Almost every day, I see posts about “How to market your book” or someone sends a link to a site that advertises a video to teach you the real skinny on book marketing.
Faithfully, I click. Hope ever, hope on.
And you know what? I never learn anything I didn’t know before.
The first piece of advice is that you were supposed to start your marketing campaign before you ever put pen to paper (or, as in most cases, opened that first Word.doc.), and that you have ALREADY LOST OUT ON VALUABLE PROMOTION TIME!!! because you didn’t.
Now, let’s leave aside the fact that this probably is the most negative start ever to what ought to be an upbeat article.
It’s backwards and idiotic, and I’ll tell you why.
Think about this: what if you do all that marketing for a “tender, delicate, coming-of-age story” and your book winds up being a horror epic about sexual repression and how vampires will suck you dry and leave your empty husk to wander the earth, moaning, forever?
You’ve just spent countless hours attracting a potential audience that is the very antithesis of your target market, and proved that you cannot be trusted.
What if you never actually finish your book, even? That’s a whole lot of wasted time and bandwidth – stuff you can never get back to use for making and advertising your delicious little crocheted dragons that you can sell on Etsy. Or, possibly more to the point, having a long, luxurious bubble bath or six.
The second piece of advice that is always given is to build an enormous social media platform.
Well, duh. If you got that from a Facebook link or post, you probably already have figured this out. And let’s not forget how much time is sucked up by that social media (I mean: Look. Here I am, blogging, instead of getting my main character out of the impossible pickle I put her in last week.)
If someone has a book on the way or already out, and hasn’t put up an author page yet, it is true that they are not maximizing what tiny influence they have within their control. But judging by the number of author pages I have liked just even in the last ten days, I am pretty sure that there isn’t a single writer in the western world who doesn’t have one. Some of them have separate book pages, too. That’s a lot of pages.
Pages and pages that are “Liked”, of course, by every other author in their genre and a slew of other authors, in exchange for you liking their page, too. And there’s a lesson here, which I’ll get back to in a minute.
Then, with fanfare, they give you the real “nugget”, which is to make some adverts with links and post them on a huge long list of Author Promo sites, and, as their special gift to you, they include an clickable link to a list of all the sites they know of where you can do this.
You know who posts on those sites? Every other damned author on the planet not currently actually engaged in writing something.
You know who is reading those endless promos?
Readers don’t go to them. Other authors, trying to sell books go to them for the 12 seconds it takes to add their promo. They aren’t reading other authors’ promos – why should they? They are there to sell books.
Social media, as far as selling books goes, has turned into one enormous echo chamber. It’s a whole bunch of authors screaming mindlessly at each other, ad infinitum.
Just the same as all of us “liking” each others’ author pages. It’s not really accomplishing anything in terms of reaching READERS.
The articles and videos and guides will also tell you to do free giveaways, another obvious suggestion of limited utility, because the culture of “free” is what is keeping a lot of people from buying your books in the first place. There’s so much “free” content out there that most people, consciously or not, are waiting for you to knuckle under and give your stuff away in desperation.
And finally these gurus give you what must be the most obvious and pointless “tip” in the universe. They tell you that “word of mouth” is the best advertisement. They really, really stress this, but when it comes to the “how” part, they are markedly silent.
I have, by rough horseback guess, clicked and read (okay, maybe “started to read” would be more accurate) a thousand of these articles and videos and free guide e-book downloads.
Not a single one has given me any new ideas. Not even one of them has told me something I hadn’t already figured out before. Not a single one of these “tips” has resulted in verifiable sales, except the word-of-mouth one, and that was simply my friends buying one or two books and then telling their friends about it, and yeah, social media helped this out, but what sort of person, armed with the most minimal of 21st century social skills and awareness would have been unable to parse this out for themselves?
So – enough already. I’m swearing off those “100 Surefire tips to market you book” sites and videos and free e-guides.
My new plan is to find ways to physically meet people who read books, and give them actual, personal reasons to try my stuff out.
It probably won’t do exponentially more for sales.
But it cannot possibly do less.