I think I know you.
Let me guess.
You’ve written a book. Not a how-to book or a technical manual on metal fatigue and stress damage, but a work of fiction. A labor of love. You crafted and plotted, wrote and rewrote. You had friends read it, and then you rewrote it some more. You had it professionally edited and professionally formatted. You hired a professional cover artist to make you a terrific eye-catching cover. And then, when everything was perfect, you released it. You told everyone on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else you could think of, and everyone said the same things: It’s great! It’s beautiful! Congratulations! I’m going to buy it!
A lot of them did, too, and some wrote you nice reviews. It was great.You felt so good.
And then? Then nothing. A month or so goes by, and you’ve flat-lined. The babbling brook of occasional sales has slowed to a maddening sporadic faucet drip. You check Amazon, waiting to see if your number has ticked up.
Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
All right, full disclosure: maybe you didn’t follow all of the steps. Maybe you didn’t hire an editor, and maybe you made your own cover from a CreateSpace template. But my first book Spark was originally published by Lycaon Press before they went belly-up, so it got the full treatment. In spite of professional editing and the professional cover, it still languishes on the pages of Amazon.com, showing all the vigor of a disoriented tree-sloth.
So did you make a blog? You probably made a blog. After all, that’s what they all advise. Despite the 200 million blogs already out there (a modest estimate), you have to get your own. Make a blog and do guest posts on other blogs and develop an email list and give away prizes. Maybe you haven’t done all those things, but you know you should, because you’ve read some about it: Book Marketing 101—How to Monetize your Platform for Impactful Sales Realization.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this isn’t you. Maybe you’ve been very successful with your own innovative marketing techniques (in which case, I REALLY want to hear from you! Hell, I’ll subscribe to your blog). But I suspect there are a lot more of you out there who are, like me, floating in uncertainty. We want to sell books. But we don’t really want to sell books. Because here’s the truth: we don’t want to market our books. We want people to find them, by accident. Pick them up by chance and be captivated. And, because they’re entertaining and thoughtful and even beautiful in places, we want people to like them. We want it to be magic.
Unrealistic? Sure. Tell us something we don’t know. But that’s really what we’re looking for, because let’s face it, advertising is smarmy. It’s nothing but a lot of insincere hucksters glad-handing us, laughing at jokes they didn’t even listen to, telling us whatever they think we want to hear. That might not be entirely fair, but the association is inevitable. How many of us really want to be Don Draper? And if that’s what we want, then what are we doing writing books?
So, here’s the plan. I’m tossing it all out the window and starting from scratch. Call it what you will—Book Marketing 001, Remedial Book Marketing, Marketing for Folks Who Find Marketing Viscerally Repugnant. I can’t promise results. Heck, I can pretty much promise that most of what I find won’t work, and not because I’m especially inept or unlucky, but just because marketing books is inherently hard. Books aren’t like other commodities. They are stubborn and unpredictable, a rebellious lot of trouble makers if you get right down to it. Face it, we’re almost doomed to fail.
But that’s okay. That admission frees us up to make all kinds of mistakes, both old and new, trivial and fatal, with impunity. We may not be able to make marketing magical, but maybe we can at least sidestep all of the tedious churning about SEO and influencers and bonding posts and curated lists, yada, yada, yada. Who knows, we might learn something. I invite you to come along, or at least lurk. Lurking’s okay, too. Next time, I’ll report on my own personal takeaway from a course offered by one of the gurus of modern web marketing, boiled down to its sticky essence. Wanna bet I can reduce 400 pages of marketing wisdom to a three-page blog post? Yeah. Me too.
Oh yeah. I almost forgot. We won’t be completely alone, because I’m one of the founding members of The Writer’s Coop, an emerging web-based community of writers dedicated to finding new and better ways to promote our writing. It will, in the words of G.D. Deckard, be “a synergistic community of writers coming up with marketing ideas for the newly published.” It could also be a valuable part of your own writer’s platform, as well as just seriously cool. If you’d like to be kept informed, drop your email address in the jar and I’ll keep you in the loop.
And by the way—welcome to the blog.
(Part Two of Marketable Me is found here.)