5 Ways to Take the Ickiness Out of Marketing Our Books

My twin daughters joined a synchronized swim team this fall. As part of the process of trying to reduce the fees, the team has several fundraisers throughout the year.

After the first practice, my girls brought home a sheet of pies to sell (similar to the Girl Scout cookie sheet).

At first, the girls were enthusiastic. They made lists of friends and neighbors they wanted to target. They divided the list, deciding which families each of them “got.” Then they headed out together to sell pies.

I wasn’t surprised when they returned a short while later after going to just two neighbors. One of the families bought a couple of pies and the other didn’t. My more dramatic daughter shuddered and said, “I didn’t like having to ask them to buy something. It felt icky.”

The initial gusto had faded, replaced by the reality of what they were doing.

If you’ve been around the industry a while, then you know marketing our books is not optional. It’s necessary for survival in today’s over-saturated market. We’re competing with a million other writers for diminishing shelf space and ultimately the attention of readers.

With two published books out there, I’ve learned from first-hand experience that my books won’t walk around and sell themselves. I have to go out and knock on doors (so-to-speak). And sometimes that marketing leaves me with an icky feeling.

I recently read an article titled Does Marketing Your Writing Feel Like Prostitution? It starts with this: “So there we writers stand, on the virtual street corner with our computers, wearing sexy sweat pants, hawking our books, articles, and ‘content creation services’.”

Nowadays, authors are searching for THE best ways to get their books noticed. We’re striving for the most creative, the most eye-catching, and the most vocal marketing techniques. But after a while it can begin to feel like we’re standing out on the corner hawking ourselves.

How can we market without feeling icky? Is it possible?

Here are a few things we can do to keep the ickiness out of marketing our books (as much as possible):

1. Don’t send new followers the links to your website or Amazon book page. I can’t tell you lately how many new followers (both on twitter and facebook) have asked me to go “check out” their books. I never, ever go to those links. It feels like they followed me only to make a sale (and they likely did), which is a complete turn-off and will only do more harm than good.

2. Don’t ask people to retweet or help you promote your book unless you already have a strong relationship with them. Asking mere acquaintances for that kind of support makes people feel used. However, when we’ve already developed a relationship, often our friends will be the ones asking us how they can help.

3. Make sure you’re showing up on social media on a regular basis—NOT just when you want to talk about your books. I’ve seen several authors continually promote their books through email loops, on twitter, etc. But I don’t know them, simply because they only talk about their books. I’d be more inclined to like them and buy their books if I got to know them personally.

4. When befriending people, don’t have ulterior motives. I quickly lose my respect for people who are really nice to me and not too long afterward ask me for a favor. Of course, there’s always that unspoken realization that all writers have an underlying motivation for using social media. We eventually want it to help us sell books. But even if it starts out that way, social media has to become SO much more than just a marketing tool. We can't forget that real people are behind the avatars, and they deserve to be treated with genuineness and respect.

5. Engage in meaningful relationships with other people without thought of what we gain in return. We shouldn’t have an air of entitlement and expect people to buy our books or follow us back. I’ve found that over time, many people support me because they’ve come to know me in a real way.

My Summary: I wish my books could just stand-alone and market themselves simply because of the quality. But even with well-written, compelling books, we all have to market our books to help give them an advantage. That’s the reality in today’s market. But honestly, I’d rather NOT make a sale, then make one in pushy and icky way.

What about you? What are some other icky marketing techniques you’ve noticed? How can we take the “ick” out of the whole process? Is it possible or will we always have a bit of that icky feeling?

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