Spend enough time in the writing blogosphere, and you’ll find all sorts of information on all sorts of topics. But by far the most misunderstood and misrepresented area is that of marketing. We all know that once you write a book, you’re going to have to market it somehow, but opinions on how to best do that vary wildly.
Today we’re going to take a look at the most common fiction-marketing fallacies:
If you spend any time at all on writers’ sites and blogs, you will hear the opinion that platform (and marketing) is the only thing you need to sell a book. Quality doesn’t matter, just the number of followers you have on social media, the numbers of subscribers on the mailing list, and number of free books you can “sell” on Amazon to boost rank. Proponents of this idea cite badly-written but heavily promoted books from the New York Times Bestseller list.
But this is unquestionably a fallacy. For one thing, it reflects a poor view of the reader, supposing that buyers can’t tell a good book from a bad book. Even if you do manage to sell bad books through your marketing methods alone, readers will only be fooled once. They won’t buy your next one. Your goal should be to write an excellent book, market it well, and rely on good reviews and word of mouth to help build momentum for your next release.
Inspirational romance author, Becky Wade says it best: “An author who invests thousands of dollars and hours in publicizing her novel will convince some people to spend their hard-earned money and time on it. But if her readers aren’t crazy about her book, they won’t buy her next one. Worse, they might tell their friends not to bother. So what’s the author accomplished, ultimately? In my opinion, the best way for any author to get word of mouth going is to write a book that readers love.”
2. Platform can wait.
On the opposite side of “marketing is king” is the idea that fiction writers don’t need a platform. While it’s true that platform is far more essential for a non-fiction writer, who will rely on his or her established network of followers to sell books, fiction writers still need to give some thought to how they will reach their readership.
You don’t need a ready-built platform to acquire an agent or sell a novel to an editor. But, at some point in the publishing process, your acquiring editor, marketing manager, or publicist will contact you about your marketing plan. You probably don’t want to be thinking about it for the first time when you’re knee-deep in substantive edits. At very least, you should be building a following on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog (if you have decided to blog) pre-publication. It would also be helpful to think about the rudimentary bones of a marketing plan, including your mission statement as a writer.
3. Social media is the only method you need to sell books.
The third fallacy is probably the most widespread. Writers spend hours a day on Facebook and Twitter plugging their books to their followers. Social media can be a great place to interact with readers, but it’s certainly not the main place that books are getting sold. (And over-promoting on social media is more likely to lose you followers than create new fans.)
According to Jeane Wynn, President and CEO of the publicity firm Wynn-Wynn Media, “It takes all types of media to sell books. Social media is one component of a successful publicity campaign, but so are trade reviews, online reviews, blogs, and broadcast media. Writers shouldn’t focus on one area to the exclusion of all others.”
Besides, as every writer knows, “marketing” on Facebook can quickly become an avenue to procrastination!
4. My publisher will do all the marketing for me.
It is true that some of the larger publishers, especially in the inspirational market, will do a huge amount of marketing for their authors. For the most part, though, stories of book tours, television commercials, and full page magazine ads are either writer urban legends or perks reserved for best-selling authors with huge followings and major name recognition.
The amount of publicity and marketing help that a publisher will give varies from house to house and even from author to author. Even in the best case scenario where the publisher is involved and proactive, writers should plan on spending a substantial amount of time helping market their books around launch time, whether it’s writing guest blog posts, filling out online interviews, or arranging speaking engagements.
Remember, no one will be a more enthusiastic advocate for your story than you!
Writing a good book may remain the most important focus for an author, but marketing is a large component of turning writing into a paying career. Setting the proper expectations and thinking ahead now will go a long way to smoothing the marketing process during publication.
Carla Laureano has held many job titles–professional marketer, small business consultant, and martial arts instructor–but writer is by far her favorite. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and currently serves as Vice President of the South Denver ACFW chapter, Mile High Scribes. Her debut romance novel, Five Days in Skye, was released by David C Cook in June 2013. The first volume of her three-book young adult fantasy series, The Song of Seare, is due out from NavPress in May 2014. She lives with her husband, two sons, and a menagerie of small pets in Denver, Colorado.