Monday, March 24, 2014

In Which I Theorize on Marketing

Marketing is an odd bird. In the course of two years marketing the same dang book, I’ve learned a few things. One, (the most obvious), you need another dang book. I’m working on it. Two, I’ve stopped counting my “sales”. I barely check my rank anymore.

When I get to talking to another author, who is inevitably trying to hock their book (like me), the topic always comes back to marketing. What works, what doesn’t, our own theories and ideas on what will be the “breakthrough”. I’m by no means an expert on the subject. My one book (soon to be two) hovers between 100K and 300K on a good day. In its heyday, it hung out at 20K for months, and even hit the top 1000 for a few weeks. Ah, the glory days. Other authors understand this speak: I’m talking Amazon rank, of course. The ever elusive little orange “Bestseller” tag (hurry! Get a screenshot!), what books it’s sandwiched between, what authors you can rub virtual elbows with, those elite NYT Bestsellers that are firmly seated among those ranks daily and probably never even look.

Whenever we chat about marketing, and I say, Oh, I’m on Goodreads or Twitter or Facebook or a member of WFWA or Sisters in Crime or whatever, the other author will eventually, inevitably, ask the question that makes me cringe now (it didn’t always): Does it help your sales? “It” being whatever network is currently on the table. We want that direct link, that easy answer. “Oh, yes! That’s it! I’m not on Goodreads, that’s why I haven’t sold my first million. OF COURSE!” Big sigh of relief, let’s all have a beer.

That’s not how it works, guys. I’m sorry. I wish it was. We’ve all heard it before, I think we just refuse to believe it. Behind every overnight sensation is YEARS of baby steps marketing efforts. Hours of watching page views (blog or Facebook), sending Friend Requests, building a Twitter following, attending book signings, donating paperbacks to libraries, used bookstores, gift shops, and if you’re like me, small press published, then tracking all this information on consignment.

I think book marketing is a marathon. There is no “breakthrough” moment. I try every day to make one new connection. One new person that I didn’t know in my writing world before. Whether it be a new friend who doesn’t really know I’m a writer until I invite them to “Like” my author page, or reaching out and genuinely commenting on someone’s blog that I found interesting/touching. What I don’t do, anymore, is worry about if the action I’m taking today will result in a sale tomorrow. The answer is probably, no, not directly.

In my experience, sales are organic. Maybe you comment on Suzy’s blog and you guys have a nice little chat back and forth, but Suzy doesn’t rush right out and buy a copy of your book. Why would she? She probably has her own book to sell. What she might do is check you out, see what you’re about. Maybe she’ll like your cover or your blurb and add you to her Goodreads shelf. Maybe Suzy’s cousin Sally will see this, and maybe she’ll be the one that actually buys your book. Maybe even a month later.  My point is, there is virtually no way to know where every individual sale comes from. Stop trying. If you can attribute each connection you make to a sale then, in my opinion, you’re not doing enough.

Instead, I strive for connection first. After that, I concern myself with exposure. How many different ways can I flash the book cover around (and not be annoying about it)? Blogs (my own and others) are good. Twitter is good, ask for retweets but give back and pay it forward. Facebook events, bookmarks that I leave around public places like doctor’s offices and my accountant’s office (anywhere with a waiting room), and even the local newspaper.
Share the love. Share sales and giveaways of other authors, especially in your genre. Give back to your readers, tell them about a $0.99 Kindle deal in a genre they would probably like (aka similar to yours), and while you’re at it, tag that author. Maybe they’ll pay it back one day, maybe not. Don’t worry about that. Reign in your expectations and stop tracking those who “hit it big” after two months, six months, a year. Put away the measuring stick. Marketing your book is like a healthy diet: It’s a lifestyle change. There are no easy answers.

I have no proof that this works. It’s just a theory, like all the other ramblings on this blog. But it can’t possibly hurt. Learning to market my book has been this incredible growth experience over the past year. I’ve connected with people from all over the globe and people can’t resist authenticity.

For new authors that have asked me for marketing advice here it is: Connection first, then exposure. Be your real, authentic self. Be vulnerable. Ask for help. Show gratitude. Pay it forward and back. Say thank you. If you’re lucky enough to get real fans that aren’t your mom, take care of them. Forget the destination, it doesn’t exist. Enjoy the journey, it’s half the fun. The other half is… well, writing. Oh yeah, back to that.

This thing, right here? Repeat after me: It's all gravy.


  1. Kate this is a really great post. All of it--so so true. Thanks for sharing! And yeah, don't forget the writing the next book part :)

  2. Thanks Melissa! Yeah, write the next book... always :)

  3. What a great approach to marketing! I especially love your tips to connect first and be your authentic self. Thank you for sharing :)