When I was first published, I remember how hard I marketed. I went to conventions, posted on blogs, wrote thank you notes, sent emails, wrote and sent newsletters, stayed “in touch” with my “fans” . . . worked on creating buzz by having friends post reviews on online sites (and I returned the favor whenever I could), contacted libraries, sent review copies (often at my own expense) to anyone who’d read my books, participated in the American Bookseller Association’s promotions and on and on.
All that marketing yielded a name in the mystery community — albeit a smallish name in the pantheon of great and well-known writers — but many folks did know me. I was nominated for two awards which gave me street cred in certain circles. What all that work didn’t yield was a major audience, a NY publishing contract, or enough money to pursue fiction as my main career.
It also put the emphasis squarely on Marketing/PR. And that, my friends, is bass ackwards. Writers need to write. That’s their job. It’s their expertise. The heavy lifting in marketing and PR belongs to Marketing and Public Relations pros.
I actually think that’s at the heart of much of the trouble in the publishing industry today. People forgot their jobs, tried to cut corners or take on what they oughtn’t’ve and now we have a mess.
In regards to Marketing and PR, I have a heightened sensitivity. I’ve worked in the field going on three decades. I can smell tricks and techniques from miles away. Now every writer I know is a marketer. Every single one is trying to hit me with the latest version of marketing know-how. And here’s what happens: the more I’m hit, the more tricks I perceive, the more diluted the message becomes and . . . the less I buy.
Maybe I’m in a subset of audiences that don’t like to feel accosted or badgered. Maybe I just know too many writers. But I’ve become a real curmudgeon.
Some people might claim I’m being a hypocrite. Murderati and my FB pages are Marketing/PR. It’s true they were when I started them, but that’s not what they do for me now. I post blogs because I like the conversations that ensue and that my world includes readers I may never meet but with whom I feel friendships blossoming. The same is true for FB.
This year I plan to self-publish some of my work. You’d think that’d put me back on the Marketing/PR treadmill, that I’d be looking for the latest analytics and techniques to reach the most potential readers.
I’m determined to find a new paradigm. I think it’s going to have to do with having a butt-load of product so that if a reader likes one of my works, he or she will look for others — and the works will be there to purchase. If one reader enjoys something, I hope he or she will tell someone else . . .
Simple. No bells or whistles.
And I’ll just keep writing.
This is absolutely spot on! I am of the opinion that marketing, social media, yadda yadda will all be LESS important in the future. Because there's so freaking much of it. While it's necessary to have a footprint, there will be no Godzillas. None. So ultimately it's going to be, just as you say, having a book out there readers love enough to recommend, and more books they can buy from you. That's it. That's the ballgame from now on.
And I love curmudgeons. I have Jon Winokur's The Portable Curmudgeon, and desire to someday be one of those Muppets that sits in the balcony, making sardonic comments and laughing.
Selling books by writing a lot of books that people want to read?
This reader is all over that—and will gladly recommend any writer who tries it.
Yay!!! Pari – for that I've just requested one of the 3 books you've written that Auckland Library holds.
I adore the muppets and curmudgeons… thank you for your interesting posts on murderati.
Very interesting post. I find that working in a bookshop I'm always being told what I "absolutely must read" by staff members, and also customers! And yes I know that as part of my job, I do handsell particular titles and I'm guilty of saying "you absolutely must read this" but at the end of the day I find the more staff/customers say "read (insert title here)" the less likely I am to want to pick it up. I prefer to find my own gems, (this comes in handy when recommending books to customers who've read a lot of popular fiction) And I stand by this quote “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
― Haruki Murakami,
I think it's a great strategy you're going with, and word of mouth goes a long way. Good luck with the self publishing! 🙂
Sorry for being so quiet today; it was the first day back to work after a lovely and long break.
James, I've never read the Portable Curmudgeon . . . might try it. I do wonder if we're moving past the megastar mentality in writing. I know it'll take time, but there may indeed come a time when the playing field is much more egalitarian. I look forward to that.
Sarah, I'd better get cracking. Actually, I just love it when I find a writer I like and know that I'll be able to savor more and more books by him or her. It's such a gift to readers, don't you think?
Karen, I hope you enjoy it! and thank you for telling me Aukland actually has some of my books. It makes me feel very international — at the moment!
Laura, I think I'm very much like you. The more people try to tell me to do read something, the more I resist. I've always attributed it to a contrary nature <g>. But I, too, like to think for myself. Word of mouth is only effective if it's true — based on a person's real enthusiasm. Right now, I think audiences are getting much more sophisticated re manufactured "buzz."
