Mari Christie offers us these thoughts on marketing in the Bazillion Book Marketplace.
As I work through a long list of marketing plan headings for my upcoming book release—Product, Place, Price, Promotion, et al—some things strike me again and again as similar to what I have been recommending to clients for 20 years: press kits, events, giveaways…
That said, in some ways, the direction has turned 180 degrees. For instance, given the pool of new books on Kindle, even separated by genre, for a new, unknown author, the traditional start of any marketing plan, “analyzing the competition” and “creating a competitive advantage,” is ludicrous. (“I’d like to take market share from all 1,678,423 authors ahead of me on the Amazon Rankings…”)
Further, Big Publishing no longer provides significant marketing budgets for new authors, in some cases requiring we pay not only for trips to conferences, books for signings, etc., but also for simple editing and proofreading, because they no longer want to pay salaries for in-house editors. Make no mistake, any part of the process they can force from our pockets, they will—with no compunction.
A quick scan of the television lineup any night of the week should tell us that when this model places us in competition with each other, it makes money for the media conglomerates that run American entertainment, including books. (Like in reality TV, one person will win a quarter-million-dollar prize and everyone else goes home with nothing. Amazon, however, like a television network, brings in money no matter how many books we sell.)
To counteract this corporate manipulation:
Eliminate the idea of competition.
One can differentiate a book to some extent with good cover design, solid proofreading, smart keywords, price promotions, and (if a buyer gets so far as the words) good writing, but your good writing means nothing anymore until it generates 4- and 5-star reviews in the hundreds. Even then, regular sales are a long shot even professionals can’t guarantee for well-known authors, much less an indie writer who has nothing but the fortitude to finish writing a book and the temerity to publish it.
In place of the traditional American sales model, let us all agree now that we aren’t in competition with each other, and we are (almost) all in the same leaky boat. Loyal readers in your genre will read lots of authors’ books in a lifetime. Yours might or might not be one. Don’t begrudge success where any of us find it and support each other’s efforts.
- Seek out and connect with other authors for critique, sharing of information or research, or just for moral support. Join online and real-time groups, lists, and trade associations created for authors in general, your genre in particular. These groups exist all over the internet and in every city and state (or whatever regional boundaries exist in other parts of the world).
- In real-life and online trade groups and on indie author promotional sites, contribute, volunteer, and become part of the community. Make friends online and they will be more likely to help you promote yourself. (Social media best practice, by all accounts, and a well-known marketing strategy since the dawn of the capitalist system. Besides, how rude—and ineffective—is it to continually post promos to groups that have no vested interest in you?)
- Give advice when you can, and don’t be stingy with your “Lessons Learned.” We all started somewhere. (To be clear, only give advice about things for which you are qualified.)
- Go to other indie authors for services when you can—book publishing and otherwise—and barter if you are so inclined. (Personally, if I could find another experienced professional editor to trade manuscript services, I would be over the moon.)
Marketing alone is as dangerous as “groupthink,” plus, it is more expensive, more time-consuming, and more depressing when it isn’t going well. Instead of “going it alone,” share marketing concepts and stay engaged with other authors, especially in your genre. Among relatively unknown entities, more new customers will be reached by co-promotion (e.g. multiple authors throwing a communal launch party) and/or cross-promotion (e.g. two authors posting contests on each other’s blogs to win copies of both books).
As matters of regular marketing practice, consider these:
- Be each other’s first readers and reviewers. Pay it forward by leaving reviews.
- On social media, Like/Follow/Pin/Comment/Share each other’s work. (I am now in the habit of Liking any author page that comes across my Facebook news feed, about 10 a day, and have created a Pinterest board titled, “Other Authors’ Books.”)
- Support reviewer blogs and social media, and Like, Comment on, Retweet, and Share reviews, announcements, giveaways, blog posts, etc. (Share this blog post! :-))
- Support independent indie author promo sites like Microcerpt, KindleMojo, or AuthorShout, as well as the obvious, well-funded players in the market, like Amazon or Goodreads.
- Coordinate release dates, social media “parties,” even promo sale dates, to maximize potential audience. (November 26, come to a Facebook party for my new release, Royal Regard, and at least two others in the romance genre!)
Some of these practices may seem counter-intuitive, given how steeped most of us are in the idea of zero-sum marketing, but the sales world has changed (don’t I know it!). We can no longer rely on publishers to promote us, and even if we are unprepared for the new marketing process, it is prepared to make money from—and, if we play our cards right, for—us.
Keep your sales in your own pocket. Keep your marketing under your own control. Keep the indie marketplace one that acts as a cohesive whole, rather than allowing the traditional model to pick off one of us after the other until only one person has the quarter-million-dollar prize.