Promotion & Marketing

Marketing basics for indie authors

From Rick:

For the next two posts, we’re going to talking about marketing. Next week, author Jordan Ring will be doing a guest post to share his thoughts and experiences on marketing and promotion, along with some good advice and tips.

A while back I ran across a piece of advice to writers that said, “If you don’t enjoy promotion, then you’re doing it wrong.” Seeing people buy and read our books should be a rewarding experience, so telling people about them should be enjoyable. The odds that enough people will find our book on Amazon by chance, without any work on our part, is slim indeed these days. Too many books exist out there for that to happen very often. Even before the Internet, in the days when bookstores represented the only way to discover books (other than by the recommendation of friends), unless the books were prominently displayed (face out, not spine out), they were difficult to discover. As an author, if you are committed to marketing your work but find marketing a chore, then you’re approaching it wrong.

“But I don’t like doing marketing!” or “I don’t have time for it!” are lames excuses that I’ve heard too many times before. Do you take pride in what you’ve written? Whether you are a serious writer or just writing as a hobby, I must assume that you want people to read your work. How will they find out about it if you don’t make some effort to tell them?

And if you expect to make at least some money from your writing, then you will have to promote it. Writing for fun or not, it’s a business, and you are self-employed either part time or full time in that business. Therefore, you have to promote the business so people know about it. Promoting your writing is no different from promote yourself and your skills when looking for a job.

The old line from the movie Field of Dreams “if you build it, they will come” in the sense of “if you self-publish on Amazon (or wherever), then people will magically find your book and buy it is not going to be the case. I’ve told you before here that even if you have a publisher, then the publisher will only do a limited amount to marketing for your particular book. After that, it’s up to you. Otherwise, you book will sink into obscurity.

The good news, however, is that even if your book has sunk into obscurity, you can rescue it.

But if you honestly believe that you do not have to be involved (and do not want to be involved) in marketing and promoting for your book—regardless of how it’s published—then you might as well lower sales expectations.

However, you can always think about paying a publicist to do the dirty work. Here’s an article that explores that avenue.


Did that sink in? Do you have a few thousand bucks to pay a publicist without any guarantee that it will work?

From here on, I will be talking about marketing exclusively as it applies to self-published books because you won’t have much control over the marketing aspects of a traditionally published book other than helping to spread the word (so your publisher can rake in the bulk of the profits from your efforts).

As I was thinking about writing this blog post originally, I thought about what marketing involves at the most basic level, and I came up with the following three points:

—Find your customers/audience
—Convince them to buy your product/book
—Get them to spread the word to others about it

I’ve assumed that you’ve already taken the necessary steps of having a good book to sell: well written, properly edited, a good cover, and a good promotional blurb to go with it.

I also ran across this quote:

“Marketing is all activities conducted to prepare for sales.”

Then I looked up marketing principles on the Internet to see if I’d hit the mark. I found the following article (among others with similar content) and saw that I pretty much had figured out what are called the 4 P’s of marketing on my own (because they’re common sense).


You should read the article first (it’s short), then come back here.

Let’s break four P’s down down as they apply to books.

PRODUCT: You have something to market. Presumably when you wrote your book, you had some general idea of who your readers might be (something more specific than just “everyone” because not everyone reads the same types of books). While your book may not fill a “gap” in the market that the article mentions, it should fulfill some consumer desire for your particular type of book, be it fiction or nonfiction. When Scott and I wrote Punctuation for Fiction Writers, we felt that no adequate book dedicated exclusively to this topic existed, and it should be a welcome help to writers.

PRICE: In general book prices fall into a certain range, and the profits can be readily calculated from Amazon’s royalty figures. A little bit of research will give you good guidance on pricing your book competitively and not undervaluing or overvaluing it.

PROMOTION: This is the heart of marketing. Making customers aware of your product is the hardest part and involves the most work. But it can also be fun as you stretch your creativity to find those readers without wasting too much time or money. Jordan Ring will address this aspect next week.

PLACE: When it comes to self-published books, we’ve already said that it’s difficult trying to get into bookstores because most sales happen online, and it’s often not worthwhile to spend too much time on that. I’m not dismissing local bookstores, especially if you might have a good potential local reader base. The bulk of online sales will likely happen through Amazon currently, but there are other places where you should list your book. Smashwords, for example, reaches many other distributors, and that’s a good place to use in addition to Amazon.

The “P” of Promotion is a big one, and it will be your greatest challenge. My best advice is to do a little at a time, rather than attempting to blast your book everywhere initially. When it comes to self-publishing, time is on your side. Don’t overwork yourself because you need to keep writing as well. Strive to build a readership gradually while you write more books to help spread your name.

That last part is very important. If your readers like your first book, then they’ll want more from you. If you have more, you’ll hopefully build a dedicated readership. If you stop at one or two books, your readers will soon forget about you and move on to other writers. To be successful, a business needs to grow and produce more product, or it will eventually go out of business. That’s where you decide your motivation for writing: just for fun, or to be a serious writer.

Until next week…