Passive Guy posted some suggestions from book marketing experts yesterday.
Discussion among visitors to The Passive Voice followed.
While PG has occasionally elevated a single comment into a post, he has never done that with an entire stream of comments. However, he thought the ideas in the comments were so much better than those of the “experts” in the original post, he’s decided to do just that.
Note that the comments become longer and more detailed toward the bottom.
I really dislike how these “social networking” things tend to boil down to, “X author is successful in doing these things, so we came up with a formula.” Maybe some authors can make formulas sing, but for the ones trying to do it by rote? Ehhhhhhhh, it looks strained and forced.
Yes, I like to follow an author… but I like to follow an author who has something to say, not one who is trying to phone in a paint-by-numbers formula for marketing.
I’m with you, ABeth. All this marketing BS is just like playing the lottery. There are just enough “winners” to get everybody else excited and jumping in for a chance at the jackpot.
If writers put as much effort into making my Must Buy list as they do with endless spamming and marketing gimmicks, my Kindle would burst apart at the seams.
Didn’t want to be the first to seem anti-social but yes, I agree. It all seems so exhausting. I think it was that movie Valley Of The Dolls where Patty Duke (a Judy Garland type) was continually harangued to “sparkle”.
You have to create the covers, edit, format, have a life, read, go grocery shopping, do the laundry, have a scintillating blog, Tweet, Face, Pin and *SPARKLE*. What few moments are allotted to writing in this hectic schedule?
I utterly refuse to SPARKLE.
I’d love to see a one-month moratorium on talking about one’s own books. You can talk about anything else. Even talk about other peoples’ books. I imagine there are a lot of people I’d find interesting, the same people I ignore now for spamming.
I am inherently unable to *sparkle.* I’m doomed…
But…it’s gotta be all about the sparkle!
And no mention of what I think is most important: an up-to-date, easy to navigate website with a complete list of books (by series, if applicable) and links to where they can be bought. Authors: please make it easy for me to buy your books in order if I like your stuff.
(Love the comment edit feature.)
As a reader, I completely agree. I want to be easily able to find an author’s other books, and I want to know of any pen names. If the author is one I like, I will probably like those too, even if they are from a genre I don’t usually read. At the least, I will try one or two. A site with all books listed and links to where to purchase will almost always guarantee you at least one book sold, and quite possibly more. Oh, and if all your links lead to Amazon, you lost me as a customer because I am not wasting my time trying to convert files to epub, they always get scrambled anyway.
Thanks everybody who has already commented, because i absolutely loathe facebook.
I’m a Facebook and Twitter virgin and I’m not embarrassed to admit that.
I finally broke down and got Twitter, but I have a strong aversion to Facebook. They make it easy for me, though; I can’t see the conversations going on, so I can ignore them. LiveJournal and Twitter? Would let me watch people having conversations, and so I got accounts eventually. Facebook’s “no riffraff get to see most of your stuff” defaults mean I don’t have any reason to go looking.
My attitude towards Facebook is that lost friends from high school are lost for a reason and should remain that way.
Tina Nichols Coury
On Facebook you get to choose your friends. My friends on face book are mainly colleagues, editors, agents and Kidlit writers. I find out industry news, blog posts, writing tip and some days the poets write a delicious poem. You have the power to make it what ever you want Keith. I never friend anyone under 25 because I don’t want to know. I screen to make sure I want them in my friend book and if they are obnoxious I defriend them. But many, many wonderful things have happen in facebook for me. Charities I wouldn’t have known, opportunity and friendships involving the writing community. You’d be surprised how fun it can be and productive too. I have not friended any of my high school classmates, I wanted to forget about them.
If I want to find my lost high school friends, that’s what Search Engines are for. I don’t need to let FaceBook into my personal information!
I agree with those who have already opined above. The marketing tools suitable for an author are unique to that author, his style, genre, target audience. When I read “Youtube account” and “short video talks about their books ” I nearly spat my tea back into the mug. For goodness sakes.
As a reader I want a new author to have a web site with a blog. I don’t want to see URL’s in a book except at the beginning or the end, and only a link to that web site and blog.
“I recommend that authors enable the ‘subscribe’ button and live their online life more publicly.”
Today I repelled down the side of El Capitan to search for just the right verb to introduce my new character in Chapter 2.
Later this afternoon, I fended off a rival grammar ninja clan while paying my utility bills. I also encountered a herd of stampeding adjectives at Safeways while I was shopping for fresh ground Postum beans for my blender.
