Marketing your book is difficult, and it’s hard to discover your unique marketing pathway.
There’s a familiar Old Testament story about David and Saul that struck me. David is ready to face the giant Goliath, so he slips on the much-larger Saul’s armor. It didn’t fit. In fact, it hindered his ability to move.
David shed the awkward-fitting armor, picked up his trusty slingshot, and gathered five smooth stones from the stream. Now he was ready.
Here’s my theory about authors and marketing: I think we’re guilty of not exercising the wisdom of David. We’re drawn to flashy, “proven” marketing strategies. We see them as the answer to our fear, our upcoming battle to win book buyers. But we fail to see that those strategies might not fit us. In fact they may hinder more than they’ll help.
Be careful of retrofitting something that does not fit. And be cautious particularly when you have to pay for a strategy. You could waste a lot of money doing something that you cannot sustain.
A caveat:I don’t mean you shouldn’t try new things that scare you. That’s where growth happens. Take note that David tried on Saul’s armor. He attempted to make it fit. But he reassessed and moved on.
Your job as a marketer is to know yourself. To be like David and be comfortable in your abilities. David knew his slingshot. It had been with him as he tended sheep under starry skies. It was familiar to him. The slingshot fit beautifully in his hand, and he wielded it well. My question for you is this: What fits you? What is your slingshot?
Have you been trying to put on TikTok like Saul’s awkward armor? Have you been blogging with your teeth clenched, hating every minute of it? Have you gritted your way through webinars? Maybe you’re putting on clunky armor not intended for you. Maybe it’s okay to look yourself in the mirror, assess your personal strengths and live within them. I give you permission right now to discover your slingshot and wield it.
I’ve made this mistake so many times. I’ve run to things an expert or two told me I had to do to promote my book, only to take away precious time from my work and my family. Honest truth: I’ve spent thousands of dollars on things that weren’t me and didn’t even work. Oh the regret! In the process, I’ve realized I’m really good at Instagram, and it’s a joy to me. I love to shepherd my email list. I absolutely love doing a daily podcast. These things might be dreadful for you, so please don’t do them. Don’t settle for Saul’s clunky armor. Find your slingshot, then don’t apologize for using it. Then focus most of your efforts in what you’re good at, and what delights you.
As my caveat encouraged, we all need to risk, try new things and experiment a bit, but not at the expense of the way we’re made. Not at the expense of how we’re designed. Otherwise what we do will not be sustainable.
Q4U: How have you slipped on Saul’s armor? And what is your slingshot – your you-shaped marketing strength?
This is so timely for me, Mary. I took a Twitter break due to negativity. Words there broke my heart and weighed me down, even though I gave it barely a glance. I had to mute someone I admire because she chose to tear down instead of build. Even when I muted her, inevitably the horrid words would pop up on my feed anyway, crushing me to the bone. Twitter has always felt like Saul’s armor to me, so I didn’t mind shedding it, at least for a while. Instagram … photography has always been my comfortably-held slingshot.
What’s your insta handle, Shelli?
And I hear you about the nastiness of late. It wrecks my soul.
Yes, Mary, it’s soul-wrecking. I’ve been so busy writing and getting my girls thru school that I missed what was happening. I guess the Lord spared me, as I was dealing with my mom’s illness and death, and that was enough. I wish I hadn’t given Twitter a look, because I’m heartbroken.
I’m so sorry, Shelli. I hear you.
Great question, Mary!
“What is your slingshot?”
Thought-provoking. I’ve learned so much from you over the years. I sure appreciate you. Thanks a lot!
Thanks Ruth. I’m curious what you think your slingshot is?
