Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office, CA
I am not a marketing expert (nor do I play one on TV) but I’ve always found the art and science of marketing and publicity fascinating. We all know that books are primarily sold by word of mouth, but connecting with potential readers is like trying to hit a moving target. What worked yesterday may not work today. Normally I blog about things I know– concrete things. Today’s blog post, however, is an opinion piece. There are experts out there who will disagree with me and I welcome their input, but from this side of the desk let me offer some random thoughts about what doesn’t seem to be working when it comes to marketing our books:
Blogging— Unless you are one of those bloggers who made a name for him- or her-self and amassed a large, loyal following like Pioneer Woman, Because I Said So, Waiter Rant, Michael Hyatt, or any of the other must-read blogs, it’s going to be hard to start a new blog and find an audience in an already overcrowded field. Look at your own list of bookmarked blogs. If you read all of them daily you wouldn’t have time to do anything else. The blogosphere has come of age. It would take a huge commitment– a Michael Hyatt-sized commitment– to create a mega-blog these days. I wouldn’t recommend a writer start blogging in order to publicize his book in today’s climate. It would be tough to picture a scenario where the outcome would justify the effort. Exception: The writer who has a unique slant, celebrity or brand that lends itself to garnering readership. Exception: The writer who blogs to his/her well-established readership and has something unique and valuable to offer.
Blog tours— I’m also wary (and weary) of blog tours for the same reason. If a writer wrote a book set in old Charleston and arranged a blog tour of a handful of key Charleston history or cultural blogs I’m guessing it would be well worth the time, but the normal blog tour consists of visiting websites with modest stats that appeal mostly to other writers. We’re putting forth a lot of effort to preach to the choir.
Teaching at writer’s conferences, blogging to writers, offering writer’s workshops— This is the same dynamic. Preaching to the choir. Yes, writers read and yes, they want to support their colleagues but they are a saturated lot. They will help you get some buzz going about your book but they are buzzing to the same insular crowd– other writers. Way too much of our promotional efforts are being squandered on our colleagues and we’re not making our way out to potential readers.
Print Advertising— It used to be that there was nothing better for inspirational fiction than to be featured in the fiction section of Today’s Christian Woman. But magazines have gone the way of dinosaurs and trying to find a periodical that reaches a specific audience (and is still viable) is an uphill battle. And cost-prohibitive at that. We’re so inundated with marketing messages that hoping a potential reader will retain the information long enough to act on it is another worry. Going from a magazine to a trip to the store, or putting down the magazine to fire up the computer and log on to Amazon can be a wide chasm to cross in this one-click age. Exception: Advertising in trade magazines is another story and I still see it as effective for the motivated buyer who wants to find product for his store.
Marketing your book via Twitter— I’m going to talk about social media tomorrow as one of the things that works but marketing your book via Twitter is not how to use the medium. “Buy my book” or “Check out my new cover” messages are missing the point. Building community is what social media is all about.
Marketing your book via FaceBook— see my comment above. FaceBook is even less forgiving of a barrage of self-promotional status updates. There are ways to invite your friends into your life as an author that will help you build a readership but it takes a winning personal approach and as much give as take. FaceBook is not a marketing tool. It’s much more complicated. Much more engaging than that.
Same old, same old. Once you have a standard checklist for marketing a book, you’re headed for trouble. That’s the problem with too many publicists hired to help market a book–a pet peeve of mine. They pull out a list and just start ticking off the boxes instead of looking hard at the content of a book and devising innovative ways to talk about it. My favorite publicists stand head and shoulders above the rest because they’ve thrown away the checklist and are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and innovate.
So there you go– a quick and dirty start to a discussion of what works. The funny thing is, any one of those techniques could be wildly successful if you could manage to find a new angle–something unique or different. The problem is that once everyone jumps into the act, regardless of what it is, you no longer command attention. You no longer stand out. You just add to the static. Instead of being innovative and interesting, your efforts become just plain annoying.
I know I must have set some teeth on edge here. Please feel free to point out why I am wrong. Where I am wrong. That’s how we learn and I invite the conversation.
I promised another book recommendation. How about the tried-and-true Guerrilla Marketing for Book Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman and Michael Larsen? The book offers 100 “secrets” to sell your book both before and after it is published. It’s a good tool to jumpstart your own creativity.The key is to take the tips and go one step further and devise something unique to your book.