Tonight I’m slated to attend a black-tie dinner where the Mayor of Platform Town will hand me the Key to the City.
I’m so lucky to lead such a rich online life.
“this book is an invitation to a longer, deeper relationship with me.”
But don’t worry, Reader…I’ll still respect you in the morning.
I’ve always been interested in marketing. For instance, I love to read Seth Godin’s books. I’m very interested in analytics and online algorithms….
But this stuff? It turns my stomach. Not because I have anything against social media, but this is an utterly false picture of it. It’s snake oil. It’s basically someone who took all the “rules” anyone ever created on how to do a brochure or how to write a resume or anything like that, (“Don’t forget your author photo!”) and repackaged it into useless information for people who are not doing any of those things.
The reason I like Godin, even though I disagree with him now and then, is that he doesn’t give you a formula. He doesn’t pretend there is some “right” way of doing anything. He tells you how it works, and how there are both benefits and consequences to going with, or against, the flow. (And how making those choices are actually core strategies, not little stickers you put on your existing strategy.)
What everyone else said. [huge freaking eyeroll]
I suspect that Ms. Ratzlaff, at least, is assuming that all writers write nonfiction; that’s the only context in which what she’s saying makes any sense whatsoever. I mean, seriously, “You MUST have a Facebook profile in your REAL NAME.” Umm, wow, sucks for my fans who are looking for my pseudonym.
Great books make great fans, and great fans spread the word. Being online every day doing your song-and-dance, posting to Facebook one day, sending out your newsletter the next, producing a YouTube video the third, blogging the fourth… when the heck are you supposed to write? I don’t want my own favorite writers inviting me into their life; I want them writing more of the books that made them my favorite writers.
C. R. Reaves
To be fair, I think they mean, “Not an internet handle.”
For example, I’ll be publishing under the name “C. R. Reaves”. Their point is that even though I have loads of accounts under my artist’s handle, “klawzie” I should probably not link to my “klawzie” livejournal, tumblr, twitter, etc. accounts.
I don’t know if I agree with it, but I’ve been thinking about whether or not it’d be worth it to me to keep my “klawzie” handle purely for my artwork and make separate “C. R. Reaves” accounts. For services like Tumblr, it’s no big deal. It functions perfectly well to have multiple accounts. But for others…
They might well have meant “not an internet handle,” but if that’s what they meant then that’s what they should have said, particularly in an industry (writing/publishing) where it’s so common for people to have one or more “not-real names” through which they work. A marketing guru who doesn’t know this business well enough to recognize that using “your real name” when they mean “not your internet handle” is subject to misunderstanding is 1) way too ignorant about publishing for me to want to listen to them, and 2) not a great communicator, which is the number one requirement in marketing.
I completely agree with you, by the way. I’ve done plenty of headdesking about baby writers who do online marketing under their “Puppyluvr42″ account, especially when they forget to mention the name they write under in their post. [eyeroll] “Use your real name” is not the way to educate these folks, though.
Still not impressed. :/
Yeah, reading stuff like this just makes me feel kind of queasy. I much prefer the Dean Wesley Smith JUST WRITE!!! approach. Lindsay Buroker I think is pretty good with advice to navigate a middle path where you don’t totally ignore marketing, but you don’t let it eat up all of your writing time. For example, I blog anyway because I like it, so per her advice I hooked that up to a Facebook fan page and a Twitter feed, and voila! I have a larger social media presence without any extra work on my part.
The whole “let people access your private life” thing, though? NO. A thousand times, no. Have these people never been stalked?
Lily White LeFevre
Second on all of these points! I enjoyed being on Twitter when I had a day job that didn’t care what I did as long as my work got finished, but when I got a job with a different outlook it disappeared from my roster of activities (other than the blog-post link feed). I write on my blog because I love blogging…cannot imagine how awful it would be to have to write about it because I “had to” for my image or whatever. I actually think my blog pretty much sucks as a marketing tool, because all I talk about is stuff related to writing. Some of it’s pretty tangential, and some of it might even be interesting, but generally I think it’s more interesting for other writers than any fan-boi/grrl type readers I might have. But it makes me happy, and it helps shame me into doing more real writing, so it works.
And as to the stalker thing…EXACTLY. Readers shouldn’t care about my private life, they should care about whether I’m writing books they enjoy. The end. There’s one romance author who changed her name to a pseudonym because she kept getting letters from men in prison who had looked up her home address online. Um, yeah, I’d be chaning my publishing name, too, at that point.
