When I first started putting the pictures in my head down in words, I never dreamed that I would end up spending more time on marketing than I would on writing.
Over the next few posts, I’ll be passing on some thoughts on the way I approach marketing, although it has to be said that I don’t consider myself to be an expert. I can only tell you what I do and how I do it. Maybe a few of the things that I’ve learned will be useful; if only to help you avoid some of the problems that I have had.
Before I start, here’s a bit of history.
My initial idea was to write and publish as a hobby, for the enjoyment of doing it, much like people play golf or go fishing. Amazon had made it so easy for anyone to create a book. Until then, that would have been unimaginable without large sums of cash, or the approval of the establishment.
I achieved this aim with my first novel, Freefall, which was published at the end of April 2013. It came from some ideas that had been buzzing around in my head, based on parts of my working life, moved into a new environment. I decided to write them down.
I never bothered the literary establishment, this was a personal project.
It was only when I finished my second novel, Ribbonworld (written during a spell of sick leave from work in 2014 and based on an experience I had), that actually trying to sell copies became a thing.
I’d let an author who my wife vaguely knew have a copy, for her honest opinion. She told me it was worth marketing and that it could be successful.
It felt like a challenge. The rest, as they say, is history. With the publication of Ribbonworld, I actually started trying to sell my work. But I still didn’t bother the literary establishment.
I quickly realised that if I didn’t do any marketing,
the books would never be found, there are so many titles available. While it was just a hobby that didn’t matter. I never thought my work was any good, I just wanted the buzz of having a paperback with my name on it, sitting on the shelf. Nothing more than proof that I could follow the instructions and produce it. Encouragement and the first few (fortunately good) reviews that Ribbonworld got changed all that. As well as writing more new titles and continuing series, I rewrote Freefall, had it edited in its new form and republished it.
Since I’ve been a bit more commercial, I’ve come to appreciate good (and bad) reviews and I have to admit that it’s nice to see sales.
So, it’s true that my priorities have changed. While I still write because I enjoy it, I’ve started to develop an audience of other people who enjoy it too. It’s a good feeling to know that people are getting something from what you produce.
Now I find that marketing has overtaken actually writing as the major use of my time. And I won’t pretend that I enjoy the demands that it makes. After all, it wasn’t what I signed up for? The trouble is, once you start, it’s very hard to actually stop. Even if you do no more new promotion, there are still people who will engage with you based on what you have already done, or what they have read because of it.
So, like it or not, you have to learn how to do it. So you might as well do it properly.
The fact that I have books on sale,
with reviews and comments on my website, brings up a whole load of ancillary tasks. All the essential housekeeping of your brand, important but not always seen. And again, this was something that I never considered at the start. These things take place in the background, keeping everything running smoothly. Jobs like updating my website, posting and commenting on social media, sharing, answering emails and writing content for newsletters. As well as dealing with beta readers, editors and cover designers for new projects. They all take time.
What I still don’t like to do is having to say buy my book at frequent intervals on social media. I dislike hard selling when it’s attempted on me; when I’m the consumer. So I assume that others feel the same.
Except that, as everyone else is doing it, you have to join in. Once you realise that and accept that you are not your readers, that most of them may not think the same way that you do, you can get on with it.
Even so, I still prefer the anonymity of paid advertising. Whether on Facebook or Amazon, or anywhere else.
The problem, if you can call it that, is the learning curve. It can be very steep. I spend lots of time trying to find a collection of words and pictures that will be interesting or persuasive enough to get people to buy. Testing and refining advertisements costs money, which needs to come from somewhere.
This brings us neatly back to shouting BUY MY BOOK on social media. It’s a necessary evil. Which leads to more time spent not actually writing anything. I have so much to say and there is less and less time to say it.
Next time, I’ll tell you some of the things I do, to try and make my work more visible. Things that won’t cost you a lot of money, but will be useful as you go forward in your career as an author. Starting with creating a brand that will get your work recognised.
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