Take a little video tour of Amazon’s Author Central, which you should populate if selling books on Amazon is part of your book marketing. (Please scroll down; for some reason, I cannot get it to delete the white space – sorry!)
This Author Spotlight features Poet Mike Bayles, author of four poetry/literary collage books as well as numerous poems in various publications. In the years I’ve known Mike, what has struck me about him is his ability to get out in the world and market his books in person. He’s done well for himself, despite not having an extensive online presence, though it’s something he’s working on. He said, “I maintain a presence on Facebook, and I’ve started a blog: mikebaylescollage.com. There are groups of Facebook I might use. I intend to use Linked In and other media. Otherwise, I’m still learning the process. I like to do radio interviews.”
Mike enjoys doing readings the most for book marketing, “because it’s kind of a performance for me.” He also enjoys doing news releases because it allows him to do a different kind of writing. When asked what has surprised him about book marketing, Mike said, “The biggest surprise I had when selling Breakfast at the Good Hope Home was the support I had from a journal editor/publisher in Wisconsin. He knew families touched by Alzheimer’s and kept ordering copies for the families. It was touching when he had me send a copy to a lady in Virginia who lost her husband of forty-seven years to the disease. She wrote a touching letter back to me.”
Wordsy Woman (i.e. yours truly) helped Mike create a written marketing plan for his book published by 918studio press, Breakfast at the Good Hope Home. Other than his personal appearances, Mike has submitted his books for review and offered himself for interviews, which have been picked up by Rob Kline of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Lynda Lambert of Saturday is for Sharing, Max Molleston, and the WVIK Scribbles radio program.
When asked about his book marketing strategies or tactics, Mike said, “I do public readings, send my book to places for review, and place it in book stores. I have also mentioned it to co-workers, who have bought the book. I talk up my book with friends and at critique groups, and mention it at places where I sing karaoke. I had a website set up. The most tangible results are when I do readings and people walk up to me and purchases copies. Or sometimes someone says they’ll go to a book store, and later I receive a check. I’m not sure that my website generated enough sales to justify the cost of setting it up.”
He hasn’t used paid advertising yet, “but I might pay to network through an online poetry site where some of my poems have appeared. I can get free promotion by sending out news releases about launch parties and events I do. The Rockford Writers’ Guild always does a great job promoting my books and writing reviews. The website for the Illinois State Poetry Society did great promotion when I was a featured poet for its Last Sunday event.”
For new authors or other authors facing book marketing, Mike offered, “Don’t be shy. Get out there and do readings. You completed a book that will interest readers. You have something to say. Get your book out in places where people will buy it. Network. It takes as much effort, or more, to promote your book as to write it. Make sure that you have a good editor help you with your manuscript before you self- publish your book or submit it to publishers. Join a writers’ critique group.” He also said, “Write to your passion, and find an audience who wants to read it. Writing is an act of sharing and making connections. Remember to pay as much attention to selling your book as you give to its writing. Writing the book takes a lot of time, of revisions, to create a product people will value. You have something to say.”
You can find Mike at
Breakfast at the Good Hope Home, 2017, 918 Studio Press
Breakfast at the Good Hope Home, a literary collage, uses vignettes, poems,
The Harbor I Seek, a book-long poem, 2015, Self-Published.
The Harbor I Seek as a book-length poem, to tell the story of a person who lived in his car, seeking to find a sense of personal redemption. The main character struggles to find odd jobs, and misses his relatives, far away. He finds refuge, staying in a parking lot, near a boat landing (or harbor).
The Rabbit House, a collection of small-town poetry, 2014, RWG Press.
The Rabbit House is a collection of poetry about the nuances of living in small towns. The poetry reflects a sense of connection and disconnection found when spending time in small towns, and as a live-in pet-sitter. One of the author’s favorite poems in the collection is a tribute to one of his younger cousins.
Threshold, a collection of poetry, 2013, RWG Press, 2013 RWG Press
Book of the Year The poems in Threshold reflect Mike Bayles’ many connections with Iowa. “Threshold,” the title poem, reflects the author’s hope of peace when a fight breaks out in a parking lot. He also pays tribute to many places in Iowa, love, his father, and people he’s known. A review in The Rockford Review, Summer/Fall 2014 said that this collection was a “must read” for people who loved Iowa.
