chances?  I’d rather have a lot of extra money built up and find out I sold better than to have no money put aside and realize I can’t pay my bills.

I also don’t think you should be in this business unless you truly love to write stories.  While there is a business side to publishing, the heart and soul of writing is based in the creative realm.  Self-published authors wear both hats.  If you don’t put your heart and soul into your stories, it’ll lack the emotional depth that is required to reach out and embrace your reader.  Your reader wants an emotionally gauging story.  Whether that emotional connection is in fear, edge of your seat nonstop action, love, sorrow, humor (and more), there has to be an emotional undercurrent that pulls the reader into the book.  A book should make the reader forget they are reading.  Ever watch a movie and get so wrapped up in it you forget you’re in the movie theater?  I have, and that’s the kind of experience readers should have when they’re reading books.  This is why people who don’t love writing are doomed.  They don’t engage in storytelling.  They just write words on a paper.  The distinction is there, but it’s hard to explain.  I can read five pages in a book and tell whether or not the author’s passion was in the book or not.  People writing without the emotional component are poor storytellers.  Before you can engage in the business of publishing a book, it’s important to tap into the storytelling craft.  As trite as it sounds, the book will always be the most powerful marketing tool you got.

I started out with vanity publishing in 2002 and got into KDP and Smashwords in 2009.  That’s what I’ve learned during that time.  I’ve also learned there is no magic marketing technique.  There’s also no set “formula” that will make your book resonate with a whole bunch of readers.  Just because someone else wrote a popular type of book, it doesn’t mean your piggyback version off of it will work.  Also, lose the sales pitch.  You’re not doing yourself any favors in constantly bugging people about your book.  People don’t need to be beat over the head to get that you have a book out.  I say this in frustration since I get invited to Facebook events all the time from authors who then proceed to fill up my inbox for the next day or two with hourly posts about their launch party.  At that time, I either decline to stop the emails from coming in or decide I’ll never buy their book or any other book they write, no matter how intriguing it sounds.  Annoying people isn’t the way to get their interest.  Just hang out and enjoy talking to people.  Your blog and website are for talking about your books.  Social media is for being social.  Mention your book when it’s published, on sale, or in a giveaway but let it out there once and move on to other topics.

19 Comments

  1. “People don’t need to be beat over the head to get that you have a book out.” <- Preach it. I see this all too often on Twitter, in particular. I have un-followed people because of their constant sales pitch clogging my stream.

    1. Yep, same here. Twitter is as bad as Facebook. I’ve un-followed people, too.

  2. TheGirl says:

    Hello,

    I was thinking about publishing my online work. Is it true that 90% of all books today are self-published? I heard 50 Shades..was self-published but then I went on Random House’s website and saw it listed there. Is it true that an indie book (if popular) can be picked up by one of the powerhouse publishers?

    1. I hadn’t heard that stat before, so I did a search online and found this post: http://publishingrevolution.com/2011/05/19/the-publishing-revolution-is-2776000-strong/. It was written in 2011 and said in 2010 “the ratio of self-published books with ISBNs to traditionally published books was more than 9 to 1”. From there, the article further states that 90% of self-published books lacked viability (for one reason or another).

      I’m a lot more concerned about the 90% statistic than how many books are self-published. What is it that is making 90% of self-published authors skimp on making the book competitive with the traditionally published ones?

      I am not familiar with the rise and success of the Fifty Shades books, but I found this article online if you’re interested in finding out more about it. In its initial stages, it was fan fiction for the Twilight series. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_Of_Grey

      If an indie book does amazingly well in sales, then yes, a publisher probably will want to pick it up. I don’t know how many sales you’d have to make to get there, though. If you’re self-publishing in hopes of eventually finding a publisher, make sure your books are as polished up as possible. A lot of authors who self-publish get lazy when it comes to publishing work that can compete with traditionally published books. (I hate to admit it, but it’s true.) I think the trend is becoming more popular for publishers to pick up books by self-published authors instead of picking up an unknown author. Why? Because a successful self-published author has an attentive audience who wants more of their books (so the publisher will already know money will be coming in) and if the author is prolific, the publisher knows the author can write more books (which will increase their profits). An unknown author who doesn’t have a proven track record can still get a contract, but I think with self-publishing gaining validity, publishers are looking more at authors who’ve already built up their popularity.

