Why Marketing Is Like Motherhood

@jamesscottbell


This past Mother’s Day I was reflecting upon this most honorable role and, suffused as I am with the writing life, my brain related the whole thing to marketing.
My lovely daughter-in-law is on the verge of bringing another Bell into the world. I find myself thinking back to my own first born. When Mrs. B and I were awaiting the appearance of our son, we set about to become the best parents ever. This is the pull of nature. It is as old as civilization, as robust as ocean tides.
Law student that I was at the time, I got into studying books. Today, there is a virtual mountain—nay, a mountain range of Himalayan proportions—of printed and digital advice on the art of parenting. It can seem as daunting as a view of Everest as you stare up into the clouds with only a rucksack and a walking stick.
So I remember well the day my wife and I took up the classic Baby and Child Care by Dr. Spock. Though some of it was controversial at the time (and perhaps remains so), there was a famous axiom that begins the book, one that has comforted many an anxious parent facing the world’s toughest job:
“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.”
It was a call to not stress about what every “expert” has to say, so much of it conflicting. In such cases you have a gut instinct that is, if motivated by love and tempered by wisdom, highly reliable.
And that’s the marketing lesson I want to mention today. There is a flood of material out there on what you must do to bring a book to the public, with so many sources asking how can you improve public relations? There are countless options, so many more than the “old days” of bookstore signings, talks at your local library, and sitting despondently next to Mary Higgins Clark at a conference.
The explosion of digital options—everything from paid ads to social media madness—can make choosing what to do seem as daunting as trying to solve the Hodge Conjecture with a hangover.
Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.
First of all, use common sense. Don’t go into hock to market your book. The single biggest determinant of writing success is….wait for it….the writing itself. You know this. You know that you have to concentrate most on writing good stuff, getting better at it and keeping it coming, if you want a long-term career.
Second, we are starting to see that a few marketing methods are better than others. Paid placement with BookBub, for example, is always good. Other email services, like BookGorilla and eBookSoda, will make you new readers. And that’s what you need to build an email list of fans. No matter how small it might be, it’s always good to be able to communicate with people who’ve bought from you before and have shown a willingness to do so again.
As for social media, it’s easy to get the ROI (return on investment) completely bollixed. If you spend the majority of your Twitter or Facebook time begging people to buy your books, you’ve done more harm than good. If your spend more time socializing than you do producing, your calculus is all mixed up.
Here’s a suggestion: Your time on social media ought to be one-tenth the time you spend writing on an average day. If you write for two hours, you get twelve minutes on social media.
There, I said it.
I think this is all stuff you really do know, even though you might have lost that native wisdom in the clamor of Do this! and Do that!
My suggestion is to pick up the book marketing analogue of Dr. Spock: Joanna Penn’s How to Market a Book. Use it as a reference, not to try to do every single thing in it at once, but to consider the options and choose wisely.
Mothers bring babies into the world. Writers bring books. Love what you write, nurture your books, care enough about them to discipline them when they need it (that’s called editing) and then let them leave the nest.
And as they fly to market, don’t stress. Your love goes a long way. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you miss doing one thing, you’ve ruined your book’s chances forever. (You know, like if you don’t get your child into that expensive pre-school he will never get into Harvard. His life is ruined, and he’s only three!)
Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.
Keep writing the best stuff you can, choose a few marketing things to do, and it will all pretty much work out as it should. Adding stress doesn’t help a bit. To cut down on the stress of your website costs, take a look at the best free web hosting providers.

So do you get anxious about marketing? Do you realize that’s not doing you any good?
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Marketing is Easy, Writing is Hard

It was probably the English actor Edmund Kean (1787 – 1833) who uttered famous last words that have been attributed to others. On his deathbed he was asked by a friend if dying was hard. The thespian replied, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”
Thus, we come to the subject of today’s post, which is this: Writing is hard. You should know that already. (I should say, writing well is hard, but that doesn’t sound as snappy).
But here’s the other side: Marketing is easy.
Yes, I said easy. I can hear the sighs, nay, the howls of protest. “If it’s so easy, how come my books aren’t selling?”
The answer is almost always: Because writing is hard. You’ve got to have a superior product to sell, and that’s not easy. It’s not easy for anybusiness to create great products. If it were, everybody would be rolling in dough and tipping fifty bucks at Sizzler.
Believe me when I say, quoting my own 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws: it takes quality production over time to make a go of indie publishing.
So why am I saying marketing is easy? Because marketing is not the same as that tiresome buzzword, Discoverability. If you remember that, your life will be a lot happier. If you need help marketing your product or business, take a look at the services provided by clickslice.