Since it’s been a year since Lauren (Alexis) Wood’s last book was released and she was featured in my Author Spotlight, I thought I’d check in to see how her book marketing has progressed. Lauren has a new book possibly being released later in 2018, Prone to Pronoia, a collection of comedic essays.
Lauren doesn’t have a formal, written marketing plan, but explained, “I definitely do not recommend not having any marking plan whatsoever to most people self or independently publishing a book. I’ve been doing this for a while and at this point figuring things out on the fly sometimes is my best and/or only option. Also, a formal marketing plan is going to be crucial for those who actually wish to earn an income from their creative work. It’s not that I DON’T want to make money from my creative work, that’s just not the priority I guess? I work with a number of other authors in running my publishing company and I tend to put them first. Also, to be perfectly honest, that last book was an over-the-top baby shower gift that just so happened to turn out to be a pretty cute children’s book. With Prone to Pronoia, I do have some plans to actually market that one via readings and blogging (like this one, thank you again, Jodie!). I also write for a comedic publication overseas (The Public House – https://readpublichouse.com), and once the book is published, I hope to possibly feature an essay or two from the book in that magazine in the hopes people might have an interest in reading the rest of the book.”
When asked if her attitude, goals, or strategy for book marketing has changed since her last book, Lauren said, “I know you are supposed to learn from your mistakes; however, I am still working through what the mistakes were, versus the happy accidents. Honestly, when someone tells me they read something I wrote and actually enjoyed it, that is really gratifying. I don’t really hear that very often. I really, truly have high hopes for my next book (Prone to Pronoia) because it’s a book I’m doing for MYSELF, and that alone I feel will be a test to me applying what I’ve learned previously.”
Lauren hasn’t had any negative feelings toward book marketing, stating, “I like the idea of book marketing, because I am a very indie, out-of-the-box thinker, and I have delusions I can do things better. However, more traditional and effective marketing is important and takes a lot of time and effort that I’m currently putting into other aspects of my publishing company. I am going to be potentially taking on an intern this fall, however, so that could change. Also, I’m not in a financial position to pay someone to advertise for me so I’ve had to be creative, which I really love doing.”
Lauren says she learns something new every day, running an independent publishing house for almost a decade. And taking what she learns and applying it correctly in different situations is both exceptionally challenging but extremely rewarding. She said, “Developing that talent alone has TRULY helped not just in marketing my work but also just managing my life overall.”
Lauren has used Facebook advertising briefly, with not much success; however, she says, “I didn’t truly give it an honest go because I didn’t want to spend the money on it. I feel like my work, if it’s good enough, will possibly be noticed by whoever might like it at some point through networking or serendipity. Is that not *the best* idea? Yeah, it’s kind of stupid, maybe? However, I like the excitement of that. Also, if I truly just suck so bad at writing and no one can relate to me whatsoever, well, at least I didn’t sink a ton of cash into bombarding people with it on Facebook.”
On the subject of social media for book marketing, Lauren said, “I love Facebook and Instagram. There’s a different dynamic to each and dependent on what I put into a post and on what platform, it’s interesting to see the different response. If there’s any kind of formula to it at all, it so rapidly changes that I just enjoy trying to keep up.”
When asked what advice she’d give to others, she said, “Have pride in your work, and in yourself. It can be a challenge to put something out there then suddenly you have to deal with the public’s reaction to it, or the deafening sounds of silence because no one cares what you have to say. Take a deep breath, own what you’ve created, and be ready to stand with it as an extension of yourself that you want to share with others.”
Learn more about Lauren at www.laurenalexiswood.com, facebook.com/laurenalexiswood, @laurenalexiswood (Instagram), @laurenalexswood (Twitter), facebook.com/paradisiacpublishing, @paradisiac.publishing (Instagram), @paradisiacpub (Twitter), www.facebook.com/goldcoastalmanac, @goldcoastalmanac (Instagram), and @goldcoastalmanaccomedy (Instagram).
Qorviq the Nondenominational Winter Solstice Celebration Seal(Currently out of print): “It was a ridiculous graphic novel based on a comedy/action/soap opera blog I wrote using Microsoft Paint pictures whose main character was inspired by a holiday lawn ornament decoration that I saw while on a really long run after getting fired from a corporate job.”
