Wednesday, December 02, 2015

IWSG: The True Secret About Writers and Marketing

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means hundreds of us will be posting about our insecurities. If you're a writer, join in!



From the time you first decide to write a book to the day you see it on shelves (or on Amazon), some time passes. During that time, you work hard to land an agent, get a publishing deal, or take the steps you need to take to self publish.




During all that time, do you spend one second thinking about how you'll promote it once you do get a book deal? If you're like me, the answer is...



"Published book" is the end goal. Then you assume you'll be worried solely about getting more published books out there. Your books will, of course, magically fly off shelves and become bestsellers overnight.



Once you've finished celebrating your book deal and the big release day gets closer, you realize you are supposed to magically know what to do. There's no blueprint to promoting this thing and all the writers' conferences in the world don't really help. Most writers' conferences are focused on getting published, not being published.



So you watch other published authors on social media. Meg Cabot is on a tour of Germany. Maybe your publisher will send you on one of those.



You soon realize your publisher isn't flying you to some exotic location. So you schedule a booksigning or four. That's what you're supposed to do, right? At your first booksigning, though, four people show up. They're all related to you.



You watch social media a little longer. Every other author seems to be constantly promoting. They're leading workshops at conferences and hanging out at bookfairs and doing TV interviews. How did they get TV interviews? Anyway...you do the same. You sell about three books at each one and wonder if it's worth it.



You eventually learn the secret of writers and book marketing. None of us has any idea what we're doing. No idea whatsoever. We're basically throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. Either you're scrambling to sell one book or you're just doing what your publisher put in your contract that you had to do because there are a few people somewhere who don't know you have a book out.



Wherever you are in your publishing journey, at least you aren't alone. We're all just trying to figure it out! There's comfort in that, I suppose.

67 comments:

  1. You got that right. None of us know what we are doing. And we possessed no thoughts about marketing before signing that first book deal.
    Actually, I had no thoughts of writing any more books. Still not sure what happened there...

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    1. Glad you decided to keep going! If you're a writer, you can't NOT write. The ideas just grab you and you have to put them down.

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  2. As long as Keanu Reeves is on board ;-) Anyway. We really don't have a clue about the murky waters of marketing. Writers just want to write. But at some point we have to market our books. *cue the crying*

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    1. And it's awkward...because most of us don't like to talk about it. There's something very personal about the process of writing that feels uncomfortable when you try to explain it!

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  3. Marketing and promoting, there are no blueprints for that. I can follow the examples and best practices and I still won't know what I'm doing. Can only hope for the best that something worked. But man, does it make me wish for the days of yore when the publishing companies took most if not all of the marketing and promotions of its authors' books.

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    1. I agree, although social media is something that many writers can do ourselves. Our own personal networks are the best channels to route our books through. But the part about setting up booksignings and school visits is just awkward. And publicists charge thousands of dollars.

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  4. Best wishes to the writers who are waiting for their books to be published and also in the marketing of their books.

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  5. Marketing my writing is definitely not one of my strengths. I usually mention my published work on my blog, link it to wherever it needs to be linked and...that's pretty much it. I leave the rest in the hands of readers. :)

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    1. There's only so much we can do to get the word out...at that point you just have to wait to see if they'll buy.

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  6. I'm in the editing phase of my book. I'd say phase 3? I've edited the same 3 or 4 chapters six times, and won't really move forward until I finish those chapters. I do feel alone, I'm just bouncing ideas and thoughts out there.
    "Does this make sense, or would it make more sense if she did this, or maybe they should do this...."
    That's how I talk to myself....all the time =)
    Editing is so much fun!!! =)

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    1. Editing...yikes. There are professional editors who will edit your book for a charge. Taylor Morris does it, I know, and she's a fairly accomplished writer. Having that expert view can really make a difference, but I have no idea how much professional editors charge for that.

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    2. I know, it is expensive. Especially to find the right editor..

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  7. I wish there was a blueprint, but I'm totally going with throw it at the wall and see what sticks mode.

