First of all, thank you so much for being a reader of my posts, whether you’re here for the first time or you’ve been reading my words for years. This wouldn’t be a blog community without you.
A few weeks ago, someone commented to the effect that publishers expect an awful lot of authors as far as marketing. The author wants to spend time writing. As someone who wrote books for publication for many years, I get it!
You See Marketing Every Day, in Every Business
We don’t think about how businesses market to us because their ads are not our problem. Except for the ad we HATED the first time and keep seeing on TV until we want to throw a tomato at the set. Or the ad that was cute the first 600 times but has worn out its welcome. Of course, the argument can be made to cut off the TV!
Regardless, when you think about it, all businesses need and expect marketing.
Do you own a national franchise? You may be asked to pay a fee for ads they run for the brand.
See celebrities being interviewed on television three or four times a day for several weeks? They have a movie or show to pitch.
Politicians? They are selling their ideas.
And, finally, authors make appearances to – guess what? Promote their books. No doubt many of them wish they could be typing away, or writing a plot, or developing characters. This can be done while wearing favorite casual clothes and listening to preferred tunes. But, no, they need to go out in public to answer questions about themselves and their books. If everyone would just buy the book and read it, everyone’s life would be easier, right?
Your Audience Must Learn about Your Book
Perhaps, but it doesn’t work that way. However, there’s a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel; and it’s not a locomotive. There are ways an author can cut down on the amount of marketing he needs to do. Next week, I’ll explore a path to consider.
How did you learn about the book you are currently reading?
What is the most surprising way you learned about a particular book?
Nancy E Massand
My current read is a word of mouth recommendation, White Fragility. A lot of them are from Amazon first reads that show up in my email. If I like one, I’ll go through everything by that author.
Damon J. Gray
Good morning Tamela!
> How did you learn about the book you are currently reading?
I just finished Walden and Civil Disobedience, both by Thoreau. I was aware of them but had never read them. I became interested because I toured his place at Walden Pond just outside of Concord MA last month.
> What is the most surprising way you learned about a particular book?
The oddest way I learned of a book was when I got a phone call from the author wanting to sell me a copy for $10. I was so taken aback by that approach that I purchased it – about 20 years ago – still haven’t read it!!
I hear there’s someone come to town,
who’s gonna make a speech.
I think, therefore, we’ll wander down
to the fishing-beach.
They didn’t really seem to like him
in the place from which he hailed.
Word travels fast, the odds were slim;
they tried to string him up but failed.
It’s fun to see a grown man stir
trouble that can get him killed;
unusual for an orator
to get quite that ‘fulfilled’.
So let’s go down to hear him say
those things that people call The Way.
Very nice, Andrew.
Amen! And that the church should share the Word.
Love it, Andrew! Praying for a good day today.
Thank you so much, Judith. God is good, and He is here.
Insightful poem, Andrew. One of your best.
Tamela, I like to read children’s literature for relaxation. It started in college when our professor made us read one hundred children’s book in ten different categories. So when I pass by a children’s book or YA book at a thrift store or yard sale, it catches my eye. I just finished “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” by Mildred Taylor, I think. The first of her works I read was ‘Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.” She’s a master plot-weaver. Her books are definitely ones which make you keep turning pages!
Thank you, Roberta!
I’ll answer how I found the book I last read from a new to me author. My family and I read Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett our trip out West. I had seen people talking about her and her books all over Facebook and in reading groups. I knew she had a national park series and we were planning on visiting 5 different ones, so I looked for one that matched a park we were going to. BUT I would never have even known or thought to look if I hadn’t seen it being talked about so much.
It’s true what they say. A person needs to see something three, four, even five times…maybe even ten before they give serious consideration to making a purchase from someone with whom they aren’t familiar. The more ways you can get your book out there, the more people you can get talking about it, the more places you can reach–the more curiosity is going to be built. Enough to get that first purchase.