Marketing you control. Discoverability is out of your hands. Don’t brood about discovery. Write well, and market easily, and discovery takes care of itself. With this being said, just because marketing may be easy for some, this doesn’t mean it is for everyone. Once you know how to implement these techniques, seeing the results are worth it. But if you are new to the world of business, with the assistance of companies such as GLM, you’ll be able to get a better understanding of how marketing with things like promotional events, for which you should get some Custom backpacks, can help align your business’s direction and produce higher performance results. There’s no harm in asking for help, especially when it comes to your business, as I’m sure everyone wants to succeed.

So why do I say marketing is easy? Because the things that work best for fiction writers are pretty much known. After you’ve written the best book you can, and given it quality design (editing, cover, description, key words), then you proceed to market. In my opinion, these are the top five ways to go:
1. Word of Mouth
This is, has been, and always will be the greatest driver of sales for any novelist. It is “passive marketing,” because it is done by others on your behalf.
Beyond the book itself, you really cannot do anything to improve word of mouth. There was an attempt to do so a few years ago, when authors were buying 5-star reviews.But that practice was quickly flamed, and some authors suffered because of it.
So don’t stress about this aspect of marketing. However, in the words of Bonnie Raitt, give ’em something to talk about.
2. Your Own Mailing List
I wrote about this here. Growing a list should be an ongoing enterprise. You should have a website with a place for readers to sign up for your updates. You should also learn how to communicate effectively so as not to annoy people. That’s the subject of a future post.
3. KDP Select
If you’re just starting out, the Select program from Kindle Direct Publishing is one of the best ways to get your work

out to new readers. You list your book exclusively with the Kindle store for ninety days and are allowed to offer your book free for five days within that period. The days can be used singly or in order. I advise doing it in order. Like I’m doing right now with my first Irish Jimmy Gallagher story, Iron Hands. Yes, it’s free, so nab it. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. Another option in the Select program is the Countdown Deal. Read more about that here. Currently, you cannot run a countdown and a free promo in the same quarter. If you’re just starting out, go for the free promos first. Your main task is to get people to your work.
How you utilize KDP Select with multiple titles is up to you, but I would advise keeping at least some short works with the program.
4. A Subscriber-Based Ad
Services like BookBub, BookGorilla, and Kindle Nation Daily may run an ad for your book. You pay for the privilege. But here is where many writers make a mistake. You should not view this kind of ad as a way to make money or “break even.” You may, in fact, not make back your initial investment. This discourages many writers who may not take out another ad.
But it’s still worth it to do so because when you attract new readers a percentage of them will become repeat customers. Thus, the value of a your return is not dollar-for-dollar, but future income based upon the new readers you generate.
5. Some Social Media Presence
It’s necessary to have some footprint out there in social media. But don’t try to do everything. Pick something you enjoy and which doesn’t gobble up too much of your time. Remember, social media is about “social” and not (primarily) about selling. See my notes here. There is a part of social media that’s too hard for me to recommend: personal blogging. TKZ is a group blog. Trying to produce content by myself, at least three times a week, takes too much time and effort for too little return. The people who can do this are few, and I’m still not convinced the ROE (Return on Energy) is worth it. Choose wisely where you specialize.
Okay, that takes care of the marketing. If you have any further questions, you should consult Joanna Penn’s book.
Now the hard part, writing. Concentrate most of your efforts here. Writing is a craft. It has to be learned, practiced, polished, criticized, revised, and practiced some more. It has to be wild and free on one side, yet disciplined and structured on the other.
Yes, you can write for pure pleasure, that’s fine. You don’t have to sell in big numbers if you don’t want to. But if you’re serious about gathering readers in ever increasing numbers, work at the craft.
Beethoven had to work at his music.
Picasso had to work at his painting.
Pete Rose had to work at baseball. He became one of the greatest hitters of all time with less than all-time talent. His problem was that he thought gambling was easy.
So here is your lesson for the day: Work on your writing and don’t gamble.

Are you stressed out about marketing? What are you doing to counteract that? How about a writing self-improvement program?
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The Best Way to Market Your Books

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell


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?  

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