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Author Marketing: Having Multiple Strategies

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

In today's crowded book market, ALL writers (whether traditional or indie publishing) must participate in marketing their books if they want a chance at getting noticed among the millions vying for reader attention.

Of course there are some differences in marketing for self versus traditional publishing. Traditional publishers often (but not always!) budget some marketing money for each book they publish.

Interestingly, the big name authors usually get the best (most) marketing dollars. On the one hand, it seems more logical for publishers to spend the larger share of marketing money on the lesser-known authors since readers already anticipate and pre-order the big-name releases months in advance. But on the other hand, publishers want to make sure their breakout novelists continue to do well (because those are the authors paying the bills).

All that to say, most mid-list authors don't have an endless supply of marketing dollars budgeted to the their books. So as I said before, that means no matter which venue of publishing we choose, we'll have to put forth our own time and money to market.

But that brings up the question: Which marketing methods are most worth an author's time and money? We obviously don't want to waste either on methods that may not bring enough bang for our buck.

Another writer recently asked me whether having a review on a major website was worth the investment because she was considering having her book reviewed there. She asked: "Could you let me know if you felt the service was worth the cost? As writers, we don't make a lot of money, and I would hate to spend money on something that didn't show a good return."

I'm sure my answer frustrated her. Because my answer is frustrating even to myself. But what I've learned over the past few years of marketing, is that there is no easy way to discover exactly how effective any ONE effort is.

For example, during the span of three weeks in October I was wrapping up a 20 book giveaway blog hop and an enormous contest with an incredible prize package. I had two reviews on major book review sites. Along with that I participated in a huge fiction scavenger hunt that brought hundreds and hundreds of readers to my website. I had a paid promotion ad on Facebook which took news of my book to over 50K. And then I did a five-book giveaway on my blog, which also generated lots of tweets and facebook sharing as contestants tried to earn more points.

All of those efforts together worked to spark interest in my new release. I saw more people adding the book to their shelves on Goodreads, more tweets, more facebook likes, and even some spikes in sales.

But . . . I'm not able to pinpoint which of those things helped THE most. 

In other words, we can't put our eggs all in one basket. We need to have multiple marketing strategies going at the same time.

Of course we want to be wise in what we do with our limited time and money. We can't do EVERYTHING. But what I've done is pick a few new things to do with each book. I try not to get into a rut doing the same-old-same-old, but rather look for fresh and different ways to promote.

There's NO magic formula and NO one thing that works best over every other strategy. At least I haven't landed upon that one way yet!

The key is to think outside the box. Stay relevant. And keep doing a little bit every day.

I hold on to the hope that eventually all of the hard work will pay off!

Have you found any marketing techniques that are especially helpful? Or is it difficult to narrow down what helps the most?

15 comments:

  1. So true. You have to keep reaching, right? Stretching and growing in new ways. Great article.

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    1. Exactly, Crystal! I think it's all too easy to give get discouraged and give up too soon. We just need to keep doing a little bit every day!

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  2. A great post. Thanks, Jody. I don't believe there's a magic formula. Except to say, readers who discover one of a writer's books and love it, want more. I believe the best marketing strategy a writer can implement is making sure they have a backlist of books available. And that takes time. Marketing is definitely important, but as writers, we need to write. I personally allow marketing to take around 20-30% of my time. The rest, I'm writing and building that all-important backlist.

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    1. Yes, the long tail of marketing has become more and more important in today's book market. Having the backlist definitely helps.I agree, the best form of marketing always will be our writing!

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  3. Great post! My first book releases in February, and I'm working on this sort of thing now.
    It's hard getting your name out there when you're new. And, I'm a horrible saleswoman, so it's hard to step out of my comfort zone and "build a brand."

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    1. Hi Laura,
      Congrats on your upcoming release! There are so many things to consider, aren't there? But fortunately there are a lot of things we can do to get our books out there! A lot of little things all add up eventually! Wishing you all the best!

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  4. Sound comment. Chance, as ever, is in control. But the more seeds scattered the richer the harvest.

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  5. Writing the book is the easy part. Marketing it is a whole other thing and if you are not careful, it can consume all of your time. I released my first book in April 2013. It is book one of a trilogy. I worked hard all through the summer months, promoting my first book, doing book signings in "out of the box" places such as music festivals, a music store, bars, restaurants. Why? Because my book was about a Texas musician and the target audience was people who love music. Did it work? I suppose it depends on the perspective and what the end goal was. I am happy with the book sales all of that generated. I will say that Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and my own website were also very instrumental in the marketing campaign. Now I am faced with how much time to spend daily on promoting the first book while writing the second. If I'm not careful, I can spend hours on the various internet sites, instead of writing. It's a balance I'm trying to achieve. Marketing is the most difficult thing I've ever done.

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    1. Hi Jan, Yes, we do need to find a good balance with marketing and writing. Ultimately, I've found that the best marketing is to keep putting new books out. Each new book draws in more readers and keeps my name fresh. So I'd definitely say not to sacrifice writing time for marketing, at least not too much!

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    2. You know I had just heard that exact same comment from another Christian fiction author about writing more books for publicity. It's encouraging I guess in way because as a writer what one loves to do is write. If one is published at a major publishing house like Bethany House, Zondervan etc., how many books would you say it takes to really make a name for yourself?

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    3. correction, grammar fail: "for oneself." Sorry, enjoyably long day with my almost 2 year old son who thinks "need nummy nana (banana), go "big stairs" (playground)" is proper English. :)

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    4. Hi Anne, LOL, I hear you on the brain going to mush after a day of chasing toddlers! I've been there! :-)

      As far as how long it takes to make a name for yourself, I think will depend upon many factors - how "hot" your genre is, how much marketing your publisher puts behind your books, how well it gets onto store shelves, how well your books sell, etc. Today, it's becoming harder for authors to make it "big" right away. I've heard that now in the digital age of ebooks that the long tail (backlists) is going to be really helpful to authors and publishers. In the past those backlists would be dead after a year. But now, they can keep on selling, earning money, and driving interest toward an authors current release. So I think having multiple books is becoming even more important than ever. Not sure if that really answered your question, but hope it helps! :-)

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  6. Self-marketing is really quite the unknown art in writing these days. Largely, it's because folks are stuck with this analogue look at things where they assume a publisher and prints. It's quite not like that now with the online platforms where all you really need is freeware and clicks. Frankly, it's a different ballgame there. And to play, one must acquaint themselves with the rules of it, which basically entails you selling yourself and your work as a block of information, and making sure that 'information' gets it out there. Which is where SEO comes in, if you think about it.

    Joshua @ Indianapolis SEO Firm

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