Marketing is not for wimps or the lazy.

I’m a bit of both. I’m so screwed.

The Almighty Mailing List

I’ve read (and, admittedly, skimmed and half-read—lazy, remember?) a few books and several articles on marketing. They all agree that a mailing list is vital. That’s how you reach your customers. An author’s best marketing tool (other than a dynamite book) is her/his mailing list. Period.

mailing-list-iconBut how do you build that list? One book recommends pop-up ads on your website that can’t be ignored. Actually, more than one recommends that although they describe the process differently: generate giveaways, great incentives, videos, etc., so that people will want more and will join your mailing list–which pretty much implies the pop-up.

But there are a few steps before having and sending to a mailing list.

The first step is, of course, to create your mailing list on a service like MailChimp. MailChimp is free, up to 2,000 subscribers. So start that account and put your mother and best friend and your gmail address on it. You’ve got 1,997 spaces left before you have to pay, yippee!

What’s the second step?

Where do all those other names come from?

Remember, anyone who gets an email from you through MailChimp (or another service) can opt out. They can unsubscribe and will do so if you waste their time, so entering a bunch of names at random is probably not worth the effort.

How do you pack that list with people who actually want what you’re offering—i.e., your audience?miracle

That’s the fuzzy part. Like this cartoon.

Why don’t these marketing gurus tell you that part?

Well, there are a few reasons.

Everyone’s audience is different and will be found in different places.

The person who wrote a marketing book for authors has found his/her audience–you–but unless you’re also writing a marketing book for authors, your audience is hiding somewhere else.

And if you are writing a marketing book for authors, why are you reading this?

What did you write? A memoir or a zombie romance? Readers of those books are all over the place. Your job to figure out how to lure them to your website and make them want to sign up for more of what you’ve got to give, and only you can do that.

You must figure out where to reach your potential readers. It’s not obvious or easy. For example, when I managed to get the Historical Novel Society to review my book, I thought I had it made! Where else would readers of historical novels go, but to there?  The review was wonderful, exceeding my fondest hopes. But when it appeared, sales did not jump–not even a little.

trapWhat to do? Well, one idea is to take to social media. And that’s a suggestion, not a guarantee of anything. However, many of your readers will be on Twitter and Facebook, so it makes sense to connect with them there.

Think of social media–Facebook, your blog, Tweets, Pinterest, the works—as play. Fill your accounts with posts and pictures of fun things that your target audience would love. 1970s trivia for the memoir, for example. Photographs. Mini-reviews of books in the same genre. Share and Link to clever articles or merchandise on the topic. Follow everyone who follows you, and follow everyone posting on anything peripheral to your topic.

downloadYour website is your keystone. Use the other media accounts to entice readers there on occasion, so they can enjoy your blog post about mood rings or mid-century zombie films and be willing to sign up for more via the pop-up.

Why else don’t those marketing books tell you how to find your audience?

I’m gonna throw out two guesses here.

First, because the panorama of social media sites is constantly changing–just like the self-publishing industry—advice is going to be old by the time it’s tested. The tech-savvy (Hugh Howey comes to mind) have an enormous advantage, but luck plays a part too. Rather than rely on what worked a couple of years ago, you may be better off to poke around on your own. Try Googling “book marketing tips for Indies” to start with, just to get ideas.

The second guess is this: You will learn a lot—about yourself, your audience and about marketing–when you figure it out yourself.

character-buildingYou can’t have everything handed to you. You have to do some of the work, because it builds character.

Did I really write that? Even my Irish grandmother could not say such a phrase without sputtering with laughter.

Look, the marketing books tell you what the end product should be: a mailing list that you can use to reach your fans. They tell you how to use it. They tell you how important it is.

But where those addresses on the list come from is up to you. That’s the part you have to figure out, for the big reason above: each book is different and finding the audience is going to be different.

But in finding that audience, painstaking though it may be, you will connect with what works for you, and there is a lot of value in that.

10. August 2013 · Comments Off on Two Very Different Takes on Self-Promotion for Authors · Categories: Marketing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

images“Hell is Self-Promotion”

That’s the title of a rather depressing article on Salon–depressing because it just makes it all sound so graceless and shameful. Please!

“I hate Facebook. I hate Twitter.”

A promising beginning.  I’m tempted to add, “I hate getting hit with glitter!”

It rhymes.

The next paragraph begins:

“It reeks of desperation, these pleas, this constant litany: read me, recognize me, buy me, buy me again.”


The article is by Sean Beaudoin. I don’t know how well his books are selling, and–if they are selling well–whether it’s  because of his “read me” pleas or because the books are well-written and exciting. That’s an oblique point, but not the main one.

Someone in a writing group linked to this Salon piece and asked for comments. No one responded (very odd) and I suspect that was because no one could stand to read the extremely long, whiny essay. Or if they did, they jumped off a tall building just after.

Here’s the most intriguing couple of sentence from the piece, imho:


In fact, I’m almost certain my years-long squat of self-promotion has been entirely pointless. If I could have back every minute I’ve spent on social media and apply it to churning out actual prose, I would probably have finished at least one bestselling swords-and-incest fantasy trilogy instead. Maybe even two.

Well, if it was so pointless, why are you inflicting it on us second-hand?

Yes, we all have to find ways to promote our books. Social media is a part of that–but can it really be making you that miserable? And if it is, why don’t you stop? Because if I’m reading this correctly, it hasn’t been very effective.

The author actually answers that big WHY: he says he promotes his book because “because publishing a book is an exercise in terror.”


To be fair, the writer of this essay is clever, but his prose are not tight or moving. I wonder if his heart was in the essay at all, just as it clearly was not in marketing. I found it hard to read, and I really got nothing useful out of it–other than realizing that if something makes you that unhappy, back off it, for crying out loud!

But I’d like to address a big point: Marketing is NOT some endless purgatory that writers must plunge into as penance for thinking they can write a book.

Marketing need not be horrid and onerous. It can be fun.

Don’t like tweeting out endlessly “Buy my book?”  Then don’t. Believe me, the rest of us like seeing those tweets even less than you do.

Tweet something really interesting. Share a site or a picture that knocked your socks off. Do that a few times, and I may mosey on over to your website (which I can find by looking at your Twitter profile, right?) and see what else you’re up to. And if I like what I see–gloriana!–I may buy your book. Eventually.

But I swear, I will not buy it because I saw forty tweets begging me to do so.



It’s like this: Which picture do you like better? The cartoons above or this lovely landscape of Brittany? I have not conducted a survey but I know what I’d rather look at.

And now some levity:

Shouts and Murmurs from the New Yorker offers ‘Subject: Our Marketing Plan” –humor, pure and simple. Well, maybe not so simple. Take this bit of advice, from the new author’s publisher:

If you already have a blog, make sure you spray-feed your URL in niblets open-face to the skein. We like Reddit bites (they’re better than Delicious), because they max out the wiki snarls of RSS feeds, which means less jamming at the Google scaffold. Then just Digg your uploads in a viral spiral to your social networks via an FB/MS interlink torrent.

Kinda like if Lewis Carroll were writing a tech column these days.

Here’s another favorite quote:

… we’d like to see you on morning talk shows like the “Today” show and “The View,” so please get yourself booked on them and keep us “in the loop.

Hee-hee.  Go read.