Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Marketing Maze

Photo courtesy of James Barker
There’s that word. Marketing. Perhaps you prefer the expression promotional activity. Either one will often have a dramatic effect on an author’s demeanour. Some of us will smile and gladly share all the great activities we’re undertaking. For others of us, it can be like one’s worst nightmare: “You mean I have to leave my little comfy writing space to do what?”

I probably fall into a camp somewhere in the middle but with a leaning to the latter.

Angelguard was released almost a year ago in the US. I’ve learnt numerous lessons over the course of the year, many of which I’d group under the banner of Marketing. I thought I’d share some of them with you.

You’re in charge

“Whether we like it not we have to take responsibility for marketing our books.”

I’m not sure who said that first but it’s true. Even though I’ve read that statement many times it’s probably only in recent times that I’ve accepted it. And in so doing, all of a sudden marketing doesn’t appear so demanding.

Many of us struggle sharing our work with others. I do. We think we might be imposing or being pushy.  I wanted people who read the novel to encourage others to read it. Post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and so on.

I also realised I feared being judged or criticised. What about if people don't like it? It’s okay. The emails from readers, the constructive reviews and this simple text message from a dear friend who said, “Thank you for reminding me of the power of prayer,” have far outweighed any negatives.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. (Marianne Williamson)

And with God inside us, we are.

Build your tribe early

Really early. It’s never early enough. I didn’t do this well.

“Tribes give you leverage” as Seth Godin states in his great little book “Tribes”. This is a group of people who are interested in you and your work in such a way they will help promote your work. Don't wait for when you've signed the publishing contract. Start now.

It goes without saying that in building our tribe we need to understand our target audience. Yes, this is very important.

Have a plan

“What gets scheduled gets done.”

We all know that. It’s the same with marketing. My marketing plan was loose and I could have done a much better job in scheduling specific activities.

Be proactive

Don’t wait for things to happen. Work the plan. Write the email to that bigwig you’ve been putting off for months. You might be surprised with how they respond. The worst they can say is “thanks but no thanks”.

Trial and error

Different things work for different people. You will have noticed some authors are great at Facebook, others better at guest blogging, others on the speaking circuit and so on. Try different things and realise many, some might even say most, won’t work. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? Where do your readers congregate, what do they enjoy, etc? All these answers are important in determining your own plan. Each author’s answers will be different.

There are many books out now on Marketing 101 for authors (it’s almost become it’s own genre there are so many of them!). A number of bloggers write extensively on it too. Read some of them. I’ve appreciated Michael Hyatt’s “Platform” and Joanna Penn’s “How to Market a Book”. Our friend, Iola Goulton has recently reviewed many of them. Pop on over to Iola’s Editing site and check out her reviews.

Keep producing content

The most common question I get from readers is “so when can we expect the next one?” Readers mostly want our content. It's the best marketing tool we have in our kitbag. I’m always amazed at the productivity of so many authors who are releasing new novels every 6 months or so. Besides having cracked the code for producing a book, they’ve also discovered the formula for generating a reasonable income stream from their writing.

Some authors also do a great job of sharing additional content on their blogs such as deleted scenes, interviews with their characters. One of the great aspects of the e-book revolution is it can provide a platform for authors to produce shorter content (than a full novel). I’m looking to explore some of these options this year.

Have fun

Enjoy it. Even if through gritted teeth. The relationships you build with some of your readers will be very special.

And remember, it’s never too late. A book, especially a novel, can live well beyond the initial launch. The e-book revolution has only enhanced certain books longevity.

Keep plugging away. As with most things in life, the more we do something, the easier it gets or the more comfortable we become in tackling them. I’m hoping that also applies to marketing.

In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NIV)

Keep praying and believing. God is into the small stuff as well as the big. Walk with Him as you tackle the marketing maze. You might be surprised as to the divine appointments He sets up for you.

What’s surprised you most about the marketing maze?

Note: apologies to the down under crew for this post appearing twice in your feeds this week. I had a calendar mishap so wasn't originally expecting to post on both blogs this week.

Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter


  1. OK Ian, I'll grit my teeth and step out in faith. I'm just about to send off another book proposal. I suppose that's a way of marketing a book before it's even published. As for after...ah yes. I need to get to it.

  2. Sure is, Rita. And good on you for stepping out. You never know where it might lead.

    Standing with you in faith the proposal will be well received.

  3. Ian, some things are worth repeating. I wouldn't have minded having this twice in my inbox.

    Thank you for the reminder that being a writer isn't just about writing. It's about sharing (selling) your passion, enthusiasm, words with friends, some of whom you haven't met yet.

    1. Hi Judith, but selling can be a struggle for many of us, can't it. It's one way communities like ours can encourage one another to try new things when it comes to marketing our work.

      Appreciate your comment.

  4. Ian, great post! Thanks for sharing your marketing tips and helpful links to marketing info. Iola's blog is an excellent resource because she has been reviewing a number of marketing books on her blog. I agree, marketing is our responsibility and it isn't a one size fits all proposition. We can have fun trying different things, collaborating with other authors, and seeing what works well for us.

    1. Thanks Narelle. I hope you may get a chance during the course of the year to share some of your marketing insights. It'll be interesting whether there will be differences due to having multiple novels out during the year. Will one of the options be a multi-pack later in the year?

    2. Ian, it is different having multiple book releases close together. For example, I held back revealing the cover for The Nurse's Perfect Match until it was up on Amazon and Goodreads because I didn't want it to steal too much limelight from the Falling for the Farmer launch. I'm not sure if LI is planning to sell the books as multi-packs or 3-in-1 editions? At the moment they're all stand alone releases, scheduled 3 months apart.

  5. Great post, Ian. I'm always looking for new marketing ideas, as well as trying to see what works and what doesn't with what I do. It has been fun for me to be able to connect with readers over the years. That makes the marketing a lot more enjoyable! Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  6. Thanks for the tips Ian. It's often not easy to step out of that comfort zone and we need a prod, or I do anyway.

  7. Thanks Lisa & Dale for the encouragement. We can all keep encouraging each other with this marketing stuff!