Tina Nichols Coury
I agree that every writer should have a blog and post twice a week. The cyber marketing stuff comes in time but it a great help to my publishing house as I waited for publication. Also the Facebook/Twitter thing help me establish myself in the community. Also there are book trailers, webisodes and video book pitches. Everyone can use all these marketing tools and the amazing part of it all is that it FREE. When my book was on the chopping block, my cyber self helped my editor argue to keep the book. My blog was established in 2007 and has 633 posts, but it took time to gain an audience.
I understand the reluctance to embrace the Cyber Marketing, I first wrote my book on a typewriter, but it is an important tool in the marketing of your book.
My two cents…..
The key place where I disagree with you, Tina, is that marketing is not free,. The time you spend doing it means time you don’t spend doing something else. (That’s called “opportunity cost.”)
For writers, that opportunity cost can be extremely high (especially when you consider what I said on an earlier post here about investment, and that 500 finished words are worth at least $40 in assets) — but it depends on the writer.
If you enjoy social media, and would do it whether you were marketing or not, you might as well use it for marketing. If, on the other hand, you are an indie writer who really can concentrate on the writing, that time might give you two or three more books in a year.
Yes Camille … but if no one knows about them … no one will read them
I think it is a balance. Writing … and promoting your writing.
Howard, the best publicity for a book is always another book. (Or better yet, ten.)
Think of it this way, when you start, promotion doesn’t actually help much. Sure you can goose sales here and there, but until you’ve established your body of work, it takes a lot of effort for purely temporary results. Why? Because readers forget you if they only have a book or two of yours to read.
Worse yet, they’re your first couple of books, which won’t be your best or more memorable.
If you have ten books, any marketing work you do will not only sell a lot more books, but you will have enough books for the readers to go to right away so that you keep them as devoted fans.
This is the key: Getting to those ten books is the most important thing you can do as a writer. It’s hard work, and marketing feels like a great short cut — but in the end, it will slow you down, if not stop you dead.
Play with marketing to learn the ropes, but don’t mistake it for productive work, and don’t let it make you take your eyes off the prize.
And also remember (and this is important): People won’t have trouble finding you. This is the “abundance” paradigm, as Kris calls it. That’s what search engines are for. There are all sorts of ways people can find you, but you have to have something worth finding.
You have to have a treasure trove, so that once you are found, the Miracle Of Backlinks can begin. All the flogging and marketing in the world cannot match what nature does when you reach critical mass.
That’s a fascinating comment, Camille, and I can’t disagree. I have 9 novels and a novella and just wrote the first 2000 words of my tenth novel.
I have done a bunch of these marketing items (barring the youtube videos), but what’s made a difference is having more books. Been at this a while, too. I’m actually glad that indie publishing wasn’t an available option 6 years ago when I started writing novels.
Camille, thanks for sharing that. The stuff spouted by folks like Cindy Ratzlaff disheartens and bewilders me, but I don’t have enough experience to simply shrug it off! What you say makes so much sense.
The thing to remember about marketing people is that their product isn’t the same as ours. Their product is…marketing itself!
Which means there is a MAJOR difference in audience psychology:
The marketer’s audience is made up of people who are desperate for an answer. They will pay for that answer, and keep paying. They’ll buy anything related to the subject, even if it doesn’t look great. They’ll take a chance.
Think about it, when a writer just wants to write, he or she might buy a writing book here or there, but when they want to publish they will buy expensive directories and lots of books on querying and comb the internet for writing blogs. They are driven to find the answer the writers of those products provide.
Nearly all marketing experts are focused on selling to that kind of audience.
Fiction, on the other hand has a very different audience psychology. They don’t have a driving problem which will make them mortgage the house just to acquire a chance at an answer. They just want to be diverted or entertained. Everywhere they look, there are wonderful things that will resolve that problem. Anything from classic literature to videos of cats riding roombas.
They’re not looking for anything that might fit, they’re looking for something good. But even more than that, they are looking for the Treasure Trove — the Holy Grail of readers — the writer or series with a LOT of books, just waiting to be read. A well they can go back to again and again.
Now here’s the kicker: the person selling solutions to desperate people just has to get their pitch in front of the audience. The writer looking to lure in a reader has a bigger job. Your “pitch” only works if it strikes the exact right person at the exact right time, but your “presence” makes a much bigger difference.
