One of the reasons authors engage in marketing is that we hope there will be a flow-on effect in terms of sales. We market AND THEN people buy our books, request our books at bookstores and libraries, review our books, give our books to friends and so on. If we’re Christians, hopefully one of the reasons we want our books to ‘get out there’ is because we feel God has laid a message on our hearts that he wants us to share. If that’s the case, shouldn’t we try to get that message out to as many people as possible?
In the lead-up to the publication of my historical novel Scattered last year, I tried my best to do all the ‘right’ marketing things.
- I did Iola Goulton’s Kick-Start Your Author Platform online course, which was brilliant and gave tons of general marketing tips as well as specific input from a Christian perspective.
- I did Shannon Mattern’s free online 5 Day Website Challenge course and used her advice to actually get my author website up and running.
- I designed business cards and bookmarks, started a subscriber newsletter, and created author accounts on social media.
- I sent review copies of the book out early so that I would have some reviews on Goodreads, Amazon and different blog sites prior to the release date.
Once the novel was published in October 2020, I jumped on
the marketing treadmill in earnest—A physical book launch, an online launch,
signings at Koorong, author talks, workshops, more newsletters, blogs, social
media posts. Phew!
I can’t present hard statistics to say which of those factors led to the most sales, though I think they all helped in some way. However, there was one thing I hadn’t expected—the spontaneous goodwill of others.
- One friend contacted an online journal on her own initiative and asked if she could review my book on their site. This was completely unsolicited, as I didn’t find out about it until after she’d been given approval.
- Other people posted photos of themselves on social media holding my book and saying they couldn’t wait to read it.
- One friend posted a picture of me on my Facebook wall and said she’d just read my book and loved it.
- People bought extra copies of the book to give as gifts.
- People I never would have expected to read the book were contacting me to say how much they enjoyed it.
If all of these people had been close friends or fellow writers, it may not have taken me by surprise. But some of them were old schoolfriends, Uni friends or work colleagues I hadn’t seen for many years, in some cases more than 15 years. Needless to say, I was blown away.
So What is Goodwill?
The Oxford Lexico online dictionary defines goodwill as ‘friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings or attitudes’.
A few years ago, I wrote a post called The 'Do Unto Others' of Marketing. You can read it here, but in a nutshell, I argued that if you want others to support you and help promote your books, you need to be prepared to help others with theirs. This could include buying their books or requesting them at your library or bookstore, writing reviews, ‘liking’ and commenting on their posts, sharing news about their books, subscribing to their newsletters and so on.
I’d like to think that I’ve been a good citizen in the writing community, which might explain why some of this goodwill has been returned to me. However, there is also another element to goodwill that we can glean from the world of business.
In commerce, goodwill is ‘an intangible, saleable asset arising from the reputation of a business and its relations with its customers, distinct from the value of its stock’ (Macquarie Encyclopedic Dictionary).
If we were to alter this slightly for writers, we could say that goodwill is ‘an intangible, saleable asset arising from the reputation of the author and his/her relationship with readers and other authors, distinct from the value of his/her book/s’.
Have you been actively involved in writers’ groups, not just as the person who asks a question, but as the person who answers a question? Not just as the person who advertises something, but as the person who ‘likes’ other people’s posts and comments on them? Not just as the person who says, ‘Buy my book’, but as the person who reviews other peoples’ books or promotes other authors in some way? This isn’t something you can whip up five minutes before your book launch. It’s part of the broader picture of how you treat the people in your life.
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.’ (1 Cor. 3:1-3, NIV).
Please understand my heart. The way I’ve treated others may have helped me to receive goodwill in return, but I’m far from perfect.
Sometimes I’m selfish. Sometimes I’m jealous of someone else’s success. Sometimes I’m not as considerate or generous as I could be. But with God’s help, we can grow more and more into the people we were destined to be—letters written by his Spirit on the tablets of our hearts.
How can we foster goodwill among other readers and writers? I’d love to hear your thoughts.