Something’s Missing: A children’s book about a family welcoming a new baby that I wrote as a baby shower gift to my brother and sister-in-law when they welcomed my niece into this world last fall.
Help Me! I’m Fat!: It is both poking fun at the prevalence of Christianity in the fitness community while promoting body positivity in the same way you’d expect to be encouraged by a very emotionally distant relative. It also just so happens to be an interactive, handy-dandy weight loss journal!
Prone to Pronoia: A collection of comedic essays, to be published later this year (2018) or maybe early next year (2019).
This month’s author spotlight articles features a guest post by author, Tom McKay, who for full disclosure, was published by 918studio press, the selective subsidized publisher I co-own with Lori Perkins.
In Tom’s Words:
I am the author of two novels. West Fork was published in 2014 by East Hall Press at Augustana College. 918studio press published Another Life in 2016. For each novel, I focused on commissioning an attractive cover design and writing engaging back cover descriptions as ways to capture attention from prospective buyers.
West Fork has a two paragraph description for the back cover:
“In 1968, Jim Blair comes to teach in the tiny crossroads hamlet of West Fork with no idea that he will give his heart to the community and to a woman. Through events he cannot foresee, both great loves turn to loss.
After twenty-seven years in West Fork, the relentless pace of farm consolidation has drained the landscape of population and left the community without a viable role in rural life. Jim must start anew with only the unknown ahead in his life.”
The description on the back cover of Another Life is shorter:
“How long does a high school crush last? One year? Ten? Twenty? Forty? Small-college basketball coach Matt Cooper is about to find out as Kim Gustafson, the cutest girl from high school, re-enters his life.”
In the case of both books, the largest number of sales were made during author appearances through signings at bookstores, readings and programs at libraries, and local author fairs sponsored by libraries. In all of these settings, an attractive cover is the first step in getting the attention of prospective buyers. The back cover description also plays an important role in making a sale. I routinely hand the novels to people who show an interest so that they can read the descriptions. In many cases, this is better than an attempt by me to tell the reader about the book. Reading a synopsis can lead to further discussion and give prospective buyers a chance to consider the purchase. The interaction can become a friendly discussion rather feeling like a hard sell. If the potential buyer invests in the discussion, the possibility of a sale increases.
In marketing books that are self-published or published through a small press, it is important to consider whether the primary goal of the author is to have his/her book read or to generate income through sales. Clearly, all authors would like to do both, but deciding if one goal is the higher priority may impact decisions such as the size of the print run, primary methods of distribution, and marketing strategy.
Authors should realize in advance that books with small print runs and relatively unknown authors typically do not earn a profit. The goal of selling enough books to recover printing and production costs is often difficult to achieve. There are examples of self-published books that have sold very well and made significant profits for the authors. These are rare outliers.
For my first novel, West Fork, my primary concern was to have the book read. Though the plot of the book develops around a love story, its central message is about the effect on Midwestern culture of farm consolidation and the precipitous decline in rural population during the last three decades of the twentieth century. I felt this was a huge and often overlooked change. I decided to use fiction to examine this change. I hoped to have as many readers as possible. With this goal in mind, I donated copies of West Fork to 250 libraries in western Illinois, eastern Iowa, and southern Wisconsin.
On its face, giving away books costs money rather than earning money. In the case of West Fork, I offered to do a reading or program for any library to which I donated the book. Eventually, I did 20 library programs. At the conclusions of the programs, I signed books. Through these programs, I sold a total of 81 copies. I sold books but did not charge for the programs. Three libraries did give me honorariums by their own choice. The money earned through library programs covered all but $100 of the cost of the 250 books given for their collections.
Staff members in a library where I have a close connection made occasional spot checks on the number of times West Fork was checked out at libraries in the regional system. I was very pleased with the readership the novel gained. More than once, I have had chance meetings with people who have read the novel including a man from Canton, Illinois who checked out the book on interlibrary loan. Another time, I saw a post online from a person in the state of Oregon who had read West Fork. The readership through library copies was far greater than I could have achieved through book sales alone.