Presence is something that happens naturally, just by being around longer, and being naturally active on the internet or other places. People get to know your name, they hear the name of your books. The more books you have the more opportunities to become familiar. Also the more “legit” your books look. The more “legit” you look.
For most readers, familiarity = good. Unless of course, “familiarity = spam” in which case, “familiarity = contempt.” Marketing is spam. Spam works for those who are marketing to suckers who are desperate for an answer to something. It doesn’t work so well otherwise.
Which isn’t to say that no marketing works at all. Only that what you’re being sold by these marketing folks is snake oil that works for them because of the nature of their product.
Yeah, I think people have to keep in mind that most “experts” are selling something, namely their expertise. So any consultant or in this case marketer is first and foremost selling their consulting or marketing services. (This is why corporate consultants are forever telling you that you are so very lucky to be working for your CEO.)
And even if they’re not, that’s how they enjoy spending their time–they’re marketers because they like to market. It’s not how I enjoy spending mine–I’m a writer, and I like to write. So they think, “I’m going to market 24/7! Awesome!” while I think, “Oh my GOD–do I even want to finish writing this book if that’s what I’m going to have to do afterward?” And I have found that to be seriously dismotivating….
Tina Nichols Coury
I agree it is about the quality of the work is first the most important thing. No doubt about it. I can only speak from the view of a children’s author. Where school visits, speaking engagement and life of a book are longer. But for me, marketing 1 to 2 hours a day has help the publication of my picture book in many ways. It’s not that much time and has by luck, given me a platform in the industry to obtain an agent, audience and helped form a relationship with my beloved editor at a major house. The business is in flux and they are swamped. So any help in the publicity arena is great for them and me. It’s like taking vitamins, you do a little every day. Today on Facebook my editor and his friends all bantered about Game of Thrones. It was fun to engage them. Face Book really has its ups too.
Okay, that’s one thing to keep in mind:
Children’s books (particularly picture books) are still in the old paradigm — still dependent on getting into schools and bookstores and libraries. That doesn’t mean these marketing gurus aren’t still selling snake oil, but the snake oil is more useful.
I have no idea how long it will take for things like picture books to shift. I suspect it will be a LOT slower than other areas, if only because of the influence of schools.
What I said has more to do with adult fiction, especially for midlist fiction (genre), and a lot of YA. The shift for these areas started even before ebooks. And with the advent of ebooks, has only pushed into high gear.
So your mileage certainly will vary with your category.
Tina Nichols Coury
I guess it depends on your publication goals. I found the extra publicity is helping with the sales of my book, making me a hero with my house and expanding my audience. The publicity and marketing people I work with are so worth it and saving me time. I don’t find it snake oil but valuable tool in my career. My agent is happy selling my other books because I have an established platform. When editors google me, my cyber profile is 2.3 million and that is just from my cyber presence. I also write middle grade novels and my editor for picture books is always ready to read anything I write. Face Book is a fun way to keep in touch but also to reach out.
Again, Tina, my advice is not to picture book authors. You don’t really have any options — it’s a deeply traditional area right now. And certain aspects of marketing are indeed critical. That’s just how it’s done (especially school visits, and things like that.)
But that’s a specialized area. And as someone pointed out up top, the marketing advice given above is also suited toward many areas of non-fiction.
I’m also not saying that marketers and publicists are snake oil salesman. I’m saying that marketing GURUS are snake oil salesmen. The people selling you on their sure fire method of marketing which will sell books (though they’re mainly designed to sell marketing books).
But that’s different than working with a marketer or publicist. They do work that doesn’t take away from your writing time.
In your specific part of the industry, at this time, yeah, you’ve gotta jump through the hoops and do what your publisher tells you. Because you don’t have a career otherwise. You may not even have the option of publishing more books than your publisher plans on… so maybe you can’t use that time to write more books.
But for most of us fiction writers, our genres are going over to ebooks fast. And even our paper books are becoming more and more dependent on online book sales. We face a very very different situation than you do. Ironically, it’s closer to what we used to face, back when the mid-list was strong, and books stayed in print so readers could find them.
Everybody has to pay close attention to their genre, and how it might be moving at a different pace and direction than the rest, but for the most part modern marketing doesn’t actually build an audience or sell to customers. It just sells to booksellers and other key decision-makers.
If your genre is past the point where those people matter, you’re selling straight to the audience, and for them, marketing is a lot less important.
C. R. Reaves
Nup – not going to buy into this.