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    1. I've been watching more accomplished authors--not at the Meg Cabot level, but those who have had multiple books out. I figure once you've done a few book launches, you probably have a feel for what works and what doesn't. Big launch party: works. 50 billion booksignings on launch week: doesn't seem to work. School visits (for children's authors): works--but only if you can tie book sales into it. Giveaways seem to work a little...but most successful authors also add some swag to their giveaways, so I'm working on figuring that out for my next one.

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  8. Man it's so hard to be a successful writer.
    Being any sort of artist is a challenge!

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    1. Being a successful writer would probably be easy! Especially if you had a lot of money rolling in and could just pay a publicist to handle it all for you. Of course, they can set it up, but you still have to show up and do things like public speaking and (in REALLY successful authors' cases) TV interviews.

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  9. I KNOW! If only we could work out a patented system that guaranteed success. Now that would be worth something. =)

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    1. There are writers who teach courses on this stuff, but most of the time by the time an author figures it out, she's too successful to share with the rest of us!

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  10. OMG!!!! You hit a home run with this post Stephanie!!!!!!!

    We're all in the same boat!!!

    I had to laugh at the book signings. I had 2 book signings and if it wasn't for friends and family no one would've bought a book!!! Hahaaa....

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    1. A bookseller told me that booksignings are mostly just that--a way for friends and family to buy your book. And often that's most successful with your first book. Group booksignings are the way to go if you can swing it. Readers will show up if multiple authors are going to be there and check out all the books. But for just one author? You'd have to have a fan base for a reasonable crowd to show up.

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  11. The effusive business of marketing is so contrary to the solitary act of writing it's no wonder some of us struggle like fish wanting to fly. I think tenacity is our best secret weapon :-)

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    1. I agree. And many of us are introverts by nature. I love meeting readers and talking to them--you just always have this fear that nobody will show up. From doing group signings, I've noticed that either you're sitting there alone for long stretches of time or you have a ridiculously long line and can barely take a breath for the entire two hours. There doesn't seem to be too much in between!

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  12. THANK YOU FOR THIS, STEPHANIE. BIG SIGH HERE. And yes, I was shouting that out to you.

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    1. There's relief in the fact that so many of us can relate to this! We're all in the same boat, for sure.

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  13. Is this why I'm always confused about what I should be doing regarding my writing? Because I've read a few books, and have yet to find anything close to telling me what exactly I need to do to make sure my book is published / released and what direction to head next.
    Thanks for the encouragement that I'm not alone in this.

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    1. I think perhaps the reason there aren't very good workshops/books on the topic is that nobody really has figured it out. And it changes all the time. I write often about marketing for small businesses and a lot of it applies here. Social engagement and blogging should be about building communities but a lot of book selling is still done in person, especially for children's authors. Doing workshops and participating in conferences can get your name out there...but all too often I buy books because I hear about them from friends or through social media. I have bought exactly one book that I heard about at a conference in the past five years--Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why--and it was because he gave such a great keynote speech.

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  14. Ha! I felt the same way when my first book came out. I was just standing around going...okay, so now what? It's definitely a learning process, though. I'm learning more and more every day about marketing, trying all sorts of things to see what works--maybe one day I'll find the magic formula!

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    1. And by the time we figure out something actually works, everything changes and something NEW works this year!

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  15. Stephanie, you are really shedding some light on what it feels like to be a writer and learning the ropes of getting your books published. It's nice to know that you're not alone in this.
    All the best.
    JB

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    1. It appears this is a very common issue!

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  16. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Writing is easy. Getting someone to read your writing is the hard part.

    (I know the "writing is easy" is relative and some people find it harder than others, but either way, the part that comes after the writing is still harder.)

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    1. I'll never forget attending a workshop in the 90s where an author said she hated writing but enjoyed going around talking about being a writer. I thought that was the oddest thing I've ever heard, but I have met others who use their books as a tool to land them school visits and workshops...it's VERY rare in traditional publishing, though (which was how the author in the 90s was published). Most writers are writers and most motivational speakers self publish and their books are more in the self-help genre.