Marketing through Bookstores
The primary method of marketing both West Fork and Another Life has been through independent bookstores. Most independent bookstores owners and managers are supportive of books from local authors and presses. They provide shelf space for these books even though sales are generally small. Most independent bookstores group such books in a local authors section. Typically, these sections of the store receive less attention from shoppers than larger sections such as fiction, biography, self-help, etc.
With a few exceptions, independent bookstores take the books they place in the local authors’ section on consignment. Authors may sell as few as two or three books in a year. At some point, the bookstore will wish to terminate the consignment and have the author arrange the pickup of the unsold books.
All of my consignments with independent bookstores have been made through face-to-face contact. When I travel by car, a supply of my books travels with me. I do not make special trips to sell the books because the volume of sales would not justify the travel cost.
Copies of my books have been sold in 35 stores. These stores range in several directions from the Quad Cities including Des Moines, Macomb, Peoria, suburban Milwaukee, and even Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Within this broad area, all of the stores have one thing in common. They are located in places that my normal travel will take me within a year. My books are in bookstores in suburban Milwaukee because my sons live in the city, and I travel there frequently. There are more bookstores in suburban Chicago, and they are closer to the Quad Cities. However, I rarely travel to Chicago and would not recoup travel costs of special trips to place my books in stores in that area.
The best marketing of books in independent bookstores is done through book signings and participation in special events arranged by the stores. On a trip I had planned to Rhinelander, I sold fourteen copies of West Fork on a Friday evening in February. The Chamber of Commerce was sponsoring a special “Taste of Chocolate” event that night in honor of Valentine’s Day. I have sold books several times at signings for bookstores in December. The various signings have all taken place on Saturdays leading up to Christmas. I sold nineteen books in one store and fourteen books in another. It is also true that I sold only two books in another store. Each of these signings was at a store within an hour of the Quad Cities.
The impact of online sales has put pressure on brick-and-mortar bookstores. The closing of the BookWorld chain of bookstores eliminated the stores that were the best selling locations for both West Fork and Another Life. I had both books in five BookWorld locations. Since 2014, those stores and four additional independent bookstores that sold West Fork and Another Life have closed.
Independent bookstores remain a significant element in marketing books from local authors and small presses. Contact information for many independent bookstores can be found at MidwestBooksellers.org. This is a good starting point for locating stores, but it is not a comprehensive list. Only nine of the nineteen bookstores that currently sell Another Life appear on the list.
The marketing plan for Another Life was the result of working with 918studio press. It emphasized relationships with independent bookstores as described above. It also included the use of contacts with libraries made when promoting West Fork. Both strategies produced sales, though most of the library programs for Another Life involved book club discussions rather than readings. The result has been fewer sales of Another Life. The reason is self-evident. Readings from West Fork piqued interest and stimulated sales. Book club members have already read the book which they usually obtain through interlibrary loan. Sales are limited in most cases to a person who has read the book and wants to give it as a gift.
The marketing plan for Another Life focused on libraries as outlets for public programs. Authors of other books can consider whether the topic of the book might have a specific appeal to other types of organizations devoted an ethnic heritage, a charitable cause, a geographical area, or other interests. Programs for such groups are promising opportunities for sales. I had the opportunity to speak about West Fork to a cultural center in one small town and business association in another. Each resulted in the sale of eight books.
Social Media and Online Sales
I do not have a social media presence. The online profile for Another Life has been created by the 918studio press website. I do keep 918studio press informed of any readings, signings, or book club discussions where I will appear.
918studio press has also arranged for the platforms that sell Another Life online as hard copy or an e-book. The sales have been modest, but they do reach a wider geographical market. The e-book version also makes the novel available to readers who have vision limitations and need larger print. Sales through online platforms have been a bonus to me as an author, though they have provided a limited return to the publisher.
West Fork was not sold as an e-book or through online orders of hard copies. I did have a simple website created for West Fork. Visitors to the site could read the prologue, learn about me as an author, find bookstores that sold the novel, and print a form to order copies by mail. I received ten orders for the book by mail on the forms available to print from the website.
Targeted social media efforts can generate sales of books from local authors and small presses. The illustrator who created the cover art for Another Life and West Fork recently did the illustrations for a children’s picture book from an Australian publisher. The book does not have a distributor in the United States.