      1. TheGirl says:

        Yeh not to mention traditional publishing can costs a lot in fees, and the publishers don’t spend alot of time marketing, especially for an unknown author.

        And when you say “polish” you mean professionally editted? Sorry for picking your brain a bit but I guess I’m looking for professional guidance here.

        1. A vanity publisher will charge fees. A reputable traditional publisher will not. There’s a saying in publishing that goes, “The money flows to the author, not away from him.” If you run into a publisher who wants you to pay them to publish your book, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. 😀 I made the mistake of going with a vanity press for years.

          When I say “polish,” I mean that is needs to be the same quality as a traditionally published book. The cover, the formatting, and the editing need to be similar to what you’re going to find in a bookstore. Traditionally published books aren’t perfect, but they are sifted through a process where more than one person works on them. 😀

          1. TheGirl says:

            Thanks for the clarification, now I know what to look out for!

  3. allrighters says:

    Hello Ruth

    Thanks for all your comments since 2010 they have been useful as we are still working towards publishing. Sometimes one has to change course, even with new people around I am sure you can still contribute from time to time and this may be easier to do with less pressure on having to do. Re JMs issue with Amazon I cannot understand why. It would make more sense if the traditional published book was going to be less expensive. I assume Amazon are going to handle both books anyway so what’s their problem. Alexander

    1. I think if I stop trying to come up with perfect posts, then I’ll be able to relax. I’ve been my own worst enemy, to be honest. I want to get the marketing secret perfected but I never will. 😀

      I really believe the issue with Jamie McGuire was a mistake. I think Amazon meant to alert past customers that a new version was out by a publisher. I don’t think the email was worded well. The email sounded as if the old (self-published) version was no longer available on their Kindles. I think that is why there was the big confusion. Why Jamie was being charged for the refunds, though, I don’t understand. The self-published version had been unpublished for six months, and Amazon’s policy is for book returns to only be 7 days past the day the book was bought. I don’t think we’ll ever know all the facts in this case, but at least Amazon sent out the second email and cleared the matter up.

  4. I’ve only just found you Ruth, so please don’t stop now! Best wishes to you from another Ruth! 🙂

    1. Hi, Ruth! Great name. 😉

      I’m going to give this blog a couple months and figure out if I can keep things fresh. If I can, I plan to stay on. I just don’t want to bore people.

  5. Hi Ruth, I’ll second the above posters’ comments. All of the info is “fresh” to me so I’m very interested in your blog as a resource. I’m also looking forward to seeing what spin you might find to keep it fresh for you too. Thanks for all of the work you’ve put out here. Much appreciated.

    1. Thanks, Laurie! I appreciate it. 😀

  6. I always enjoy and greatly appreciate your posts Ruth, write on!
    Ps Hope you settled in the new place of yours! God Bless D

    1. Thanks, Dave! I hope all is going well for you. 😀

      We ended up moving back to our old place. There were many factors involved, but in a nutshell, we realized we were better off where we were. I guess sometimes you have to do something new to realize the old way was best. LOL

  7. Rohan 7 Things says:

    I love this blog Ruth 🙂

    More great advice. I love writing so no problem there, it’s the kind of thing I’d be doing anyway, the fact that I can earn additional income from it is just a bonus 🙂 And I definitely agree about the marketing, it has to be organic and genuine. I like to market by providing something of value through my blog and social media, not beating people over the head.

    Also Ruth I was wondering if you could write (or have already written) a post on the best way to acquire book reviews. I see self published books that have been out for only a couple of months with 40 + reviews and I just wonder what’s the best way to get these kind of numbers.

    Thanks Ruth, keep up the good work 🙂

    Rohan.

    1. Thanks, Rohan! 😀

      I like your marketing strategy. I think it’ll lead to fans who’ll care about you as a person and will be more wiling to tell others about you. It’s nice when people who enjoy your books work with you in a supportive atmosphere.

      I’ll ask some authors how they got reviews and see if I can come up with a good post on the topic. It’d make for a good post. Thanks for the idea!

      1. Rohan 7 Things says:

        That’s great, thanks 🙂

        Rohan.

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