Breaking into book marketing. Well, almost.

So, I’ve been doing some research, trying to find out how it is possible to write great books, get tremendous reviews and not manage to sell any of them. The answer lies obviously somewhere in the murky zone of marketing and promotion. There was a time when publishers dealt with the marketing side and authors did their bit towards promotion by doing interviews, book signings, talking to fans etc. Marketing is relatively straightforward for a reasonable publisher. A publisher makes a name by publishing good books. To do that they get their books reviewed, set up book signings, interviews, press releases and by dint of publishing good stuff come to be trusted to deliver a good product.
A publisher who has no marketing strategy, does nothing to promote its authors or its books will swim about like a catfish in the mud at the bottom of the pool. And I speak from experience. Indie authors are in the same boat but without the resources of a publisher.
There is all sorts of advice floating about on the web, mainly written by people who are selling marketing services, about how indie authors need to do it all themselves and how to go about it. Very altruistic of them considering they make their living selling business plans. Putting together the free advice I’ve gleaned, I now know how to market my books.

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1) I decide who I am.
2) I decide who I want to target.
3) I find out where these people are.
4) Get a fan base
5) I get them to read my book rather than somebody else’s.

True, the plan seems to get fuzzier towards the end and I admit I lost the plot of it a while back, but I’ll have a go, step by step.

Who am I? I am the woman who writes dystopian fantasy novels, well utopian really, except for the ones set in an alternate universe, and the stories that retell legends that everybody knows are really historical fact. Okay, that’s me sorted out. I am a writer of historically motivated mythologically based utopian fantasies (except when they’re set in the future). Step one is GOOD.

Next step: Decide who I want to read my books, and I’m not allowed to say anyone and everyone. That’s not allowed in the marketing plan. I suppose I’d have to say anyone from fifteen or so up who reads fantasy stories. That gives me a great big audience and that is GOOD.

Step three: Find out where these people are and reach out to them. Helloooo (waving gaily). At a guess I’d say that the fifteen-year-olds are texting their friends or taking selfies. Teenagers, according to recent research don’t read books anyway, so inserting myself into their text battles probably won’t bear much fruit. I’ll put them on one side for desperate measures if all else fails.

The rest of my potential readers are apparently hanging about in online groups chatting to one another about fantasy books. Yes, there are groups like this on Goodreads, but the rules of the marketing plan specifically state I must NOT ask these people to read my book but approach by stealth disguised in reader’s clothing and only shed it when I have gained the confidence of the group’s guru. The guru will tell the groupies to read my book. Step three: location of the enemy market is GOOD.

Step four: Get a fan base by offering the market something extra. As a writer approaching readers of a fantasy book club, one would presume I write fantasy. So I offer them fantasy books? Not enough—loads of people do that. This is where I pull out the historical mythologically based utopian fantasy set in an alternate Dark Ages—a theme hook. This is called a marketing plan—getting the right product in front of the right market—and it’s how I create my fan base. Theme hook is GOOD.

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Step five: Just a minute, let’s go back a bit. I have my hook, but where do I sling it? The fan base is there, but for them to know they are my fans I have to reel them in. One way (the only way I have seen set out) is to get an endorsement from the big cheese in each of these virtual chat groups. How? Stalk them on Twitter, toss out sycophantic comments in their Goodreads discussion, hinting that I’ve written something much better? All advice falls into one of two camps—this is something writers absolutely MUST do, or this is something they absolutely MUST NOT do. Take your pick.
I’m a writer not a military strategist or a diplomat. However, many marketing plans state that if there is the slightest chance that my approach is going to look spammy, I am allowed to leave this bit out. So I don’t approach anyone. I just lurk. Aqua in bocca.

So, that’s all the steps completed. To recap: I have my author persona, my targeted market, my snazzy theme hook, and my (virtual) fan base. All I have to do now is sell lots of books. This is where the plan starts going round in circles. The marketing plan is to get my books under the noses of my fan base and give them that extra bit of pizzazz so they will be falling over themselves to get to that buy button. So I need a fan base. How do I get a fan base? By putting my books under its collective nose of course, stupid!

I think I’ll just concentrate on writing decent, original books instead, even though that part of the marketing plan seems to be optional.

If anyone knows how to get out of that vicious Catch 22 circle, I’d love to hear from you.

How to sell a hundred thousand copies of your book with very little effort

We all want to sell our books, don’t we? Lots of copies of our books, right? And the web is packed with people offering advice in spades as to how to flog better and more, isn’t it? But does any of it work? Short answer is—no.

