How Authors Can Participate in Marketing Even When They Don't Like Selling

I struggle with the thought of marketing my books. I’m not a pushy person. I have a hard time selling things. In fact, the couple of times I’ve had garage sales, I end up reducing the already-low prices or just giving stuff away.

But now with the release of The Preacher’s Bride less than three months away, it’s time for me to vamp up my efforts and join in the selling process. As terrible as I might be at making a sale, I’ve had to accept the fact that marketing is indeed part of the writer’s job and that I have to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

Fortunately, I don’t have to shoulder the job alone. My publisher, Bethany House, has a fantastic sales and marketing team and they’ve already been hard at work. Several months ago they sent me a marketing binder that looks like this:

It contains all kinds of helpful information including an Author Timeline which details a month-by-month outline for what marketing efforts I should be making. It also has a list of special services Bethany House provides for their authors along with suggestions for how I can promote my book.

About a week ago, the Fiction Marketing Manager sent me a “Marketing Plan Overview.” It was a detailed outline of all the marketing possibilities including: promotional items (bookmarks, postcards, etc.); trade and consumer publicity (key publications for advertisements); broadcast publicity (book-focused and community radio programs for potential interviews); internet marketing (giveaways and interviews with popular web sites); sales efforts (retailers and bookstores that will carry the book).

As you can see, Bethany House takes their marketing efforts seriously. They aren’t leaving their authors floundering or having to carry the burden of the work themselves. In fact, compared to what they’re doing, my contribution seems rather insignificant.

However, I want to do whatever I can to join in the marketing process. I might not be a natural-born sales-person, but in today’s crowded book market, why wouldn’t I want to do whatever I possibly can to help my book stand out?

Here are several things I’m trying to do, things that all of us can do to participate in marketing:

1. Focus on our strengths. Whether public speaking, planning parties, writing newsletters, mingling with important community members, or developing a relevant blog—we’re all unique and need to learn where our strengths lie. We can’t do everything and instead should put our greatest energy toward those things at which we excel. Others will sense our confidence and enjoyment—which goes a long way to more positive and effective marketing.

2. Step out of our comfort zones. It’s true, we should focus on our strengths. But we’ll need to try new things too. It might be fairly easy for me to write up blog posts or speak to groups, but I don’t have the knack for planning a themed launch party. In fact the thought of having a party that’s centered completely on me and my book doesn’t really appeal to me. But I’m going to step out of my comfort zone and give it a try.

3. Start forming relationships early. The glue that holds all our marketing efforts together is the friendship factor. We need to get our feet planted firmly within writing communities, build those genuine connections, be approachable and real, and seek ways we can give to others. Later, those are the people who will get most excited with and for us. Their word of mouth will be one of our most effective marketing tools. We all know promotion is better when it comes from someone other than ourselves.

Are you a natural sales person? Will marketing be easy or hard for you? Have you thought about what your strengths are and are you focusing on them? And likewise, what will be challenging for you, requiring you to step out of your comfort zone?

*Thank you to everyone in the last post who volunteered to be an Influencer! I'm so grateful for your outpouring of love and support!


  1. I am so very much NOT a natural sales person!!! My mother is... and I expect her to sell many of my books someday, HA!

    The thing about marketing that scares me is this:

    I do NOT NOT NOT want to look prideful or egotistical. I have this horrible fear that everyone will look at me and think I'm all snooty because I'm published. That would be so VERY VERY far from the truth, but it scares me to death.

    That is the question I'm trying to figure out the most: How do you market yourself without making the eyes of those around you roll? Or maybe I'm imagining the problem and they won't think that at all, I dunno!

    I DO agree though, that even though it's hard, that authors should be very involved in their own marketing. A book doesn't sell itself!!

  2. I never thought I was salesgirl material, but then realized its just conversation. Be yourself and just share, they will be asking you for your book and you won't even have to "sell." :O)

  3. Me, a saleslady? HA! No, not quite. But like you said, when we reach that point in our writing journey, it's just part of the job. We need to buck up and get going! Great tips, Jody!

  4. I probably won't sell books to people from my trunk. But I think selling is more just being friendly and being willing to talk about your career when people ask, "What's new?" But honestly, I'll have to cross that bridge when I get there.

  5. I'm not good at selling. I'd starve on commission.
    I've never thought about my strengths in the marketing department...that's worth a gander.

    Stepping out of my comfort zone?
    Hmm..that would probably be the selling factor.
    I'm not good at selling AT ALL.
    I've tried selling the makeup and stuff like that...oh no.
    I know I'm not good at that more wasted money.
    However, if it's my book...I might be able to quickly come up with a blurb to offer when stopping someone in a bookstore, and hand them a bookmark.
    How will you do it, Jody?

