by Jeanette O'Hagan
Can't it Wait?
'I'm just starting out as a writer, why should I worry about promotion and marketing now?'
'If God has called me to write, then surely that's all I need to do? Once I've written the book, people will read it."
"I'm an introvert. I hate the thought of promoting myself. Isn't there some way of skipping that part? Can't the publisher do it for me?"
It's hard to believe it's almost a month since the Fifth Omega Writers Book Fair. Two years in a row, the Book Fair has managed by God's grace to slip in just before a lockdown. The committee's aim for the Book Fair is to connect new and established authors with readers through author tables and readings, but it also provides networking opportunities between authors as well as workshops and panels of interest both to writers and readers. This is not something the committee can do no matter how hard they work behind the scenes without the support of the writing community.
This year, I was on the Panel on Marketing and Promotion for authors - along with the vibrant Sally Eberhardt and the talented Lynne Stringer. Our moderator, Nola Passmore, added her expertise and gentle guidance. We interacted with interested and enthusiastic participants who were happy to ply us with questions. Both Sally and Lynne gave some brilliant answers drawn from their experience and skills. I added my ten cents worth as well. I thought I'd share my thoughts with you on marketing and promotion.
Are Marketing and Promotion the Same Thing?
However, other definitions see marketing in a much broader way - as the whole process starting with market research, creating the product, determining price and placement as well as promotion (launches, adverting, publicity, etc.) The idea of 'writing for market' fits under this umbrella - that is, researching a genre or sub-genre that sells well and writing specifically for that market.
However, for many of us, our aim is not (at least primarily) to make money (to sell a product), but to communicate, to reach readers with a story, to inspire or transform, to follow a calling.
Marketing - and promotion - can seem almost grubby, even sleazy.
However, it doesn't have to be like that. Rather it is about connecting with potential readers and making our books visible to those who want to read them.
Promotion is about making connections with people who will enjoy and/or will benefit from reading our writing. At the heart of promotion, is discovering our future readers.
Why do authors need to promote their books? Isn’t it enough to write them? Isn’t that something that the publisher does for you?
Also, publishers may be more interested in someone with an established 'platform', in other words, someone who has already built up a name or following.
What have you done to market and/or promote your books? What have you found to be the most successful promotion strategy?
Online launches and connecting with people through groups and social media have been useful ways to connect with new readers. The most successful by far, has been face-to-face events like Supanova and OzComic Con (attended by avid readers who love the genre I write) and the Book Fair.
To me this underlines the importance of 'finding your tribe' - the people who will love what you write - and also of patience, as it takes time and perseverance to build up a presence.
Out of the various strategies, what hasn’t worked for you? Would you do something different?
However, I have learnt a lot and my 'failed' experiments with advertising has given me pointers about a couple of areas I need to improve on.
So I think, really, what doesn't work is becoming discouraged and giving up when results don't come quickly. At times, I put so much pressure on myself to do everything that I'm in danger of burning out. Staying on task is important, and learning from mistakes is important. So too, is being kind to myself.
One advantage of being an Indie author (I am my own publisher), is the power of the long tail. In a brick-and-mortar bookstore, books often have a six week shelf life before being replaced. But with publish-on-demand and e-stores (like Amazon), one's books can be evergreen. Persistence and perseverance become key - and so does pacing oneself.
When is the best time to start promotion?
Start small. There are so many different things to do that if you try to do it all at once, you will be overwhelmed. It's better to start with one or two things (say a Facebook page, or Instagram or a blog) and take time to learn how to make it work for you before moving on to another part of the picture. There are books and courses and you can ask questions in CWD or other writers groups to help.
Don't make it all about you. If all you focus on is selling your book, you become like the bore in the party who only ever talks about themselves. Support others, provide interesting but related material, ask questions, make people laugh.
You know, I may never make it 'big' or even earn a modest living from my writing, but I still have so much to be grateful for - a line of my books on the top shelf of the book case, having readers come back at a convention eager to read the next book, having numerous people comment about one or other of my stories have made them think or has given them hope - knowing that my stories have radiated a little of His light where it can be seen.
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