Kristen Joy Wilks
That is so interesting, Mary. In March, I will have been writing with the goal of publication for 20 years. I started with picture book manuscripts, then YA, I wrote a RomCom on a dare, wrote more RomComs, some middle grade novels, and have wandered back to picture books. I’ve been blogging since 2008 and back when I started, I tried to blog about things that teen readers would enjoy. I know and love teens. We work with them at the camp where we live. But I ended up blogging about our dog and the insane things my 3 sons were doing, and living up here at a mountain Bible camp. There was some stuff there for the RomCom readers, but really, it was for myself. I posted similar stuff online. Dogs, nature photos, my sons scowling at the camera or making jewelry out of elk bones they’d found in the meadow. Eventually, a writer friend suggested that I write stuff about the things I talked about online. Camp, the forest, dog and kid adventures. I ignore her and wrote more manuscripts. But that nugget ate at me until I stopped and thought about who was really enjoying my RomComs … twelve-year-old boys, my sons’ friends. My editor kept saying, “More romance … there should be kissing!” I was writing RomComs as though my audience were a bunch of sixth-graders, ha! I love writing RomComs and I just finished another one. But I am pushing myself to also write about the stuff that I post about. The forest, kids doing crazy things, dogs, pet chickens, mountain life. I think that I am slowly realizing my strengths, seeing the slingshot that is already gripped in hand that I’ve been ignoring.
Oh that’s a good word, Kristen. Sometimes the best wisdom comes from outsiders who can see our strengths and our audience more easily than we can.
Sorry about the avatar. In case you didn’t know. that’s not me. 🙂
Thank you for this permission! I obviously haven’t found my slingshot, but this will help me think it through.
I’m so grateful to hear that, Kathy.
Susan M Malone
This is so timely, and so important. You’ve put marketing into perspective, which authors SO need.
I work with writers every day trying to figure this out. I’m going to send them to read this.
And the funny thing, it’s not about narrowing your options, but rather, freeing yourself to find what works for you.
It’s about understanding your strengths, then walking in them.
Susan M Malone
Truly. And it’s just so refreshing when industry professionals can explain that so well to writers.
Thank you again!
Thank you for this encouragement and permission! I stepped away from writing and writing-related social media for several years because of work and family things. I turned back to it last fall now that we’re empty nesters and I’m working from home FT again because of Covid.
I’ve always enjoyed artsy things and can play in Canva for hours! I love making memes with Bible verses or inspirational quotes and have been more active on Instagram and Pinterest lately. Maybe creating things for the different platforms has been my slingshot all along and I didn’t realize it. 🙂
I really like the visual aspect of insta, so I relate to what you’re saying here, Leigh.
Not my issue, not my business, but whatever.
I really have not much to say
about the whole marketing thing,
and, you know, well, anyway,
there’s not so much such as me can bring
to a chat ’bout who wants what
or to sharp-focused sales campaign;
my bolt, yeah, it is truly shot,
and I think it’s gonna rain.
My battle may be gone and done,
and that’s the breaks of life on Earth,
but if you hear this, be the one
‘to learn, and give your dreams their birth
that point unto the God on high
and give your readers wings to fly.
Thanks for responding poetically!
Andrew, by framing all your comments in poetry, you keep shedding freshly slanted light for us mere prosaic mortals. (This is the first time I’ve ever commented on one of your comments, but I have always enjoyed them.) Thanks for your adding your unique voice to the conversation.
DAMON J GRAY
Mary, this is wonderful. This is a breath of fresh air. I’m going to print this and save it. It’s probably the best thing I’ve read in months.
Thank you for sharing!
I love hearing that you’re printing it. 🙂
Lori Ann Wood
Great words of encouragement in an intimidating market. Love your honesty. Thank you.
I’m glad it encouraged you, Lori Ann.
Thank you so much for this, Mary. What a breath of fresh air! What you’ve shared confirms what God showed me recently! I wish we could sit down over a cup of coffee (or tea) so I could share with you what I’ve realized.
You’re right, too often we put on what works for someone else only to realize it just does not fit us. I can’t wear my father’s shoes anymore than he can wear mine; I can’t be anyone else other than I am or else I’m sinning against God’s design of me.
So encouraging. Thank you. God bless.
Colleen K Snyder
This is so encouraging and so true. Most of us are out there, like you, throwing money at strategies and plans and “this will guarantee you sales” and “use my method or you’re doomed to failure” approaches. More conventions. More “sure-fire” approaches that like Saul’s armor, do not fit. As Christians, we need to spend more time asking the Lord what HE wants us to do with our books, instead of floundering around marketing and selling on our own. Trying new things is great- if God directs. He won’t send you where He can’t keep you. Thank you for reaffirming what I believed to begin with. Let God direct. Then He gets the glory!
Love this, Mary! I love the thought that I do have the freedom to be me and find God’s fit for me as I navigate terrain that’s not easy for me to trudge through! Trusting He’ll do just that.