My friend has marketed the book on her own. The book recounts traditional Norwegian troll tales. Many of her sales have through Norwegian heritage organizations in Wisconsin and Iowa. Before Christmas, she put social media to work. She posted information on a neighborhood Facebook page and a social media site called Next Door that is designed to reach people nearby. This effort resulted in the sale of a dozen books.
I have not created a business card for myself. Given the relatively low cost of business cards, this might be a worthwhile step. In seeking library programs, my contacts have generally been made face-to-face during my regular travels. I have carried a small letter describing the novel in question and giving my contact information. I believe a full sheet of paper is less likely to be misplaced or overlooked than a business card.
I have used paid advertising twice. The Wapsipinicon Almanac is a magazine published in Anamosa, Iowa that I admire very much. I purchased a modestly priced ad in the Almanac for West Fork that listed all the bookstores in Iowa that sold the novel. This was a way to support the Almanac and say thank you to the bookstores. I had no way of measuring the impact on sales.
I also purchased an advertisement for West Fork in the weekly Madison, Wisconsin newspaper, Isthmus. The paper had done an investigative report on a regional supermarket chain that manipulated its employment practices to prevent low-paid workers from receiving benefits. I purchased an ad in Isthmus purely to support the newspaper. West Fork was for sale in three Madison bookstores at the time. If the ad had an impact on sales of the book, it was not enough to pay for the cost of the advertisement.
Newspaper coverage equates to free advertising for a book, but newspapers print only what they identify as newsworthy. In 2014, two Quad City newspapers ran short feature articles on West Fork. The book was written by a local author and published by a local college. Its focus on the change in the regional landscape and culture resulting from farm consolidation was a topic of interest to readers in the service areas of the papers. That constituted three reasons to make the publication of the novel newsworthy.
Another Life did not generate as much newspaper coverage in part because the theme of the novel did not have the same type of direct relevance to an issue in the region. In addition, readership of newspapers has continued to decline, and the papers can afford to print fewer pages.
Most local newspapers are cooperative in running short notices about signings in bookstores and programs in libraries. Most have online forms to complete when submitting news releases. If possible, try to find a local connection to include in releases sent to newspapers. For any release I send to a newspaper in Iowa, I always include the fact that the story is set in Iowa. I did a signing in Clinton and noted that the co-owner of 918studio press, which published Another Life, grew up in the Clinton area. The newspaper published the release and included that information.
Because most of my marketing has involved face-to-face contact, I have enjoyed meeting and working with a significant number of librarians and bookstore owners and managers. The overwhelming number have been helpful and supportive. The people who operate bookstores are excited when they discover a local author or small press that is producing good work. Conversely, they are placed in an awkward position if a person comes in with a poorly written or produced book.
All authors should remember that good marketing starts with a quality book. Writing creatively, revising thoughtfully, proofreading painstakingly, and designing attractively are the first steps in successful marketing.
This month’s author spotlight features John Mundt, the author of comic books as well as short stories featuring his comic character, Monkey. He published his four issues of The Adventures of Monkey comic books over two decades ago, so he has seen the book marketing landscape change greatly. In addition to having his comic books, John also used his publishing efforts as ways to establish himself as a comic book creator, stating, “In comics, as in many other creative enterprises, the best way to show that you can do something is to have already done it.”
John started with a written marketing plan in the year leading up to his first publication and has been revising it ever since. He said, “I wrote it all out, especially my plan to maximize my meager budget (maybe $400?) by getting as much free press/promotion as possible, based primarily on personal appearances. At the time, there were many specialty comic book stores, most of which would freely host – and often advertise for – me at a comics signing event for a percentage of my sales made that day.” The first change he made was to “to offer to make an in-store appearance, complete with sketches and giveaways for attendees, for a standard number of books purchased in advance. With guaranteed sales, I could plot actual ‘tours,’ like my Mighty Monkeyssippi Tour, which started in Bemidji, Minnesota, and followed the Mississippi, store by store, all the way down to Dubuque, Iowa. An ‘event’ made advertising easier and press coverage somewhat more ‘legit.’”
John also uses regular press releases to promote his events. He said, “For other marketing (and, remember, this was pre-internet), I had a mailing list, cultivated from my in-store appearances (I literally had a sign-up book on the table next to my comics), and a newsletter! Everyone who signed up got at least one newsletter, and early sign-ups got annual holiday cards as well (usually with some mention of the most recent or soon-to-be-released product).”
