Five weeks ago, we started down this road: a road of positive thinking and proactive decision-making. A road upon which we agreed to stop thinking about the many ways we can mess up the marketing process (Marketing Missteps) and pivoted onto the front foot–to thinking, in short, about the many ways we can succeed instead.  So far we’ve looked at four master strokes, and today we’ll add a fifth, but a word of warning: this one’s not for the faint of heart!

Our first four master strokes asked that we:

  1. be all ears (listening to the stories of others, and keeping an open mind to actually changing your own approach),
  2. be willing to reach our readers where they live (setting aside the ego in order to adapt our outreach methods to best suit our readers),
  3. incentivize! (Or at least, find new ways to make your book look attractive.) And last but certainly not least, our penultimate master stroke requires us to …
  4. play well with others.

But the fifth master stroke?  Well, this is the hardest one of all.  It’s the most difficult to (no pun intended … maybe) master because it requires the aspiring self-publishing author to let go a little.  Okay, a lot.  It requires a complete surrender of the ego, because the ego cannot survive the constant process of optimization, the acceptance that the self doesn’t have all the answers, and that the process of innovation and modification will endure as long as that author remains an author.  Which we hope, of course, is forever.  

So what is this mysterious fifth and final master stroke?

Climb Every Mountain, Ford Every Stream

Okay, okay.  Just kidding.  The real master stroke is:

Try Every New Thing. Try A New Thing Regularly. Daily. Always.

… and of course I might have summarized this as “optimize the crud out of your marketing process,” but that’s as clear as mud.  What does it actually mean to “optimize”?  It means to try new things.  To try every new thing.  To try a new thing regularly. To try it daily.  To try it … always.  And to observe, listen carefully to what the data is telling you, to use your intuition to sense when there’s a quantifiable trend and when the numbers are actually calling for a change in method.  It requires us not to be afraid, to in point of fact be brave, and be brave often, to think creatively about every obstacle in our path.  To push through self-doubt and disappointment.  To see clearly amidst the blinding glitter of success.

To think about life and being an author and marketing as some kind of laboratory, where experimentation is the rule and not the exception–and where, like good scientists, we document our progress thoroughly so that we can track, exactly, which outcomes can be attributed to which changes in method.


Look, I realize I’m treading on unstable ground here.  I don’t advocate authors give up on their own ideas altogether.  Self-publishing is a safe-haven for those who want to hold true to their personal vision of what’s good and what’s right for them, in the face of a cynical world and the influences of a hostile traditional publishing institution.  I think we need to protect and cultivate the ideas that are different, outside of the box, and unique to you.  What I mean by “sacrificing the ego” and so on and so forth is that we give up on closing our minds off to the real heart of innovation.  And the innovator’s approach, as you’ll already be well aware, is a joyful heart that embraces new approaches and new ideas–if they work.  So let’s find out if they work!  As your final master stroke, I challenge you to go out and try something new–whether it’s a new social media platform, a new promotional offer, a new collaboration, or any number of other ideas–every day of the week.

Go forth and innovate!

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, 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, 10:00 AM

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