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Marketing Woes. What's an Author Really Suppose to do?

I admit. I'm the first to copy a good idea when I see one--or at least think I should copy it. When a few blogging friends were making book trailers, I was sure I needed one. And when others have done vlogs or podcasts, I began to wonder if I should too.

It's easy to compare our efforts with what others are doing and measure up short, isn't it? We don't want to be left behind in the competitive race to make ourselves and our books stand apart from others, so we keep adding tasks to our marketing endeavors.

That brings us back to the questions we raised in the last post: What really works? What should we do before publication? Where should we focus our limited energy and time?

First, platform-building is more important for non-fiction than for fiction. We'll usually buy a parenting book, personal growth book, or whatever, from someone we already like, versus someone we don't know.

Second, we need to have an idea of what type of publishing house we're targeting. For non-fiction and fiction alike, the type of publishing house makes a huge difference in what's expected of us.

If we're self-publishing or going with a smaller press, then the burden of most, if not all, the marketing will fall upon us. We will have to look for every gizmo and gadget that can help push our names and books into the far reaches of the public eye. We may have to work just as hard at selling our book as we did at writing it, if not harder. We have to be prepared to use every possible avenue for marketing, and the more the better.

Because of the extreme marketing efforts required for self-publishing or small press, we hear about it, we see our friends' hard work, and we often begin to think this hype is the industry norm. Those of us pursuing traditional publication get ourselves worked up with the marketing frenzy. We rush around and try to do what everyone else is doing, getting frazzled in the process.

But, what is truly necessary for those pursuing traditional publication with bigger houses? What will the marketing department do? And what is the author's responsibility?

When I sat down with the Bethany House Marketing Team, I quickly realized I'd bought into the hype, into believing that marketing my book was mostly my responsibility. After only a few minutes of talking with the Team, they straightened out my misconception.

They will have much more influence than I ever could. Their sales team will get the book into big bookstores, big box stores, and to distributors. Their publicity already has established connections with pertinent magazines and media. Their publishing house name and reputation will take my book far beyond the reaches that I, as a no-name author, ever could.

In other words, anything that I can do to help generate sales on my book will be insignificant compared to what they are capable of doing together as a marketing and sales department. Now, does that mean I don't have to do anything? That I can sit back and kick up my feet?

Absolutely not. As we said in the last post, writers must participate in the marketing process. It's just good business to do whatever we can to help boost our sales. But I don't have to do everything. I don't even have to do most things.

What Bethany House marketing encouraged us to do was focus on what we like and what we're good at. For me, that's this blog. For one of the other debut authors that means putting energy into her website. She doesn't need to start a blog--it's not something she's interested in or wants to devote energy to. For others that might mean public speaking, teaching courses, making local connections.

The bottom line is this: If we're heading toward traditional publication with bigger houses, we need to take the pressure off ourselves to do everything, to stop worrying about having to copy what every other writer is doing. Instead we need to find our unique marketing strengths and cultivate them. That's where we'll truly shine.

Have you gotten sucked into the trap of trying to do everything or in copying what others are doing? What are your strengths and what are you doing to cultivate them?

51 comments:

  1. Oh Jody I am thankful for you today. Katie had an excellent post that really hit home with me and you ALWAYS make me think. And realize things. I too have thought I had to do what all the other unpublished and published writers were doing. So much so that I have become overwhelmed. Tired. Sucked in.

    I can't wait for my time to be discussing things with a marketing team, but in the meantime I will do what I think I should do. Which is write and submit.

    I will nurture my strengths and wait. Oh and write. I will remember that I don't have to do everything. Thank you Jody. For reminding me that I must do what I think is right and I don't have to do it all. =)

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  2. Jeez, girl, I know I keep retweeting your posts, but they are aewsome! This week's series especially.

    You have no idea how good this is to hear. Because YES, I have bought into the hype! Just had a freak out incident with my hubby over the weekend about this, actually. This is such a breath of fresh air.

    And makes so much sense.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Jody!