  6. I'm not good at sales although I owned a bookstore and was in real estate for years! BUt hated the pushy part--I would rather talk with someone about it and make those relationships and be real. If you want to fly to PA and do a couple of booksignings I'll set you up!LOL That's as far as I have gotten with my plan:)

  7. Nope, not a natural sales person. But, with the web - FB, Twitter, the Blogs - I think marketing is a bit easier. If I post a link to my book on my FB page, and then ask my friends to share it on their page . . . well, I've just reached a good # of people. Same thing with my blog. If I post a link, etc., etc.

    I think the Internet and social networks have, in some ways, created the perfect marketing tool. I've already posted a trailer of a friends book on my FB page. I'll post the links as well once the book is published. Voila!


  8. I'm not a natural sales person. (If I was, my day job would be in sales.)

    However, to sell my book (when that blessed day comes), I think I can do it.

  9. I am not a natural sales person, but I've gotten better over the years. This is a great list of points to help even the reluctant marketers succeed. I think I'll bookmark this page:)
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. Though I work retail, I'm not a salesperson either. I go to school to avoid a life stuck in retail. I admire those who can bear it and love and thrive in that environment. It's just not for me. I think that the hardest thing for me will be to just open up without people thinking I'm weird or being pushy. (Or boring.)

  11. This post is both encouraging and frightening. It's encouraging that your publisher doesn't leave you to figure it out on your own, but frightening because I realize that not only am I terrible at marketing and reaching out to other people, I'm probably an extreme in terribleness. It all makes me so uncomfortable. I finally convinced myself to sign up for Twitter and even that has given me extreme jitters. Can't I continue being a cantankerous desert hermit??? No, I guess not.

  12. The thought of marketing and selling makes me cringe, but I know it's something I will have to face in time. I hope that by the time my book is finished I will have found the courage I need to step up to this challenge!

  13. It must have been so exciting to get that marketing plan! I'm looking forward to seeing the stepped up publicity as your launch approaches. I'm learning so much through your blog about what to expect when I get to that stage. Right now, I'm still just eagerly awaiting my cover design.

  14. Krista asked: That is the question I'm trying to figure out the most: How do you market yourself without making the eyes of those around you roll?

    My Answer: Krista, I love your question! In fact, I love it so much I think I'm going to devote an entire post to it at some point! So, I guess you'll have to wait for my opinion on the matter for that future post! :-) (And I just know you'll be waiting with bated breath!)

  15. I'm not a salesperson, like pretty much everyone else here!

    I wrote a comic about this 'sales anxiety' recently, where I thought marketing meant 'going to buy your fruit & veges from the farmer stalls downtown'. (

    I haven't published my book yet (its not done!)but recently branched out to blogging & Twitter as a way to connect with other writers (and I guess put myself out there) and even announcing a new blog post feels a little uncomfortable, like shouting: hey, everyone! look at me!

    I couldn't imagine a themed party centered on myself! (Oh, but think of the comic potential...there's a funny scene for a book in this!)

    What you wrote about authenticity is totally true and I think goes for all parts of the process...

    Thanks for a great post!

    Julie Johnson

  16. Jody,

    You've done a great job already. First, you wrote a wonderful book. Sure, I haven't read this one, but Bethany House bought it, so that tells me it's a winner. (I have read the second, and it's fantastic!)

    Next, you have a successful blog where you've connected with many people who have become loyal followers eager to help you in your promotion efforts.

    You have a great presence on Twitter, where your messages are often retweeted.

    And, as you said, you've got the marketing department at BH behind you.

    I'd say you're off to a great start and that your marketing efforts are only going to get better as you go along. The buzz has already begun. :-)

    And as for the launch party? Well, there are awesome party planners for hire. Just wish I could be there to help you celebrate.

  17. Just reading this post gave me a little anxiety attack. Nope, not a promoter.

  18. Kelly asked: How will you do it, Jody?

    My answer: Kelly, I think you're asking how exactly I'm planning to sell my books? And of course you have to know I'm organizing a cross country tour to major cities where I'll sell them out of my trunk on street corners. OK. So, NOT in this life time!!! ;-)

    Really, I'm primarily focusing on my strength--which happens to be my online presence at this point. I've got a file of interview requests from various people I've met online. I'm starting to work through those requests, writing up the guest posts or interviews. And it's my hope to continue to connect more with people that way. Maybe it won't directly lead to more sales, but indirectly it does help in SO many ways.

    I'll also be going around my community and meeting real life influencers soon too. My publicist is putting together an introduction packet that I can hand out to bookstore owners, librarians, media people, etc.

    Thanks for nailing me down on my answers to my own question!

  19. I'm definitely the farthest thing from a "natural" salesperson, but I'm glad I've had a lot of training. Dani Johnson is the best sales trainer out there, and I feel at least prepared when for when my book does come to this point. Aaah!

  20. Oh, I am the worst salesperson ever! I run and hide FROM them, and I sure don't want to BE one of them. I usually go something like this..."You don't REALLY want to buy this, do you?...Here just take it."

