Marketing Like Your Favorite Authors

I’d studied the writing blogs, so I knew when my novel released it was time to get busy. I lined up guest blogs, interviews and book reviews. I advertised on every social media site I could think of. My new website was up and running and I’d had a personal blog going for a few years. I spoke of the book to everyone I came across. I even hawked my book at a nearby fair. You want platform, I’d give you platform.

After a few months, I was exhausted. My introverted self felt raw after all of the exposure. And despite some great reviews of the book and a ton of five star comments on Amazon, the book hadn’t soared to the bestseller list. Actually, while it definitely had some fans, it hadn’t picked up a lot of notice at all.

I wondered why I’d signed up for a writing career in the first place. I had a busy life with a full time job and a family. Who had time for all of this marketing, which by the way, was definitely not my forte? Marketing had taken so much of my time, I’d forgotten about the joy of writing fiction. Because of course, I wasn’t writing fiction. I didn’t have the time.

I began to study some of my favorite novelists and surveyed what they’d done as far as platform, and the answer was surprising. Almost nothing.

They all had websites of course. Lisa Samson started a blog, but stopped, saying the blog was stealing the creativity and time she needed to write. Dale Cramer and Athol Dickson blogged, but were invariably inconsistent, sometimes going a ctypewriterouple of months without a post. Davis Bunn’s blog posts were regular, but were strictly announcements about his book events and reader praise. Penelope Wilcock writes hers like a diary, simply telling about searching for a lost cat or going to the dentist.

Sure, most writers did interviews and some guest pieces when a book came out. They did a few bookstore signings around the release and perhaps a speaking engagement or two in between. But they focused their time on what they were best at: writing amazing novels.

Because they were single-minded and purposeful about their fiction, they had output. They improved their craft. They built a readership.

No press in the world will help you if you’re not writing new material, right? And yes, getting noticed is a bit random. Fantastic writers sometimes stay near the bottom of the midlist while so-so writers are household names.

But I’ve decided to follow my writer role models, best sellers or midlist. Yes, I’ll do occasional blogging and other marketing. I’ve got my social media set up and will make some posts and connect to readers who contact me.

But in the end, I’m not a social media expert or a blogger or a speaker. I create story worlds and characters. I play with words. I edit what I’ve written until it’s the book I’d want to read. It’s what I’m good at and it’s what I love. It’s also what makes me a writer.

So this is the best marketing advice I’ve got, as backwards as it might seem: write more, write better.

13 Replies to “Marketing Like Your Favorite Authors”

  1. The only thing I would add is that blogging allows someone to build a platform without “any basis.” For example, I decided a long time ago I wasn’t going to write a book and “hope” people cared to purchase it. I created so I could successfully market my book without the need of anyone else. Platforms as only as useful as you make them, thus a person that creates a platform for the sole purpose of selling their product will actually see a benefit. Sure, write to write, but also remember every blog follower is a potential sell. -OM

  2. Wow, Rachel! you’re speaking what I’m hearing from many authors lately (who don’t even do social media). The best advertisement is continued, good content! I’ve blogged consistently for years, but the truth is, my FICTION is what I do best, and the blogs don’t show that. I’ve decided to do some self-publishing of shorter works to get the content out there. We’ll see how it works.

  3. Thank you! One of the main issues I have had with writing a book is that I cannot bring myself to jump on the “self marketing” bandwagon. I decided long ago that if that is what it takes, I will never be published. And I am an extrovert!

  4. Great thoughts here, Rachel. I was really surprised how much marketing sucked time away from writing and I’ve been contemplating, too, inverting this relationship back to writing more– especially in light of having a “real” job, or two.

  5. Rachel, you’re singing the song I’ve been hearing from many of my colleagues, both multi-published and pre-published. Blogs are frosting on the cake. Twitter and Facebook help us “connect” with readers. But good writing is what brings those readers back again and again. Thanks for sharing.

  6. It’s so nice to know that others are on the same wave length. Writing fiction is why we (novelists) are here. And our readers are mostly looking for more fiction, not more blogs, appearances, or other non-fiction.

    Connie, I think putting some short fiction is an excellent idea if you have the time. It’s closer to what your target audience is looking for.

  7. Thank you!!!! I just breathed a big sigh of relief. I’m with you — I love to write. it’s my love, my passion, my favorite. In between we all pour into the places that matter most to us. I love your authenticity, honesty and faith in what we do. Believing that what we do best will lead us where we really want to go. I just got a letter the other day from a woman who was in pain when she stumbled on my book at work. She said how God spoke to her through it, how much healing happened, how much value it placed on her that she never thought she had. That’s it for me, Connie. Knowing I touched a life — of course we want to touch more — but we write All for the One. Love, Jen

  8. Amen! For awhile now, I’ve noticed an interesting fact about myself. When I try to focus on building a platform, I can’t seem to tell the stories that matter most (my tagline). Duh! Honestly, I’m still wrestling with the solution to that issue. So, thanks for sharing your struggle with us!

  9. Thanks so much for this!

    Another big problem with focusing too much on marketing is that it can be “self-centering” — you become so focused on website hits, “likes” on your page, etc. that it seems to cramp the soul. Writing something, on the other hand, feels different: more freeing and liberating.

  10. I’m glad I stumbled across this. I’ve said the same thing from the beginning, and still believe it. Concentrate on what matters, and what only you can control– the quality of your writing. Anybody can Facebook or Tweet or Blog, and most do. These are methods by which you can sell a few copies of a mediocre book– once. Or you can spend the time writing a GOOD book (which is a scarcer commodity) and let readers sell it for you– repeatedly. It takes longer, but it feels right.

  11. Dale, I’m so glad you commented. You were one of the authors I was thinking of. I know times were somewhat different when you started your career, but not that different, right? Your books are well known. I’m sure that’s because readers keep recommending you to other readers, the natural result of putting books out that linger in readers’ minds long after the last page. No blog can compare to that.

    1. I started publishing 12 or 13 years ago when the internet was just coming into its own, so every new wave of social media brought a new wave of hysteria for anybody who needed marketing. “Your readers want to KNOW you!” A few of them do, but if you write well, serious readers want to READ you. Would you chat up Marilyn Robinson or Michael Chabon? Back in the 90s a newbie on a writers’ forum asked Diana Gabaldon what was the best way to get published. Diana wrote back, “Write a good book.” It’s also the best way to get read. Dean Koontz said, “Not all popular writers are good, but sooner or later all good writers will be popular.” That seems to me a reasonable approach, win or lose.

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