How many hundred tweets a day do you scroll past begging you to read somebody’s book? How many of them with quotes from people you’ve never heard of extolling the awesomeness of a book that could be about anything at all? Then there are the superlatives. Perfect beach read—says who? Best police thriller I have ever read—who are you when you’re washed? So funny I cracked a rib laughing—can we see the x-rays? Really, does anyone read this kind of stuff and go out and buy the book? There’s the Amazon Cart thingy that maybe works for people who are on automatic pilot, like responding to subliminal advertising. But would you click on an ad and buy a book on the strength of a tweet that was 50% hashtags?

If we accept that since we don’t choose our reading matter the same way lemmings choose which cliff to jump off, there’s little reason to suppose that anyone else would. So we have to ask ourselves, what would work then? I have the answer, and I’m giving it away for FREE. You don’t have to sign up for a series of audio lectures or buy the boxed set of twenty books outlining my infallible marketing strategy. I’ll tell you, for nothin’. It’s so simple I’m reeling with incredulity that nobody has thought of it before. Pin your ears back then, here it comes.

You get a VERY FAMOUS AUTHOR to tweet that your book is awesome. You get that same VERY FAMOUS AUTHOR to leave a review to that effect on Amazon. It doesn’t even have to be a VERY FAMOUS AUTHOR, it could be a VERY FAMOUS TV CHEF or a VERY FAMOUS CYCLIST or a VERY FAMOUS WOMAN WITH BIG BOOBS AND A GOOD DENTIST. You get the idea? Simple and ultra effective. Try to avoid controversial celebs, especially the ones that are either on trial or already in prison. Politicians can be a bit dodgy too, but then you all knew that anyway. Other than that, the link is obvious—any VERY FAMOUS anything at all, even the puppy in the toilet paper adverts would do

I’ll be keeping this post open so that you can all sign in with news of your successes. Good luck, and keep me updated. Oh, and don’t bother with GRR Martin or Mark Cavendish, I’ve done them. They’re either too busy casting TV series or too injured at the moment to reply, but I’m sure they’ll get round to it. I’ve put the champagne in the fridge already.

Promotion opportunities

I’m still receiving requests to take a turn in the Author Hot Seat, so if this means YOU, just send me the details using the form below and I’ll get back to you with some suitable questions.
Alternatively, if you are interested in writing a short article about yourself and an aspect of the writing/publishing process that you’d like to share you can also use the form to let me know.

I am also wondering whether there would be any interest in starting a sort of writers’ workshop for the ‘sticky’ bits. You know, that scene you just can’t get right. I have a problem with fight scenes since I don’t have any first hand experience of actually winning a fight. Losing lots, but never beating the pulp out of someone.
It could be helpful to post a tricky scene and ask for comments. It could be helpful to the readers to sort out how they would deal with a similar scene. The same goes for poetry—if there are any poets who are not happy with a particular aspect of a poem, or just a couple of lines.
Let me know what you think, if you’d be interested in contributing in one way or another, and which subjects you’d like to tackle. If you have a particularly tricky scene or a recurring problem in your writing that you’d like to share with others, tell me about it. If it’s erotica, make sure it is erotic and not just smutty or I’m the one who won’t be interested 🙂

Is blogging worth it?

Having struggled with the whole concept of ‘the blog’, the sheer befuddling mechanics of it, for six months now, I think I’ve got something that looks attractive, the menu works as it should, and the content is interesting. But now I’ve got it, what do I do with it?
I have done my best to make the articles interesting, they’re nicely illustrated, and easy to navigate. But who reads them? I read other blogs where each post has yards of comments. True, many of them will be thanking the blogger for having visited another blog, but they are comments nonetheless. How do they do it?

I don’t follow that many blogs, no time, but there are a few whose posts I read assiduously. Those blogs might get a lot of visits, I can’t tell, but they certainly don’t get the dozens and dozens of comments gleaned over a period of many months that some less well-put together blog posts do. All I can suppose is that those very popular bloggers spend a lot of time visiting other blogs to incite return visits.

As a tactic, it obviously works. My question is: is it worth it? If someone reads your blog because you read theirs, does it have any impact for you at all? As a soon-to-be-published writer, I would like my blog to attract people, to read my words because they are actually interested in what I have to say, and eventually to buy my books. Of course, I hear you say, if you don’t publicise your blog nobody’s going to find you among the hundreds of thousands of other bloggers.

A friend pointed out that most people like to read about personal, everyday stuff, and the point is often made that nobody wants have the blogger’s book thrust in their face in every post. People lose interest very quickly in your struggles with writer’s block, they don’t necessarily want daily wordcounts of the WIP, and get frankly annoyed by constant exhortations to go-out-and-buy-my-book. So, I go easy on the spam and write about Trixie, the cat and her personal problems. Any other suggestions?

What do you do to promote your blog? Anything? Does it work? To put it bluntly, does blogging translate into sales? I’d be interested to know.

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