    I can see myself giving away books at my book signing someday! lol

  21. You are very lucky to have the support of a savvy marketing team behind you, Jody. You will so do okay. I have no doubts. Diane is right. Just be yourself. And as for the launch party, it is primarily your family and friends who show up for that in your home town, and I can tell you, it was one of the highlights of my life - to stand up in front of all those who love me, holding up the book that took me 10 years to produce. Magic!

  22. I am Definetely not good at marketing my own work. The thought of marketing my work gives me a panic attack. But I try to help my publishers in many different ways, by ensuring major newspapers carry the book reviews and doing all the interviews they set me up for.

  23. What a fabulous support system you've got in Bethany House!

    I'm not a natural salesperson, but I'm really enjoying thinking through target audiences and collecting addresses, and such. I have somewhere between 700-800 mid-west historical societies/pioneer museum addresses. Today I'm combing through elementary and middle schools in western Kansas. Western Kansas libraries will be next.

    Pretty interesting!

  24. Hi Jody -

    I'm not a natural salesperson, but I enjoy people. Hopefully, I learn how to do this marketing thing in a way that fits my personality.

    Susan :)

  25. What an amazing post about marketing! You make such excellent points. I really think this is the key to succeeding at ANYTHING in life. I read your blog every day for inspiration! I find your advice so helpful.

  26. Jody! THANK YOU! What a helpful post! You rock, my friend! Blessings to you. :-)

  27. Jody-
    As a gal whose day job in a marketing agency includes putting together stuff like the plan you showed us - it looks like you are in good hands at Bethany House. I'm impressed by how thorough they are.

    That said, the thought of turning the tables on myself one day terrifies me. It's like throwing a birthday party-by me and for me. I can tell from your online presence, though, that you will rock. I look forward to reading the book!

  28. A lot of writers find self-promotion difficult, not just Christian ones, but since marketing is an essential part of the publication process we have to find the best ways to utilize our skills and get it done. What a blessing to have BH providing you with their experience and resources! I'm sure you'll do well. You have a heart for loving people that's bound to make them responsive to you.

    I'm not an outgoing person but I'm known at my local bookstores and library so I won't hesitate to connect with them when the time comes. Our Federation of BC Writers provides a link to its provincial membership with e-mailed announcements of launches, readings, etc. And the Convention I attend in October allows published authors to sell their books at tables during the weekend's Trade Show and at a Book Fair/Signing event as well, so those are benefits I will plan to take advantage of, for sure. Making myself available for Skype interviews and speaking engagements at church groups and book clubs are also possibilities.

    I'm a ways from publication yet but I'm accumulating a list of ideas. How can you tell one of my strengths is in organizing?

  29. I'm obsessed with this post! Too many authors think it’s “not their job” to take care of the marketing and publicity aspect of their book. But as much as I love publishing houses and their employees, here’s a little word to all your authors out there: your publisher’s not going to do a hell of a lot for you. You're soooo lucky that Bethany House is helping so much :)

    However, with the economy and the interwebs making it harder and harder to sell books, house staff is spread incredibly thin, so if you want to make sure you actually sell your book, take some of the easy marketing into your own hands. Get on Twitter – find that community of readers who is going to fall in love with your book. Create a Facebook fan page and spread the word.

    The incredible power of social media is that you don’t need to be a marketing expert, you just need to have a great passion for your book, learn the basics and have fun with it!

  30. I'm so envious that I'm green. Really! Several shades of envy are going on here. How wonderful that your publisher sent you a book about promotion and tailored it to you.

    After being ping-ponged back and forth on my book's released I just learned today that it's coming out in August. Yes, this August!!!

    Needless to say I'm stunned. But I've got to snap out of it and get busy. Wish me luck. :)

  31. I am really impressed by Bethany House's marketing! Thanks for sharing this with us. I'm not a great sales person, but I love marketing. I love to come up with ideas to help sell or promote something:)
    Getting excited about your book!!!

  32. I find it way easier to promote other people and their work, than I do my own. The key is always push the positives and be enthusiastic. I think enthusiasm makes us come across as more genuine and appealing all round. Enthusiasm is catching :)

  33. Lynda, I second what you said. I love to promote others' books and successes. And I am genuinely enthusiastic about Jody and her work. I've been privileged to read her second book, and it's AWESOME. I'm sooo eager to read her first and plan to tell anyone who'll listen about it, buy copies for my romance reader friends, and "cyber-stalk" her so I can leave glowing reviews on all her blog interviews. =)

  34. Selling will not be my strength in the process, but I love that Bethany House sent you some guidlines to help. I guess I can always learn, and like you said, step out of my comfort zone to get the job done.

  35. Marketing is so NOT easy for me. You are blessed to have a publisher who is big enough to put so much together for you. I need to get better about getting out there. Good luck. I can't wait to read your book.

  36. I am so not a natural sales person, and am thrilled to be able to learn from your efforts in this department. Actually, I love getting to follow your whole journey to publication, and I'm happy beyond words for you.

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  38. I couldn't sell coats to an Alaskan...but have enjoyed marketing my passion. To me it's just "talking books," something I've done for decades!


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