Marketing: How to Build a Better Book.

I sincerely hope you just threw up in your mouth a little. Chances are, if you give two bits about our blog about starting a publishing company you’re some kind of writer. Would you like me to tell you all about how you should start building your marketing plan before you write the book?

Sounds like a giant crock of junk, doesn’t it?

I’ve been through a whole slew of ‘marketing’ blogs lately, looking for tips and tricks I might have otherwise missed. A disturbing amount of them start with this little tidbit. Like somehow the marketing is a formula, and really what you should do is figure out the best-selling market you can appeal to and then write a book for that.

This is the same quasi-expert advice that says no author should ever change genre or subject matter because it will terrify and confuse the poor addled reader. I don’t buy it. Any of it. I don’t buy that the way to sell a book is to figure out how to sell the book before you’ve written it (because I am an actual writer and not a theoretical one, and my imagination takes great delight in startling me with plot twists at the last possible moment) and I don’t believe readers are passive, terrified, easily confused cows.

Or if they are it’s because some portion of mass publishing has made them that way. Because the only stories that see light are stories they know how to sell.

So, what have I got in the way of actual marketing advice?

First, STOP. Any kind of marketing you do is likely to happen on social media of some sort. No one in the universe wants 687 notifications from you attempting to sell your book/movie/diamond encrusted crochet-hook. A constant litany of the exact words “buy my book from here” will, I can nearly promise, get you absolutely nowhere. You’re a writer. Use those words. Shake it up, for every time you do a straight pitch, do something clever.

Second, develop a personality. Fun fact, the first sci-fi written series I actually devoured all of was because I’d spent ages laughing myself out of my chair over a man who put bacon on his cat. Thus, when it was book buying time, I figured someone who could baconate their cat to such hilarity was worth a try. This is the part you can do before the book is written, or while your writing it, or whatever else. My next big book buying run will be a series by a man who’s blog posts contain so many curse-words I wouldn’t read them in public. But he’s always entertaining and enlightening while he’s at it. He has voice, and that’s something that tends to transfer.

Third, ignore ignore ignore. “Don’t write in more than one genre, it confuses people,” they say. Tosh. Write whatever the crap you want. “Never give your work away for free,” they say. Screw it. Hold a contest, hand it out on the street corner if you want. Don’t break yourself financially, and I’m not sure what your plan is, but it’s your plan. Go to town. Every book is different, every author is different.

Fourth, breathe. There is an extreme amount of pressure wrapped up in marketing. Some things work and some things don’t, and I’ve long come to understand you should do anything you can manage with a straight face. Maybe pitching your book while hanging upside-down from the gutter will appeal to that one person in charge of their fall book group. And then you’ve sold ten copies, instead of just one.

Fifth, GO BACK TO WRITING. Literally every legitimate piece of marketing data I’ve ever seen has said that author’s with a catalog sell better than a one-off. Once that puppy hits shelves, give it a solid marketing push (I can’t tell you how long that is, two weeks or ten) and then go back to writing.

All of that seems obvious, but then I suppose I’m trying to remind myself just as much as I’m telling you.

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One thought on “Marketing: How to Build a Better Book.

  1. Kate says:

    Yeah, marketing blogs are a swirl of contradictory information.

    I highly recommend reading The Business Rousch by Kristine Kathryn Rousch. It’s on her blog and available as an ebook. She focusses on self-publication, but she has a history of running 2 publishing houses and editing a major magazine.

    I second the “just keep writing” aspect as well. I think the best option for writers is to write. If you don’t want to jump right into another novel, write a few short stories, then go back to the next novel. Put the stories into circulation either by self-publishing or by sending them out to editors until they get purchased. (This can be a depressingly long time, so keep a list and keep ’em churning.)

    I laugh in the face of writing in one genre. It’s like writing with one voice. I’m sure that most people can tell it’s *me* writing something, but each story has its own voice. I can’t write a light caper-fic full of bantering with the same voice that I’m writing a high fantasy novel. (They’ll both have banter, I’m sure, but the fantasy novel has a less contemporary feel to it.)

    Make up your own genres. It’s fun.

    Also, go read Chuck Wendig’s blog (so much cursing. Be warned.) and seek out John Scalzi. While you’re at it, why not just see if your favorite author has a blog. Mine does. Her name is Martha Wells. You’ll never know unless you go looking.

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