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?

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