by James Scott Bell
Every writer is looking for that secret marketing weapon that works every time. Or a palette of possibilities that virtually guarantees success. But reality keeps affirming the old adage: We know that 20% of marketing works; we just don’t know which 20%.
But of course we all have to market our books. This applies whether we’re self-pubbing, going traditional or doing a bit of both. The author is expected to work the social media circuit, build a platform, get the word out any which way he can. Sometimes it all feels like loading mercury with a pitchfork.
Comes now the marvelous Joanna Penn with the new go-to
book. Joanna already runs one of the most helpful websites for indie writers, The Creative Penn. Go there and hang around awhile. You’ll find material aplenty, including a podcast with a certain author of note (at least, of note to himself).
In How to Market a Book, Joanna approaches the whole enterprise by way of a skiing metaphor. Marketing a book is like hitting the slopes on a fresh pack of snow, and so:
Your path is not a straight line. You have to zigzag
“Even though you know the general direction you want to head in,” Joanna writes, “you can’t direct yourself straight down the mountain, or you will certainly have an accident. Even pros have to change direction and turn their skis across the slope. There is no direct path, so don’t expect there to be.”
While you don’t want to fall victim to “Obsessive Promotion Disorder” (OPD), you do have to be aware and watch the terrain. One of the great advantages an indie writer has is the ability to change direction quickly via price pulsing, new cover designs, paid promos, or simply adding more product.
It’s easier to turn once you’re moving
“You need some momentum in order to turn on skis, so you actually have to get moving before you try. In the same way, you actually have to start writing in order to have something to edit and improve . . .You have to start marketing somehow so you can learn what works for you and improve over time.”
One of the benefit’s of Joanna’s book is that it is a menu of options. You can pick and choose what appeals to you, get started right away and establish some Mo.
You can’t learn it all from books: you have to get on the slope
“You can’t be a great skier by reading about it or going to seminars or watching YouTube videos. You have to actually put in the hours skiing. The same applies to writing, publishing and marketing.”
There is a time for study. It should be part of your ongoing self-improvement program, as both a writer and marketer. But at the same time you must act. As a writer, you must produce the words. As a marketer, you must toot the old horn. Even if that horn makes barely a peep at first, at least you’re learning.
You’re going to fall over and it’s going to hurt
“But you get better over time. If you’re afraid of falling over, you will never be a good skier. Because you will fall, it happens a lot and it has to happen if you’re going to push yourself to get better and go on more advanced runs. So be prepared to fall, to fail, and to just get up again. Keep writing, keep putting your words out and keep experimenting with marketing.”
The writing life is so much about overcoming setbacks and challenges and perceived failures. The only way through it is to never stop, ever. The benefit is you get stronger that way.
Some days, the weather is perfect and you can see for miles and the sun is shining and it’s amazing!
“This is meant to be fun! Yes, it’s a career and an income, but it’s also a passion. The reason we keep going back to skiing, keep going back up the slope, is that there is exhilaration and joy in the process, not just the outcome of getting to the bottom. Some days, the weather will be perfect and we will have amazing runs on pristine, soft snow. Other days, the
icy cold will make us grit our teeth to even manage one run. But we keep going back because we love it.”
You gotta love it to get through the hard times. And if you’re a real writer, you wouldn’t have it any other way. You take your shots because you know the joy of writing “in the zone.” You know how your writer’s soul whoops when you nail a scene. Even when that whoop is out loud at Starbucks.
So what’s the best way to market your books? Your way. Select from all the modes and means out there, doing as much as you want without taking away from the most important thing of all—your actual writing. Write well, write often, and then tell people about it. Master the five fundamental laws in Self-Publishing Attack! and build your personal marketing plan with the help of Joanna Penn and How to Market a Book.
If you’re a published writer, what are your favored means of marketing? What walls have you run into? What would you advise writers to avoid?