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  3. I'm SO glad to hear this advice, Jody, and so thankul that your publisher set the record straight for you. It DOES take the pressure off, doesn't it? And it makes sense...focus on what you do well, and the publishing house will focus on what they do well.

    ~ Betsy O.

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  4. I suspected as much...lol There's no way one person could market themselves enough to really generate sells like a publishing house could. But of course, you are with a BIG publisher who has the resources available. Yay!

    You mentioned the other debut author was doing a website. Are you working on a website? Did the publisher's think you needed a website or is this blog enough?

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  5. This is a fantastic post! I love to get the insight in the publication world. It's hard to know how much to market yourself, but I love that they told you to focus on what you love doing! Excellent advice!

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  7. (sorry for the last post... hubby had logged on last night and not logged of! For shame!!)

    I think a lot of writer's just breathed a sigh of relief, myself included.

    I already knew that, kinda. I wondered when authors did so much to do a book trailer, and others didn't, or the marketing dept of their house created one for them.

    I know there are things that I can do, my blog for example, eventually getting my website more up to snuff, handing out bookmarks to complete strangers (I'm really not above it!)

    I ditto everyone else, EXCELLENT post!

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  8. Either way, Jody, you're at an amazing place, huh? I'm so thrilled for you. You've been learning (and sharing) so much, and seeing your dream unfold. Incredible! Best with it all.

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  9. I considered the book trailer, but finally decided it just wasn't for me . . . at least right now. I have taken steps toward platform building for the eventual release of my book, someday, sometime, somewhere . . . I think a website, whether developed by me or the publisher, devoted to the book woudl be quite nifty.

    In the end, I think what works for an individual is what they must do, and just forget about the rest. There is only so much a person can do before their brain implodes.

    S

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  10. YES I get sucked into the trap of doing everything myself. I think the direction my life has taken me has taught me that I have to do this because in most areas of my life, if I DON'T do something - it just doesn't get done because no one else is around to do it. As a result, I really need to work on the team player concept. :)

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  11. Jody,
    With less than two months to go before the launch of my first novel, every day I fight the temptation to jump on my horse and ride off in all directions. Thanks for the encouraging words. I agree that the thing that helps the most is word-of-mouth. We do what we can and what we do best, and leave the rest to God, our publisher, and our friends.

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  12. This topic has been a challenging one for me.

    I read your words with a sense of relief. So sensible and practical.

    I had come to the same conclusion -- that marketing should be a custom fit for the book, the author, and the publisher. And we should do what we do best.

    Thanks for sharing your lessons with us, Jody. We all benefit so much from them.

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  13. Wonderful post! I'm trying hard not to be sucked into this trap. I'm so glad to hear that big publishers are involved like that. At the conference, weren't we hearing some stuff about extreme marketing that publishers are expecting from writers. This post is a relief.
    Not that I won't be doing as much as I can to market my book. :-)

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  14. Good point. As an unpublished author, I feel blessed to have the Internet. I consider my promotion efforts as good for me and my writing--they force me to stay disciplined, force me to come up with creative posts, and force me to interact with readers. No, they may not help me get published or even help sell my books when I do, but they're worthwhile. In many ways, they're the foundation for my future promotion work.

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  15. I definitely buy into the hype sometimes, but I keep reminding myself of my priorities in life. And in my writing life, it's making that book shine. Thanks, Jody. Great series.

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  16. You are so generous in sharing your journey with us. I start to read about all these things, and think, I can't do it. Then, my story starts talking to me again, and it says, that's not something you need to worry about right now. Just let me (the story) out of your head!

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  17. There is not enough time in the day for a person to keep up with everything out there. It's nice to know we have permission not to! I blog. Tweeting is not my thing, and I think Facebook is boring and too time consuming. But I LOVE blogging. :-)

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  18. Thanks for relieving some of the pressure, Jody. Some days, it's enough just to keep up with my busy family. But I would grieve this community if it were to disappear. I'm with you on the blogging point. It's a wonderful way to connect. :)

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  19. Thanks for muddling through the hype Jody! I think the greatest focus for me would be to keep producing great material. Blogging has become a forum that I love and feel comfortable with, and it takes the pressure off knowing that I don't need to over extend myself.