John occasionally used paid advertising, mostly to industry and trade publications aimed at comic book shop owners, with “obvious, but not dramatic” results. He said, “When I’ve placed ads for direct sales or to advertise a personal appearance, I’ve felt like I was just throwing money away. The best ‘paid’ ads that I’ve utilized have been to create and place actual semi-collectible ‘items,’ such as bookmarks, trading cards, and coupons, into the hands of potential readers,” such as giving convention attendees goody bags and leaving them behind after personal appearances.
When asked how book marketing has changed since his first publication, John said, “Things have definitely changed since I first published. In the late 1990s, the comics market – which had grown bloated by investment mentality and manipulation of the false goalpost of ‘market share’ – collapsed. That, coupled with the growth of internet retail sites, like Amazon and eBay, also killed the once thriving network of comics shops. So, my comfortable marketing plans (wherein I was once on a first name basis with dozens of comics shop owners, national distributors, and comics convention organizers) were suddenly moot. I now mostly hand-sell my books at personal appearances.”
Though marketing his books has become easier over the years with “tricks” he’s learned, John still feels basically uncomfortable with what he says “feels like very public begging.” He explained, “In a perfect world, I would create my comics, show them to passersby, and politely accept questions, comments, or even sales from whoever offered them. That, of course, isn’t the best way. I don’t know what ‘the best way’ is, I guess, but I know it’s not passive. More than just a way to sell, I think the state of my marketing becomes a measure of the value of my work (it stands to reason that the more enthusiastic I am about what I do, the more others will want to share in that feeling by obtaining my work…or at least they’ll be curious enough to check it out).”
When asked what has surprised him about book marketing, John said, “The biggest surprise has been that it is much more work to market a comic book than it is to publish, or even create it. Marketing never ends. It may ebb, it may take a hiatus, but it never really stops. And it is always changing. And it can be frustrating. And I still do it. I’ve experienced numerous – and humorous – failures along the way. If I’ve had any success, I credit naïve persistence.”
His humor is clearly evident in this list of his chronological marketing strategies:
- If I Make It, They Will Come: doesn’t work, they didn’t come
- Traveling Salesman: works, but no guarantee of sales, so you’d better hustle if you want to pay for gas, food, etc.
- Buy Something, Get Something: that presale plan worked pretty well, with the hardest part being the logistical and sales legwork beforehand
- Cultivating a Reader Database: the newsletters, mailings, and reward system I used – and still use somewhat – created a core group of “fans,” upon which I could rely
- Contests and Coupons and Swag – Oh My!: worked surprisingly well, but was costly, especially in ordering minimums and shipping charges
- I’m John Mundt, Esq., And You Can Too: I “morphed” my personal appearance plans to include workshops and lectures…which works very well, especially since I often get paid before I even sell a single comic
- Have Marker, Will Travel: another version of the personal appearance, this as a guest or featured artist…which is often more work but has side benefits of helping hone my skills while also doing real-time market research
- Online Storefront: works only slightly better than If I Make It, They Will Come
- Quirky Curiosity: just being “weird” is part of the plan now, so I end up selling my comics in oddball, otherwise unrelated locales, like coffee shops, libraries, gaming stores, and museums…which is kind of hit-and-miss
John still uses elements of all these strategies when it’s appropriate. For social media, he mostly uses Facebook to stay connected and network but has plans to sell through social media, stating, “ I do, however, have plans. Evil plans. Well, not ‘evil,’ I guess. Just regular plans that include the social media promotion of a new, graphic novel style comic to be released in the near future. Stay tuned!”
His advice to an author who is about to publish and enter the book marketing world is, “Be ready to change. Like, all the time. Your audience, and opportunities, may surprise you, and take you down a road – both creatively and in regards to marketing – that you hadn’t even considered. Never pigeonhole yourself. Oh, and find ways to share with potential readers whatever made your work exciting enough to create in the first place. Enthusiasm sells.”
When asked if he had anything else to say about writing, being an author, or book marketing, John said, “Nope. I’ve heard or read so many crummy, contradictory, or self-aggrandizing author statements and ‘advice’ through the years that I just can’t do it with a clear conscience. I’ll just suggest that, if you have ever wanted to write, you should. Follow your passion.”