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  17. There certainly is comfort in that. I always feel like everyone else is having book releases, and I'm sitting here being happy and impatient.

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    1. I read a quote that has stuck with me: "Stop comparing your behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel." That's especially true in a social media era. We all only show the best sides of ourselves online. So it can seem that everyone else is getting book deals or doing events and workshops--however, when you look at each individual person in a given year, there really isn't all that much going on except the occasional big news item! It just seems that way because we're bombarded with it from a variety of people on a daily basis.

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  18. So true. I haven't gotten to the 'published' part--and didn't know the publisher specified how you had to market (though that's not a bad idea)--but the whole thing fascinates me. I just know I'll get there and then it will all make a whole lot more sense. Thanks, Stephanie!

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    1. Actually, only big-name authors have publicity handled for them. In fact, I can't say for sure that Meg Cabot didn't arrange that overseas book tour herself. But for authors like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, you can see how the publisher might have to work into the contract that they need to do X amount of events at book launch time because it helps boost sales. For the rest of us, we're on our own, although publishers do a LOT behind the scenes that traditionally-published authors don't see. They get our books in stores (which is HUGE) and get good placement on shelves. They get some books onto "best books" lists and they also make sure the book gets reviewed in high-profile publications. They'll also get us in catalogs that are seen by librarians and booksellers so that our books are ordered in the first place. But that grassroots marketing that happens on social media or locally is 100 percent in the author's hands.

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  19. Yes, marketing is its own animal, and it's tough to tame! Writing press releases and so forth can really feel like drudge work, but I really enjoy giving talks and selling books at conferences. It's a way to have fun and do some marketing at the same time! ~Tui, dropping by via TuiSnider.com and IWSG

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    1. I'm the opposite...I can write and distribute press releases, mail out postcards, and host online giveaways for days. I LOVE that stuff. When I worked in PR that was my favorite part of it--just blast that message out and hope a few people connect with it. Unfortunately, the in-person stuff seems to be the most effective (for children's writers, anyway). I did notice when I was writing romance, many book sales were driven through Romance Writers of America conferences and meetings...and that was great. Especially since their local chapters are so strong. With children's writing, it's all about reaching those schools and libraries and yikes those can be hard to get into. You have to get to kids through parents, teachers, and librarians because communicating directly with kids is impossible due to all the necessary protections we have in place now.

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  20. Wow, looks like a lot of work and with a lot of unknown thrown in. I've a new appreciation for writers.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  21. I can't stop laughing :D You nailed it, Stephanie. How did we ever get this far without ever—not even once—thinking about how to sell the damn thing? Talk about clueless :D "Throwing things at the wall to see what sticks"—that's exactly what it feels like. And yet... as I said on Damyanti's blog, the warmth of people—even total strangers—is an incredible gift to receive back :)

    Thanks for stopping over there; loved your comment!
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter

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  22. There is comfort in knowing that no matter where you are in this writing journey, that you are definitely NOT alone. That's a good feeling, at least.

    I wish I had the magic answers for marketing, but I'm not even there yet. I guess I'll cross that hurdle when I get there. But I can see how it could be frustrating and overwhelming to try to figure what works and what doesn't. By the time I'm published, you'll be a pro and I'll be coming to YOU for advice! :)

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  23. I"m working on a final project in my Social Media Comm class at the moment. People don't realize how much design and thought goes into a campaign. Traditional publishing sure was the cream if you had it. Even someone like King would have to hire someone to manage his PR. No one person can do it themselves! lol

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  24. This reader thanks you. And all the other writers. Big time.

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  25. Oh Stephanie! You read my mind. This is the exact part in my career I'm stuck on. I'm self-published and didn't really understand marketing at all. I did what the "experts" all suggested. Building a platform, branching out into social media and I don't know whether I'm coming or going. The fact that you said that nobody has it figured out yet, does make me feel better. Because I keep wondering what I'm doing wrong. I guess the best advantage we have is that we are persistent in our efforts:) Plus, we don't quit.