    Phew!

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  20. I admit that I get caught up in it at times, especially when someone tells a story about getting a connectin through twitter or other ways. I feel like I need to do that as well.

    Great post. I like the idea of being able to play to your strengths when it comes to marketing.

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  21. I'm pretty comfortable addressing my strengths and weaknesses. I want to play on my strengths when it comes to marketing. Oh, I just love that word...cultivate.

    I don't get too sucked in. Seduced sometimes, but I'm learning to discern.

    I appreciate the run down of how things went for you.
    ~ Wendy

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  22. Thanks for the great advice. It is hard to see everything out there and decide what will work best. I enjoy blogging and I had a book trailer made that is awesome. I'm a part of FB and Twitter and worry sometimes that I don't do enough, but *thanks* to your validation, I'll be satisfied with enjoying the effort I'm giving.

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  23. Thanks for sharing your experience Jody! After hearing so much "publishers have so many authors and not enough staff, authors have to do things themselves" your post is invigorating. Although building exposure does give us something to do while going through the long waiting periods of writing...

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  24. You're a stellar blogger, you know that? Marketing is one of those words that sends a shiver of fear down my spine. Don't get me wrong, I have a ton of idea's. But will they pan out when the time comes? It's a frightening reality that one day if God wills it my book will be published and there will be a make it or break it time period. I think word of mouth is great but the world is big and how many mouths do I really have influence over? As far as you go my dear, I will lift you high to the throne. I have a feeling the Lord has mighty plans for you. Much love!

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  25. I'm not even published yet, but because I write nonfiction (which makes platform so important even before publication), I find myself in so many of these traps! Did you write this just for me? Really?!? And did you hear my humongous sigh of relief all the way from Indiana? I soooooooooo appreciate your wisdom today. THANK YOU!

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  26. Thanks, Jody. That's great advice: to capitalize on our strengths for marketing and not get caught up in what everyone else is doing. It's kind of like writing the book you are moved to write and not worrying about trends.

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  27. I have absolutely fallen hard into the fray and feel like I have to throw myself into everything, 100 percent. Find speaking engagements, blog, tweet, facebook, write (of course), teach a class, attend conferences, submit articles for publication, comment on other blogs! And of course, to do it all, 100 percent, is beyond impossible!

    Thanks for helping me see the light on this and realize it's okay to give myself a break. What do I love? The writing -- so I will stick with the blog and trying to get my writing published.

    Thank you!!!!! You are an absolute Godsend to me this week with your wisdom.

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  28. I hope you're right Jody. My last book was published by a traditional house and I never got to sit down with a marketing team or anything. Maybe it varies a great deal from publisher to publisher?

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  29. Hi Jody -

    Thanks for your common-sense approach to marketing. I've been feeling pressured to join Twitter and spend inordinate amounts of time on Facebook.

    What good is marketing if we don't have anything to market? I'd rather put my efforts into writing an excellent book.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  30. Such great thoughts. And what a relief to learn that I don't have to be doing everything. That makes me want to quit twitter completely. (No, really. It does.)

    I really enjoy blogging, so I think I'll keep doing that. I use Facebook mostly for games and keeping up with my family, so that's enjoyable too. I think I'm going to really analyze what I LIKE and stick with that.

    Thanks!

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  31. It's true that even self-published authors should only do the things that work for them. No one can do everything, and do it well.

    There's one thing that should be clarified here, and that is that small presses are traditional publishers. They have varying budgets for marketing, and some have very little, but they are still traditional presses. And I know authors at major publishers that get some marketing help, but the bulk of getting the word out still lies with them.

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  32. Sherrinda: I am working on getting a website too. But the other author I was referring to, Karen Witemyer, is doing just a fantastic job with her website, probably much more than I'll do. And she loves doing it. So, that's where she'll end up putting most of her marketing energy.