Learn more about John at his website at johnmundtesquire.com, which has “lots of different features, including a step-by-step process page, a blog, interviews, a story in progress, behind the scenes stuff, and more.”
You may have heard of imposter syndrome, which is essentially that you feel like a fraud and that you don’t deserve the praise you get because you’re not as good as people think you are. It can also be a fear that one day people are going to wake up and realize that you have no idea what you’re talking about and that you actually suck.
Imposter syndrome is common in writers; many times there is absolutely no basis upon which to base this fear, but sometimes (at least in our own minds), we have pretty convincing reasons to believe it.
In addition to my occasional feelings of being an imposter in other areas, one area in which I feel like a true imposter is in book marketing.
You see, I don’t have a best-selling book. I’m not listed on any best seller lists. I haven’t won any major awards. I don’t even earn a livable income off of my book sales.
But here I am, giving book marketing advice, selling book marketing services, and offering book marketing courses.
Sometimes I feel like I should just give it up.
But then I give a book marketing presentation or talk with authors about book marketing, and they tell me how helpful I’ve been.
So here’s what I tell myself to keep going.
First, marketing is more than just book sales. It also involves the product, which involves a solid story, good editing, and physical (or digital) book design. I truly believe (most days) that though of course, my books could be better, they are good products. I believe in them and when writing imposter syndrome isn’t getting me down, I believe the people who tell me they’ve liked them.
Second, there is no one-size-fits-all, magic bullet, this-will-work-for-everyone book marketing solution. Every author is different. Every book is different. And what may work for one book may not work for another. So, just because I’m not selling millions of books with my ideas, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t. And since I consider myself a creative, idea person, I may help someone else come up with something that will work for their book, but that wouldn’t fit mine.
Third, book marketing isn’t a guarantee; it’s designed to give a book the best chance. It’s nearly guaranteed that if you do absolutely nothing to market your books, they won’t sell, but employing some book marketing strategies will help to give it the best chance of selling. A lot of authors don’t know marketing basics, and thanks to my education (marketing certificate and M.B.A.) and experience, I can help guide them at least through the basics, if not specific ideas that make sense for them.
So, even though there are days I feel like I should throw in the towel and admit my fraudulent ways, I’ll keep going, helping other authors to market their books in the best way I can that makes the most sense for them, their readers, and their books, as well as working on my own book marketing to see if I can get something to stick for someone.
It’s December. The end of the year is near. Perhaps you are either wrapping up your current year goals, or perhaps you’re just scrapping them and planning to start over next year.
Sometimes it’s difficult to stay motivated when marketing books, especially when it gets toward the end of the year with all of the holiday preparations, family get-togethers, and so many other things taking our attention.
And this is fine. I see nothing wrong with taking some time off to regroup and prepare for the next year. But if you feel yourself losing your motivation too often, earlier than you’d like, or you’d just prefer to push through until the very end, make sure you have defined your why.
Your why is the reason you do what you do. It involves your author as well as your life vision and goals.
My ultimate vision/goal is to live abundantly while writing, traveling, and helping other authors. How does book marketing fit in? In order to live abundantly doing anything, I have to be bringing in an income. Selling books allows me to do that largely from home, which can help me to travel more. I could even market books while I travel. I also find it difficult to help other authors market their books if I’m not at least trying to market mine. Selling more books also begets selling more books, which will allow me to keep writing books.
For me, it’s all intertwined, so book marketing is very important to my why.
To find yours, keep asking yourself why until you can go no further. It could be as short as why do I want to market books? So I can sell more books. Why do I need to sell more book? To bring in income. Why do I need to bring in income? So I can write my next book. Why do I need to write my next book? Because I love it, I have something to say, and it’s what makes me feel whole and satisfied. When the why seems to be intrinsically motivated, you’ve found yours.
What’s your why for book marketing? I’d love to hear about them if you’d like to share in the comments section.
This month’s author spotlight features Kim Sigafus, a multi-title author in fiction and non-fiction, all of them featuring Native Americans. For her eight titles published over the last decade or so, Kim hasn’t had a formal marketing plan, though she did make a list of ideas to try. She’s always trying out new marketing ideas and networking with other authors to find more new ideas. Over time, she’s learned what works for her and what doesn’t.
