Like a kid in a candy store with a ten-dollar bill, the writer is faced with a myriad of choices when it comes to marketing his or her work. To extend the analogy, trying to have some of everything can lead to a figurative bellyache—or, in this case, migraines and stress ulcers. On the other hand, choosing only a few things from the enticing jars lining the shelves around us can make us think back to what we left unsampled. What if we’ve elected to focus on the chocolate-covered temptations of bookmarks and postcards, but would have been better off with the caramel-centered social networking? And the coconut-flavored blog tours beckon us with a siren song that makes us forget how filling—of our time and efforts—they can be.
I still remember sitting beside another author of Christian fiction at a book signing (another activity that may be pure chocolate or just zucchini in disguise). She confessed that trying to do everything at once to market her book was driving her crazy. I admitted to the same feelings. The ultimate goal of marketing is developing readers. It goes without saying that this involves writing the best work you can produce. Beyond that, how should you go about letting the world know? That author said her agent advised her to look at all the avenues, choose the ones with which you’re most comfortable, and don’t look back. It sounded like good advice, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. It’s worked for me, but might not be right for you. Then again, it could be the cherry-centered bonbon you’ve been seeking as you consider how you’re going to market your writing.
Bookmarks are a low-effort, multi-use tool for me. Mine have a one paragraph summary of the book, three one- or two-sentence endorsements, and a jpg of the book cover, plus my contact information at the bottom. I give them to bookstore managers (when they’ll take them), since a stack at the cash register may lead to an impulse sale. I give them to friends and acquaintances that ask me about my writing or my latest book. And I’m certain to include them in every book I sign or mail out. Do they help? I think so. Some authors prefer postcards. It’s a matter of choice. Remember, the key is “whatever works for you.”
And what if you’re not published? That sort of lets bookmarks and postcards out. But you can still have something to hand out. Carry a supply of cards that feature your picture and something about your writing, as well as contact information. Sure, you can print them on your computer, but it’s a good investment to have them professionally done.
Another thing to do, even before you’re published, is establishing a web presence. Consider both a website and a blog. My website gives information about me and about my books. My blog is about my writing life and life in general. I’ve settled into a twice –weekly blog posting routine, because 1) I didn’t have time for more, and 2) I’m not sure I have that much to say. I’ve established a presence on Twitter and have my “tweets” automatically posted to Facebook as well. (Google “posting tweets to Facebook” for the latest options.) What’s the commonality in these online efforts? They help build a base of people who know a bit about you. Just that much name recognition when encountering a book on a bookstore shelf may mean the difference in buying or passing by.
I arrange to post interviews or guest blogs by my fellow authors when it’s time for their new book to launch, and most return the favor for me. I follow a number of blogs and try to leave a comment from time to time. But I never use a comment on someone else’s blog to promote my own writing. And on Twitter and Facebook I try to follow the 20/80 rule: 80% of my posts are fun, 20% mention my own writing.
I don’t actively seek out signings. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes not. I meet with book clubs when invited. I make an effort to give one of my author’s copies of each new book to my church library and my public library. I speak to writing groups, not so much to sell books as to pay forward what others have done for me on my own road to writing.
These are some of the things I’ve done. Others have been successful with different approaches. Remember, the key is “whatever works for you.” And lose the guilt.
Are you unique if you suffer guilt about not marketing enough? It’s universal, unless your name is Lee Childs or J K Rowling. It happens to us all. Jack Cavanaugh said it best: “When you’re writing, you’re not marketing. And when you’re marketing, you’re not writing.” Aside from human cloning, I don’t have an answer for the problem. But if you’re a published writer, it’s a nice problem to have.