Sunday, 28 June 2015
We hear so much about marketing books and how we can promote ourselves and our work. As with everything in our modern day world, the views on this topic are rapidly shifting, and what used to work is no longer as effective. In fact, it can even be detrimental to your journey or reputation.
Here are my tips on how NOT to go about the promotion of your work.
The glory days of the blog are over. Everyone has one and most of them are not good. Blogs are yet another example of ruination by overload.
Have one, yes, but use it as a platform for creative expression and as an extension of your reach but don't rely on hits, stats or comments. Don't expect it to sell your books. Fill it with personal as well as professional content and make it a place where readers can find content of interest, but don't fill it with endless self-promotion and don't announce every single teensy tiny thing that ever happens to you and your work. The scattergun approach will quickly lose readers.
THE BLOG TOUR
Once a new and innovative way of promoting books by visiting other blogs and websites, they're now passe. People are tired of them and people are tired of hosting them. I recently tried a varying style of tour including a blog blast, and they worked better, but the time and effort invested was still questionable. Time to move onto something else.
THE CLUSTER BOMB
The irony is--the more you and your books are seen, especially online, the less impact they begin to have. There IS a tipping point when it comes to saturation and eventually, people will simply have had enough. There's something to be said for a little mystery and retention--and there is an inherent disingenuous feel to promotion that's publisher or author-led. Remember, great books sell themselves. Your most powerful and most authentic selling and marketing tool is word of mouth. It's what others say, not what YOU say.
Like blogs and blog tours, they've been ruined by overload. I made the decision some time ago to never give to any kind of crowd-funding and it's because I was so tired of being asked by so very many. I've self-published some of my books and have self-funded many of my projects, and have never once asked others to fund it for me.
While I don't think there's anything wrong crowdfunding (it's just not something I would personally do) and there are perfectly legitimate reasons to do it, remember that people are asked every single day of their lives to hand over cash, everywhere they turn, whether by charities or through advertising. Eventually, there's just no more money to go around. We do need some for our own lives and families.
So think twice before crowd-funding. Seek other ways first--there ARE other options.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA SITES
Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest do NOT have the reach we would expect of them. Even if the 10% of your posts that DO reach your intended Facebook audience make it into their brainspace, the chances of this translating to sales is nominal. Ditto Twitter and its fruitless 140 characters or less. For the sake of having your name and books a regular presence in the Zeitgeist, do by all means post selected promos to social media sites, but change them up, space them out really well (ie: not a lot), add imagery and don't use a foghorn.
Be wary of being a foghorn. Be positive, promote your work, yes, but don't bombard, don't self-laud, don't use capital letters and exclamation points and inflated hyperbole, don't plug your work like it's a Demtel ad and never EVER describe your work as amazing. That's for other people to decide. Kate Forsyth put it beautifully in a workshop I attended once, when she said 'if you are at a party, would you stand up on a chair and yell 'look at me! look at me! buy my work! my book is incredible! buy it now and you get this free set of steak knives!"? No? Then don't do it online, either'. It's a very fast way to lose respect and credibility.
Don't be pushy. Just don't. People hate it. Be gracious. State your piece and go home.
Don't expect direct sales from anything you do to market your book. Sales take time. That's all there is to it. If you spend more time honing your skills and creating spectacular work, your books will sell like hotcakes and you won't even need to market your work. Be patient.
Low-quality content, cover art or production values will sell nothing. No amount of marketing will help.
Start local. Forget Amazon for now. Focus on your own area, your own network, your own space. If you throw a pebble in the ocean, the ripple will only go so far. If you engage locally and in smaller arenas, you will not only grow your support base, you will reach your target market with more impact, as the market will be smaller.
Put industry before target market. Forging genuine industry relationships and friendships will ensure mutual support. Instead of throwing that single pebble into the ocean, your support group will throw a scattering of pebbles--and your ripples will extend much further.
When you market you book, you simply MUST target the right site, journal, media outlet, preferably with an actual name and you MUST FOLLOW THEIR RULES/REQUIREMENTS.
Beware the media muster approach--ie: sending out press releases to anyone and everyone (unless, of course, you are a trade publisher and have a relationship with the site/media outlet). It will only irritate people and that's not good. Keep your content relevant, extremely succinct and to the point, and provide working links. NEVER provide an outline with no book cover or links. No one has the time to seek out more info if they want to.
Never send galleys or mock-ups or proofs or electronic samples. Ask first.
DO NOT EVER laud yourself or your work or compare it to famous works or people. DO NOT call it spectacular. It's a major warning flag.
Also, use your noggin. Don't go to a reviewer's Facebook page and spam it with free offers or 'please review my book'. Go to their website and check out the REVIEW POLICY. Get in line. Do it the right way and you may succeed. Do it the wrong way--or try to jump the queue--and you'll do nothing but irritate people, and thus lose credibility.
Be really wary of this. Freebies only sell books if you are providing them to a reputable reviewer or media outlet. Screaming MY BOOK'S FREE!! from the rooftops really intimates desperation, and just because something's free doesn't mean it's good and doesn't mean people want to read it. Freebies are also not an effective marketing tool because they align the consumer with 'cheap' or 'bad quality', ie: if it's free, it can't be good. Do you ever see James Patterson handing out freebies? No. And he didn't hand them out before he became successful, either.
If you really want to give books away, give them to a library, school, hospital or charity. They'll do more good for your readers (and believe it or not, for you) than a FREEBIE screaming match on Amazon ever will.
THE FINAL WORD
Above all else--and I'll say it again--GOOD WORK sells. If you spend time creating good work, or heck--even great work--you won't need to do much marketing because you'll have the most powerful marketing tool known to man on your side--word of mouth.
See also The Types of Author You Don't Want to Be