    Thank you for your kind words of on my blog. They took a weight off my shoulders. I feel so much better.

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  26. I'm in the midst of promoting my forthcoming book. I have lists of things to do and basically am lost. Which to try first? Which is best? Etc. All I want to do is write. But that's only part of the business. Now, back to hunting for reviewers, press releases, tours, whatever... And a party to plan. Thanks for your reminder that we're all in this together. We will survive.

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  27. Imagine if your publisher would send you on a foreign tour? :)
    We had Steven Watson who wrote BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP novel (filmed with Nicole Kidman) at our Book Fair last month, and my previous publisher (bastards) didn't even invite me even though I translated the book and even had contacts with him... to make matters worse I was present at the fair that day :)

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  28. True. Each and every word. We all are there somewhere wanting to be heard.

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  29. I'm having a similar issue with my craft business. Just got a book about promoting via social media. Some of these tips will probably translate well to promoting books. When I have a book to promote, that is.

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  30. I'm beginning my first promotion on my own. It's a bit scary but I think I'm ready. :-)

    Anna from Elements of Writing

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  31. I love this!

    I tweeted today about my book . . . it's been the first time in who knows how many months, because usually I tweet about other random stuff. Wouldn't you know that 5 minutes later I still hadn't sold ONE book? Boohoo! Randomly I remember that I should promote somewhere . . . then I do one thing and carry on my with my merry self. I'd say once per quarter should do it, right? o_O LOL

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  32. Yep, we're all just figuring it out as we go along! I've read a lot of books on marketing and tried just about every trick, but not everything works for everyone. It's trial and error!

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  33. So, true, LOL! And what works for one is not what will work for another. Engaging post, Stephanie.

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  34. It's good to hear this, because it seems like everyone around me understands marketing better than I do!

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  35. Bravo. Well said. You summed us up nicely. Love the definition of a writer:)

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  36. You sold 3 books at a signing??? My good friend Nancy Gideon said if you sell 1 it's a success. Looks like yours have been a huge success.

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  37. Well I don't do caffeine but I can transform a Snapple fact into a WIP so I must be magical in some way. Yes we are all in this crazy writing world together and no one has the instant success pill. All we know is that a successful writer is the one who did not quit before reaching the finish line. It is those who persevere no matter how long it takes that get to see their work in print.

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  38. Yeah, the marketing part is tricky, even for someone who's been paid to market corporations for over a decade.

    For me, relationship building works the best, but that takes a lot of time, energy and effort. What happens when you're too busy to keep putting that time in?

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  39. I've tried many different things based on blog posts and what others are doing. Some of it works, other things don't. I'm always willing to try new things, though. Maybe one day my books will be made into movies and I'll tour the country. :)

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  40. Yes! I certainly don't know what I'm doing. :)

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  41. Interesting point made! Hard work all around.

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  42. I love this! You really know how to just say it as it is and make people feel better. I truly wonder how some become huge best sellers. What is their secret?

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  43. Thanks so much for the honesty. It is really rough once you pub and realize the book's not taking off. Then you scramble to do everything you can think of. I've been feeling sorry for myself since I can't do any in-person promotions (since I live in Egypt). You made me feel not so bad about that. I haven't had any marketing promos work except sales when my publisher cuts the e-book price from $5.95 to $.99. But trad publishers won't do that. That's why I'm self pubbing. Again, thanks so much for sharing!

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  44. Thanks for stopping by the ToiBox of Words Stephanie.
    It's cool that you're writing about book promotion and my post was kind of about my virtual book tour efforts. I think you're right to a degree; none of us really know what we are doing, but we do keep trying.

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  46. When it comes to publishing, I can hope and dream, but I think it's most healthy for me to be more of a "I'll cross the bridge when I get to it" kind of person. And right now, I'm just working on finishing up my WIP.

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