Every time I get hit with the marketing barrage, I think: The heavier the hustle, the shoddier the goods. I know that's wrong, because so much that's good doesn't get the marketing attention it deserves. But I've seen the man behind the screen. He'll tell you he's a good man, just a very bad wizard. What he's really saying is: I wouldn't know a good book if it bit me on the ass, but I want you to buy this one anyway.
I'm in your camp, Pari. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.
Pari, I'm sitting here laughing because I'm not sure how to say what I want to say without it setting off your BS meter. It's a conundrum. (I'm just going to assume that anyone who wanted to buy my book has already done so and referring to it now won't change that.)
I completely and enthusiastically agree with you. The little bit of "marketing" I did on twitter in the past few weeks made me feel like the scourge of the earth. It was awful and I hated it. Like I needed to take a shower and then apologize to everyone for spamming them with the news. The only concession to "marketing" I'm now willing to do on twitter is that I've changed my avatar to my book cover. And even that feels weird.
One thing I've noticed, having a blog and being an active commenter on other blogs, is that people do click on my name and check out my site. The first thing most of them do is click on the "About" page, probably trying to determine whether I'm from another planet. The second most-clicked page is the one titled "Books" (put there as a reminder to myself that one day there would be some). For a very long time, I'd cringe every time someone clicked and there weren't.
What I'm trying to say is that people really do seek you out if they're interested in what you have to say in other places. I also agree with Laura's comment above. I can't even tell you how many times my daughter has tried to insist I "must" read LOTR. Every time she does, it makes me that much more determined that I'm just not going to.
The only times I've checked out a book recommendation on twitter is when it comes from someone other than the author. Self-promo is white noise.
Thank you for posting this. It confirms everything I believe about writers marketing themselves. Social media is all about having fun and making friends. Everyone needs to stop trying to sell stuff.
Speaking of marketing, I just watched this video that friend linked to on a blog (how ironic). It's a remarkable demonstration of how marketing can work to get a point across without telling people what to do. Apparently, the company was hired to persuade people to approve a 0.7% tax increase to support the library system in Troy, MI. Their approach was unusual. But effective.
I know, not relevant to *selling* books. But perhaps of interest to all of us who love books.
Thanks for that.
I don't think marketing is necessarily bad . . . it's just really gotten out of hand to the point that skepticism is my primary response to just about everything now.
And, yes, people will click and check you out, but the vast majority of the time clicks don't equal sales. They're just clicks.
I'll check out that link tomorrow. For now, I'm going to play a game with my kids . . .
Wishing you all the best for that career move. Self publishing is not that easy. Good luck!
– Bruce S.
Oh, I know. Clicks are just clicks. Just saying that I think "being yourself" is a better way to become known than relentlessly spamming people with a sales pitch.
And, um, sorry for spamming you with another link to read. 🙂 Enjoy the family time.
I can't wait to see all your hard work get back out there again. I did a lot of work last year to get the word out that my backlist was finally re-available after what felt like so long in the wilderness, but this year's aim is just to write, write, write. Good luck with all of it!
Sadly the Marketing/PR approach is a requirement of everyone today regardless if it's product or personal branding. The thing is, so many writers and authors barely know how certain marketing approaches are supposed to work, especially if it's 'social media.' Unclear messages, berating efforts and gimmicks are fading though. Not in use but at least in success rates which means hopefully less to come.
Thank you. I'm not planning to make my living with the self-publishing . . . not for a while at least 😉
KD, Don't worry about the link. I'll look at it soon. And I couldn't agree more about writing what you want to write. It's the choice I've made.
I can't wait either! I'm just intimidated by the technology and having to learn it in order to do it. Time, time time. You're leading the way. And I'm happy you're writing more!
And I hope you're right about a lack of success breeding a reduction in these techniques. Sometimes, alas, it takes quite a while for people to learn what works and what doesn't.
Love this post. Excellent. Thanks.
I'm so glad I read this. Between the day job and two creative fields (painting & writing) I'm pressed to find time for marketing — and I'm so bad at it. I'd much rather become a better writer than a better marketer. Pari, thanks for helping me feel not quite so lame.
I am so glad I came across your blog. I am a writer myself and is actually associated in the marketing field now. You're right about a lot of writers adopting a style and work path that is not really the one they are meant to do. I am living that life now and I honestly miss writing just for the heck of it. I would like to get out of it and shift paradigms too but I have no choice to stick with what I'm doing now till I can make ends meet. Maybe someday I can concentrate on getting back to my first love. For now, I'll have to write for marketing purposes first. Any advice for dudes like me?