After years of denial I have come to recognize this sad and bitter truth: Writers must market their books if they want them to sell. They must do this even if HarperCollins is their publisher. The better an author is at marketing, the more books he or she will sell.
As I was scrolling down my latest Willamette Writers newsletter I came upon Tonya Macalino’s ad for her book marketing workshop at Jacobsen’s Books & More, a cozy independent bookstore in Hillsboro, Oregon.
OK, I told myself, bite the bullet. You’ve gotta learn how to do this.
It was a cold, foggy morning on Main Street when I pushed open the bookstore door balancing a latte that was too hot to handle on my notebook. Tina, the owner of Jacobsen’s Books & More, escorted me past rows of books to the back of the bookstore. The books kept calling to me, but I ignored them and settled down at a table with several other middle-aged writers who looked like kids waiting for their first dental appointment.
Tonya did not sugar coat her message. Marketing a first book is a hard, thankless pursuit. She assured us that we would have to work like dogs for at least three years with very few rewards. But if we persevered, things would get easier.
Her first advice was “Don’t suck.”
- Get your book edited by someone who knows what he or she is doing, preferably a professional.
- Get a graphic artist to do your cover.
- Get a professional to do the interior design. It’s not as easy as it looks.
A book must not only be a well crafted piece of writing, it must also be packaged in a cover that draws attention and presented in a professional looking format, otherwise no one will look at it twice.
Once you have something worth selling, the work begins.
As Tonya led us through the terrifying maze of pricing, establishing name recognition, marketing plans, SEO (search engine optimization), mailing lists, calls to action, web page creation, blogging, blog hopping, blog tours, blog tribing, Amazon, keyword proofing, FaceBook, Twitter, Pintrest, and Goodreads, my eyes began to cross. Tons of useful information crammed into one grueling day.
Tonya’s take-home message was that modern marketing is all about social networking, favors, and friends. The Internet is a tool that enables a writer to find and interact with a like-minded community of other writers and readers. Once a writer finds and maintains a place in it, if his or her book is good, it will sell.
If I look at marketing this way instead of as a method for pushing a product; and if I make a list of marketing tasks and focus on just one thing at a time for a few hours two or three times a week, I may actually be able to do this.