It’s hard for a lot of traditionally-published writers to think of writing as a business. Like self-published writers, we think of writing as craft. We’re compelled to create it, to tell stories, and then we’re inspired to share those stories. But the thing is that we sometimes forget that we need to make money to do things like have food, shelter, coffee products, and to pay medical bills.
This can be a problem.
We avoid marketing because marketing seems? Anti-craft somehow? I’m not sure. But it isn’t. Marketing is really just about getting people to read the books we’ve created. We write stories as communication. Marketing is making sure there is just someone out there to communicate with, right?
I tell this story a lot because it really struck me. I was a speaker at a Rotary International training. There were a ton of wealthy, successful men in suits. I started to introduce myself and I cringed when I said, “I’m a NYT and internationally bestselling author. That always feels weird to say like I’m bragging.”
And this older gentlemen said, “There is no money in modesty, Carrie. Be proud of that.”
And I paused.
And my brain hiccuped.
Because that line is sort of antithetical to who I am. I don’t go out into the world trying to horde money like Smaug or raise massive amounts of money like certain politicians, but I am super psyched to sell books and be able to buy dinner and feed the dogs fake bacon.
But what really matters from that guy’s sentence is that I use my modesty and self-deprecation to my own detriment. Instead of allowing my story to be out there, I sort of hide from the moments of my success. Why is that? That’s the real question. Because it doesn’t just hold back me. It holds back my books and my ability to buy ice-cream cones for the dogs.
Here’s the thing:
It’s okay to be glad to not be sleeping in a car. It’s okay to own your success. It’s even better when you use that success as a tool to help other people get there, too? Right? Modesty is lovely. I have big issues with braggarts. But it’s okay to know that you, yourself, have done some cool things. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do better or more or that other people can’t too.
Marketing is about one thing. It’s about caring.
So, Here are the First Three Tips on How to Successfully Market Your Book.
Spoiler alert: They have nothing to do with marketing.
Make the Best Product
That’s right. Your book is a product. It’s what you’re selling and/or your publisher is selling so you want to make the best book that you can. This is easier said than done.
You have to be willing to put in the work and not be inpatient to get it out there.
Let Trust-Worthy, Skilled People Help You
For some people that means editors at a publishing house, agents, critique groups. For some people that means teachers at MFA programs or places like The Writing Barn. But the key is trust – you have to trust their advice and you have to trust yourself to know when that advice isn’t all that.
Know What Has Worked in the Past, but Also Move Forward
There’s this weird trend in publishing called the “Writer, You’ve Done That Before” rejection, that as a business person? I can’t get my head around. If you’ve written a similar book, but your readers want more of that? Why not give it to them?
Marvel has this down, man. They have movie after movie about the same superheroes, expanding their universes, connecting them, but following a really similar pattern. One of the keys to the company’s success is that they know what their audience reacts to in their stories:
- Humor – deadpan, often flippant
- Big Fight Scenes
- Some emotional resonance
- High stakes
- Relatable protagonists.
So, know what your audience reacts to in your stories. Don’t be a big trope, but know what they like.
In an interview with Nina Pipkin of Entrepreneur Marvel’s director of content and character development, Sana Amanat says, “When you want to make content that is meaningful, I think you have to try to not look at the big statement, but try to go as small as possible. Try to go down to the nitty gritty of who that singular character is — what they want, what they’re afraid of and what their challenges are. What are the elements that really make them a human being? What are the elements that make them relatable? Or even, what are those elements that make the audience angry with them? You really need to make the audience connect with that character.”
The best marketing comes from writing the best stories and characters that you can.
The next steps for marketing your books?
Have a website.
Pick a couple social media platforms and post on them.
Don’t just post READ MY BOOK/BUY MY BOOK. Post about whatever interests you other than your book.
- Do occasionally post READ MY BOOK/BUY MY BOOK. I totally forget to do this, honestly. I’m too busy posting about other people accidentally spitting into my mouth and my skirt falling down.
- Be visual.
- Do video if you can.
Care about the people who communicate with you
- People don’t want to be ignored. If someone reaches out to you in an email, on social media, communicate back. Not only is it the nice thing to do, it helps you make friends. Readers are real people. Treat them like it.
- Remember you aren’t God. You are a human with emotions and flaws and so are the people taking time out of their day to talk to you. Honor that. Honor them.
Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.
So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page. There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.
I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,
I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!
The podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE is still chugging along!
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.
We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.