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  33. Heidi: Thanks for the clarification. For the purpose of this blog post, I'm separating a bigger, traditional publisher from the plethora of smaller presses that are cropping up these days. That's not to say going with a small press is the same as self-publishing. But they are more similar in terms of marketing where the author bears most of the burden.

    Of course, larger houses will differ in the amount of marketing they do for their authors, but by virtue of their publishing house names and established connections, they are already giving debut authors a head start over smaller presses.

    Thanks for contributing to the discussion! I appreciate it!

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  34. Jody, I can not tell you how encouraging this is! I read constantly how writers should market, market, market even before they have a book. I always thought that sounded rather odd. I know all publishing houses are different, but the thought of a house wanting you to concentrate on what you do best is refreshing! Thank you for this enlightening look. It really does take a load of pressure and anxiety off!

    Happy Wednesday,
    Jen

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  35. Great post, Jody!
    Hmmm. You are making me think as I am preparing a proposal! Can I still multi-task?

    For now, I continue to focus on writing the very best stories I can and letting the house do most of the other things, though I do think FB and blogging and appearances help to grab that one reader at a time.

    Blessings,
    Patti

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  36. Thank you! Now that I'm working again it had worried me how I would ever keep up!

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  37. Unfortunately, my experience with my first book was WAY different than yours. As a newbie signing with a smaller Christian publishing house, I didn't realize that I was the one responsible for spreading the word about my book. The publisher did very little. I can't point fingers and can only blame myself, but I wish I would've known that sooner. :(

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  38. Jody, thank you for this series! I can't tell you how much you're calming me down. I was really getting stressed out!

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  39. I too was beginning to think that after writing the book all sales matters would be up to me. I am glad to get some perspective in the matter :)

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  40. Jody,

    This was a wonderful post, as always. You should try bottling some of your advice and putting it into a nonfiction book for newby writers.

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  41. Tremendous insights! God has greatly gifted you
    I enjoyed visiting your blog
    God Bless;

    http://westbob.blogspot.com/2010/02/encourager-part-1.html

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  42. Amazing advice. I'm hoping to start wrapping up my novel soon and I know that's when the real work will start. To read this puts things into perspective for me. I have lots of self help books, all the Yearbooks and Writer's Handbooks, but trawling through them all will take time.

    CJ xx

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  43. Patrice KavanaughFebruary 11, 2010 9:18 AM

    Hi Jody. Great post. Very sound advice to recommend a reasonable middle ground between "do nothing" and "do everything." Instead, "do what you're good at and enjoy." Makes sense to me. Thanks. Patrice

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  44. Great post! Caveat: I'm speaking as a lit trade children's-YA author here and more broadly than just in my own experience.

    For us, publication by a major NYC/national house may translate to a significant sell-in/through, and it may not.

    Most, including bestselling authors, are expected to act as ambassadors of our books, especially with regard to outreach to the institutional (schools/libraries) market.

    This is especially true if the protagonist or focus is "multicultural" (which generally translates to "not white"). Such books usually build an audience through word of mouth, and it's often up to the author to help facilitate that conversation.

    That said, children's-YA authors tend to love talking to kids and the people who connect books to them.

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  45. I sometimes think we're our own worst enemies when it comes to trying to be all things to all people in all situations! In extending ourselves beyond our abilities we accomplish less than if we stop and figure out what we are best suited for (or what task is most necessary) and then do it well. Thanks for a good reminder.

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  46. What great food for thought. I tend to think I can do everything. But I've slowly been working on getting to a point where I can do anything but not everything. Thanks for sharing your experience. It helps to take the pressure off when it comes to ideas about marketing.

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  47. This very encouraging (and stress reducing) news, Jody, thanks!

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  48. What a helpful post. Since I am not in the position to be concerned about marketing right now I will tuck this away for the future.

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  49. Really great points here! Thanks for sharing this.

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  50. I've just stumbled on your blog and so glad I did. Great advice to one who is still climbing the ladder.
    Thanks for spending the time to do the blog. I look forward to coming back time and again to learn more.
    My blog is WRITING - the ups and downs ---www.barbwhitti.blogspot.com

    Blessings from me to you, Barb

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