Week after week, for the last eight weeks, we’ve unpacked some of the biggest DON’Ts in the business, ranging from exaggerated self-interest to taking on tasks beyond your skill level to waiting. But this week marks the penultimate misstep–the second to last misstep–the misstep that precedes the ultimate and most fateful of missteps. Want to know what the worst of the worst of the worst is–at least, in my experience? Stick around one more week!
But first, before I dive into today’s episode of wrong-footedness, a quick recap–
The Missteps So Far:
- devolving into a self-centered campaigner,
- confusing the sales message with the marketing campaign,
- waiting till the book is done to start marketing,
- designing your own book cover,
- printing anything other than on demand (POD),
- taking it personally,
- failing to ask “what’s next?” and
- not finding your people.
This week’s misstep is, as you might expect, in line with the general trend of the last few weeks. Which is to say, it’s a misstep that has its root in a disconnect between knowing what self-publishing means and really knowing what self-publishing requires. The misstep?
Thinking: “Aw, but these rules don’t apply to me!”
Once upon a time, I attended a conference with a number of other self-publishing authors and industry professionals. After a panel session had finished and I was tidying up to leave, one of the other authors approached me and unloaded a small elevator speech about her book (which is actually good thing! I always love a good elevator speech!). The book sounded interesting in premise, but I was struck with surprise at not having heard anything about it before, especially since this was the last day of the conference and I’d spent a lot of time browsing among the various stalls that vendors and authors had set up in the hotel atrium.
“Where can I find this book?” I asked. “I don’t remember having seen it outside.”
“Oh, well, you can find it on Amazon,” said the author, looking vaguely discomfited.
Fair enough. But ever on the lookout to gather the top tips and tricks–and by “gather” I mean “steal”–of other authors, I took the opportunity to pivot and ask about marketing: “What are you doing to promote this book?”
Here’s the rub. She said: “Nothing much, really.” It turned out that she was worried that marketing her own book would take up too much time and wouldn’t do much to boost the sales of a book that came built-in with its own appeal and a timely subject. She felt that her book hit all the “hot-button issues” of the moment and that this, ultimately, was the primary reason why books sold or didn’t, and that self-promotion was just a lot of hot air.
She couldn’t have been more wrong. A month or two later, I remembered the conversation and pulled up her Amazon book page, discovering in the process that only two people had reviewed her book and they were both clearly personal acquaintances. Her sales must have been very limited, indeed. And as far as I could tell, she’d mentioned the book a couple of times on her personal Facebook account but hadn’t extended her marketing campaign to include standalone representation through Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platform.
And she’s not alone! Neglecting to market at all may very well be the worst mistake authors make–and among the most frequent. But I’m here to be a little reality check: The basic rules of self-promotion do apply to you. You might be famous, or mix with folk of a stiff upper lip, or be writing about a subject that touches on the lives of every single person on the planet in a useful and relevant way. But–BUT!–if you don’t work and work hard, you will only ever find that the doors to healthy sales will stay shut to you. Yes, there’s an element of the miraculous and the coincidental that helps determine a book’s blockbuster success, but very few self-published books reached acclaim without a good dollop of elbow grease to smooth the way.
Look, I’m not saying I’m the only expert out there. I may not even be someone whose opinion you respect. But my decades of experience in self-publishing on both sides of the published/publisher aisle can be distilled down to a handful of take-away statements, and here’s one: Even the traditionally-published author has to work, and work hard, to sell books. Midlist authors rarely get a break, and they technically have the full force of a team of marketers and promotion experts behind them! Self-publishing puts that weight on the author’s shoulders even as it returns the decision-making process and rights and royalties where they belong: in the author’s hands. I guess what I’m trying to say is that no matter what kind of author you want to be, you should put together an actionable plan for marketing your book–a plan that extends beyond a few conversations at a conference.
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠
|ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com. 10:00 AM|