As has been said multiple times by now, the best thing you can do for your fans is to write the next book.
My fans would not want me on Facebook.
I have to actively avoid it because every time I log in for longer than five minutes, I start thinking of all those fun little time-waster games. No – my real fans don’t want me to bother with a FB profile and fanclub. In order to maintain it to a reasonable degree, I run the risk of getting sucked into the games – and that’s at least a week’s worth of productivity gone, even though some of them might enjoy trading game-currency with their favorite author.
And – no. My fans wouldn’t really care if I were on Twitter. I don’t really enjoy it, so what would end up happening is I’d be going through the motions and the next time I went to a convention or got really sick or busy, I’d break the habit and it’d be the same tumbleweed my account is now.
YouTube…? Maybe. But probably not in the way they suggest. For some of my novels, I’m going to be adding illustrations. I have a webcam and am going to experiment with filming myself drawing. I’m sure they’d enjoy seeing something like that. But as for anything else… not so much. I’m a nervous public speaker and anything that would involve a camera in my face talking to an audience would make me into a total derp. That’s something some people would find endearing, sure, but…
As for blogs… mmm. Not so much again. I wouldn’t be able to maintain even a weekly post on whatever-topic. I’d be much happier contributing a guest post from time to time somewhere.
However, I am probably going to maintain an author Tumblr account. Then my fans could ask me questions through the service and I could reblog fanart or post occasional rambles or sketches from the series and so forth. It’s a more casual thing and I can always queue up things while I work.
Yes, yes and yes. I have no interest in YouTube, and don’t do anything my readers would be interested in watching anyway, but that’s the only major difference.
I have two blogs and a LiveJournal; I cross-post between all of them, to catch people who use different systems. I post when I have something to say, which usually ranges from 4-6 times per month. I don’t post just to post, though. RSS feeds (or your Friendslist, on LJ) means there’s no reason to manually check someone’s blog every day, or on a certain day of the week; when someone posts, it shows up on your feed list — there you go.
When I’m reading other people’s blogs, I much prefer someone who posts infrequently or irregularly, but has something interesting to say when they do post, over people who post whatever they can throw together because today is Posting Day.
Thanks for posting this. I had no idea that there are apps for the timeline. I’m definitely going to look into it. My favorite place to interact with readers is on my author FB page. The problem with it is getting them there to begin with. I’m getting several emails a week from readers in the last few weeks, and I think that is because I put a new ‘About the Author’ thing at the end of all my books back in early March. I had a very brief one before, but the one I have now is, hopefully, more personable. I ditched the third person bio and wrote mine in first person because it felt so much more natural.
I’ve had a blog since before I published my books, but find that very few readers comment there. I do get a decent amount of hits from people searching out my books, though, so I’ll be keeping it. Twitter? Eh. I think I’ve had two interactions with readers there.
I get very few comments on my blogs too, particularly the WordPress blog. I get a lot more hits, though, so people are reading. That’s what’s important. [nod]
J. A. Self
When you ask marketing people what is necessary, you’re always going to get a marketing answer. In this case, the answer is: get on social networks so you can do more marketing of yourself and your work.
Marketing is important, but this advice sounds too much like what I saw at a soda fountain stand at the local fair over the weekend: “Like us on facebook”, “Follow us on twitter”, “www.company.com”. We’re not selling a product like that, so why do the marketing people always give us the same answer? I have a feeling that the business of promoting a book online is far from refined.
I have never been successful at anything by following the traditional model.
My most popular way of interacting with readers is the blog posts I do on Tuesdays where the main character in my books answers questions on life, love, and dealing with noisy neighbors “Dear Abby” style. But, that is just satisfying a few true fans. I do not think it helps attract new readers.
Twitter is useless. Most of my 900 or so followers are other authors who have raided my followers list to build their own. There are far too many comments for me follow and I only get notices when someone mentions my name. I suspect that no one reads my tweets either…
FB is less jumbled, but 80% of what gets posted by people is political. As an author trying to sell books, I just cannot participate because that would turn off half my fans. People there might like my funny posts, but most have either already bought my books or have no intention of ever reading them.
So…what works? I have no idea. It just feels like I HAVE to do these things, effective or not.
What I know does work is getting featured on well known sites. Every time my books get featured, they shoot up the Amazon charts. In between, they fall. What I SHOULD be doing is campaigning to get my books featured more often because it ALWAYS works.
But that’s just me. Other authors do great with social media. Some do great with no marketing effort. The answer? I dunno.