There are countless articles on the web about marketing strategies. Some make suggestions based on observations or statistical data. Some offer one person’s success story and how if you do the same thing some other person did, you can be just as successful. Ultimately, marketing is about time, patience, hard work, and building a name for yourself. For an author, that’s a very individual brand. In the words of Sarah Natale, authors are entrepreneurs. We have to sell ourselves before we can sell our product.
So what does that look like? Well I can’t tell you some short-term success story or a two-step process that somehow works. But I can tell you to try different methods and see what works for you. Everyone is different, and as an author, that difference is what will make you stand out and draw more attention. You have to get out there and never give up.
For me, I have found the most success in physical human interaction. I have sold more copies of books through book signings or with connecting with individuals than I have from digital sales. Don’t get me wrong. The web is a great resource, especially if you know how to use it. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
Book signings are just one way to get in front of people. It gives me a great opportunity to get my face and name out there. Plus, I hand out tons of free bookmarks. It costs me next to nothing if someone decides to read my book and then enjoys it! I also don’t just sit down or stand near a poster and try to get people to come to me. I come fully prepared. I dress up as the fearsome captain, Amethyst, purple hair and all, which definitely draws eyes. I also wander away from the signing table to talk to people and learn more about them. They usually end up having lots of questions for me too, which being in a pirate costume provokes, of course.
In fact, I will even gladly take on a critic. I once had one individual approach me at a signing proclaiming that my book probably wasn’t good and that I wouldn’t have to offer it if I could actually sell it. I challenged him back and happily offered a synopsis. Bystanders overheard and I ended up selling some copies and handing out several more bookmarks to potential readers simply because this one critical individual had drawn attention my way.
Another method of interaction is in just talking to people I’m around or I meet. I am fortunate enough to work in a place that gets me in front of new people all the time. In brief simple conversations, I often ask people to tell me something they enjoy or have interest in. And often, they’ll ask or give me a chance to talk about my passion: my writing. As a result, I end up handing out more bookmarks and getting myself in front of more potential readers. And it’s not because I’m throwing my book at them asking them to buy it. It’s because I express interest in them first and if they have interest in reading my work, then the option for them is there. I think this point is very important.
Which brings me to my next point. Blog posts and the web. As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t had as much digital success as I have with print copies. However, that’s not to say the web doesn’t have its own benefits. What I’ve learned from the web is that people trust what someone else says about me way more than what I say. After all, I can say whatever I want about myself, right? But someone else has a higher chance of being honest. So what’s worked for me on the web? Well, I’ve received a few reviews that definitely drew in attention. And there are plenty of promotional services that do give exposure and some sales. Though most of them aren’t always pocket friendly.
But here’s what I feel really gets exposure. Blogging. I’ll admit I’m not the best blogger. And I’m still learning a lot about writing blogs, frequency of posts, etc. But I will say that it’s important to find something fun and engaging to post about other than my book. The purpose of my blog is not to sell books. It’s for me as an author to build my name and my brand and get exposure. Ultimately, I want to gain readers and fans that are in my niche, so to speak, not milk people. But of course, authors must make livings too. The purpose is for others to get somewhat of a taste of my writing and if they want more, to dig a little deeper where they’ll find my book.
So since I’ve talked some about what has worked for me, that leaves the question, what hasn’t worked? Well one thing is doing nothing. No, seriously. I’ve actually seen a suggested marketing method that is: don’t do anything. Just give it time. Well, if you don’t do anything, no one will know you or your book are even there. That’s not to say there isn’t power in the word of mouth. Already many of my readers have given me some success by talking about my book with their friends and so on. But that doesn’t mean as the author I just sit back and hope the fire continues. I have to continue to fuel it.
Along with that means that I can’t only suggest my book once or with the same people. I have to look for ways to get in front of new people and continue talking about my passion and my writing. People won’t just take interest because I ask them to. I have to find people that already have an interest in what I’m offering and then show them that it’s worth their time. And part of that is expressing passion about it. Even if my book, as my first one, has flaws, if they can feel the excitement and the passion in the story, they’ll enjoy it. And that’s really my goal.
Along with speaking with people is being very specifically aware of my work and where it belongs. I’ve discovered that just because Amethyst is fantasy doesn’t mean that everyone who reads fantasy will enjoy it. In fact, I’ve learned that most people think of dragons and castles and knights rescuing princesses with magical swords when they think of fantasy. I have to be clear with those I talk to that my book is pirate fantasy and quite unorthodox at that. If I’m too general, I’ve actually had readers dismiss it or when they do look into it, they immediately decide it’s not for them because it’s not their type of fantasy.
So to recap, I’ve found that when it comes to marketing strategies an individual must see what works for them. And when you do find what works, don’t expect fast results. Building a brand and a name takes patience and time and perseverance. For me, book signings, free bookmarks, and just talking with people and getting physically out there has given me the most success with actual sales. I’ve also had success with blogging and third party promotions and reviews, more so with exposure and getting in front of people than with actual sales. But that can have long-term sales too. What hasn’t worked is being too general or hoping that people will find it on their own.
I hope if you’re an author, what I’ve learned will offer some help!
~ K.L. Dimago