When asked how she feels about marketing, Kim said, “Yuk. I find it hard to toot my own horn, which you have to do to get books sold.” The fact that marketing is just as much work as writing the book surprised Kim, “After I got the first one out, I was immediately struck by how creative I would need to be when marketing for such a niche genre as Native American titles.” She added, “At first, I did try all the traditional marketing ideas and they went okay. When I found my platform I now work within, the bookselling and publicity became easier. In the beginning, I was surprised people would come out and hear me speak and then buy books afterward. Then I realized that WAS the way I would be selling books. I rarely do a book signing at a store these days. I would say 90% of book sales come from my Native American presentations.”
Some things Kim has tried to market her books include press releases, book signings, radio, bookmarks, and social media, but has found that it’s her Native American presentations that sell her books. She’s bought newspaper advertising but said they didn’t go over too well since not too many people read the newspaper anymore. Facebook, email, and a website where “people can see what’s going on with me and the writing by checking up on me there” have worked the best for her online.
When asked what advice about selling and marketing books she would offer to a new author, Kim said, “Everyone has to market their work. Even famous people have to push their work out there. Keep trying new things until you discover what works for you. Network with other writers. Join a writing group.” On the writing life in general, she said, “Becoming an author has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. But it’s nothing like I thought it would be. People have preconceived notions about writers; what we look like, how our day goes, what it’s like to write and create. What I can say about it is, it’s harder than you could ever imagine, one of the craziest things you could ever take on, and one of the most rewarding things you can ever experience. It’s really hard work, so those who don’t have to get those words down on paper just don’t do it. For the rest of us, it’s like clearing your head of the people living in it and taking up space reserved for other things.” She added, “Marketing is really about finding your personal niche and then carving out selling points for yourself. It’s an ongoing process, and changes over time.”
Kim has demonstrated that the key to being a successful author (according to your own definition) takes time, testing, and practice as well as learning about yourself, your readers, and what works for both. Learn more about Kim at her website. Her books are available for sale on Amazon and Smashwords.
The Life and Times of the Ojibwa People, 2006, McIver Publishing
Native Writers, 2011, Native Voices, Book Publishing Company
Native Elders, 2012, Native Voices, Book Publishing Company
The Dress, McIver Publishing
The Mida, McIver Publishing
The Mida Book Two, Finding Genny, McIver Publishing
The Mida Book Three, Destiny of Darkness and Light, McIver Publishing
The Mida Book Four, Perilous Choices, McIver Publishing
Last weekend I gave a presentation on branding at the Davenport (Iowa) Public Library’s first Indie Author Day. As is smart to do with any content, I thought I’d repurpose a bit of it into a blog post.
When working with branding for book marketing, there are essentially three steps to follow.
- Define Your Brand
Whether you like it or not, people are going to form opinions about you and your writing, thereby defining your brand. So why not do your best to steer those opinions? In addition to considering your genre, writing style, voice, etc. in defining your brand, think also about other aspects of your personality, outside interests, and goals. Incorporate your reader as well, deciding what benefit you’d like him or her to get from your books. If you’re a genre hopper, think about focusing more on the “author” part of the author brand or incorporating a common theme or element throughout your books, such as a hobby, emotion, or setting.
- Build Brand Awareness
Steps two and three are very similar, but I think of building brand awareness more as being your brand. Behave and make choices about how you conduct your business, marketing, and life in accordance with your brand. As an indie author, readers will often encounter you before your books, so make sure they know what to expect. The last thing you want is for them to expect one thing from interacting with you at an event, buy your book, be disappointed, and leave a negative review.
Part of this step is also choosing those style elements that symbolize your brand: colors, logo, font, graphics, etc. that you use on everything that represents you and your brand.
- Promote Your Brand
You also build brand awareness through step number three, promoting your brand. When you are promoting your book, you are also promoting your brand. You can promote your brand through content marketing with the book itself (cover, typeset, etc.), website, social media, blogging, business cards, bookmarks, etc. You can promote your brand more personally with appearances, book signings, readings, and author fairs.
Whatever you do with your author brand, make sure that you are doing your best to drive it where you want it to go instead of leaving it up to chance. Little by little, you will create the brand you desire.
Do you have any questions or ideas on author branding? If so, please share in the comment section.
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