After that point, it’s up to your skill to pull them in, keep them interested, and eager to read more. On our trip, I also learned how important it is to write strong no matter what you put out there. We read several novella collections between stops to discover new authors. Those novellas were what pushed us to decide who we want to read novels from and who we want to avoid. Super powerful to learn.
Writing is a small business and your publisher is a partner. You both have to put in equal work on all aspects of the business in order for it to be successful in this competitive world. I can’t tell you how many mom and pop stores I’ve grieved the loss of. As authors, we’re “mom and pop” stores. Get out there. Market. And put out your best work so people keep coming back for more.
And yes, I’m long-winded as always. 😉
Kristen Joy Wilks
Well, the book I’m reading now I actually learned about on the Books and Such Blog when one of the agents said it was one of her favorites of the year. But knowing it was a literary novel, I would never have read it (despite the glowing recommendation) if my best friend hadn’t given it to me for our “Mean Gift Exchange” this year. We used to give each other things like dead house plants, candles shaped like a human brain, or a rug with a cowboy boot print (sorry, cowboy boot fans, but you should have heard her scream in horror when I presented this to her, priceless!) as mean gifts. But now we have graduated to forcing the other one to read a book out of their genre. She loves books where people die and there is gorgeous writing but no plot (literary fiction, yes, she made me read A Fault in Our Stars) and I enjoy genre fiction of all kinds (yes, I made her read Artemis Fowl and Cinder) and if there is an elf or a dragon anywhere in the story she is furious. It is very fun!!! This year, I made her read Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians which is simply hilarious … but might possibly have magic and a rocket shaped like a giant penguin and she forced me to read A Gentleman in Moscow which has gorgeous sentence by sentence writing and musings on the fall of an empire, but she assures me is pretty much plotless and that if I think a plot is developing … that I am wrong! She was cackling as she said this and I am curious to see if this is true. So, that is how I came to be reading A Gentleman in Moscow … but I’m not sure that it is the typical way that readers discover an author’s books.
I’d love a candle shaped like a brain. It would be perfect in my guest bathroom. Or even better, the guest bedroom where visitors would see it just as they dozed off. I could pick their brains at breakfast for dreams that might make good thriller plots. Did you give that or did she?
Kristen Joy Wilks
Ha! Great idea, Carol. She gave me the candle and I gave her the dead plant and the cowboy boot rug. It was a very fun tradition and quite useful now since I can sound super smart and say that I have read Catcher in the Rye, The Fault in Our Stars, and Where the Red Fern Grows … even though it was in exchange of her reading Twilight, The Heroes Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, and Artemis Fowl.
The last few books I’ve read have been found by inputting key words on internet searches. It’s not my favorite way to find my next read because I will typically download a sample before deciding to purchase, so I spend a lot of time reading samples when I’d rather be diving into my next adventure. However, every once in a while I’ll come across a marketing promo that catches my attention and that book will suddenly be my next victim, and I love it! As a reader and a writer, I can’t help but appreciate just how much marketing does work.
In the end the lack of publishers thinking out of the box and promoting books will create three issues. One, more people will simply self publish. Two firms will pop up will charge a premium to promote an authors book so the author can have more time to create and write. Three, more authors will seek secular publishing routes. Christian publishing companies are woefully behind the curve and are shutting down fiction divisions. Why? because they say Christian fiction doesn’t sell…wrong. This has been proven true in that Christians flock to secular fiction films like Marvel and D.C.. Where are the Christian fiction scripts?The issue lies in the fact of lack of effective access to the base that would buy it. I blame this squarely on the publishers. If authors are going to have to spend a large amount of their time (more than ever before) publishers should cut the percent take and give the authors more money. In summary Christians need to get with it from the publishing aspect.
I need to chime in on your comments.
It is not true that “Christian publishing companies are woefully behind the curve.” A few publishers shuttered their fiction divisions, that is true. But they were usually ones that had only recently opened the aforesaid fiction division. They had struggled to figure out how to sell fiction and eventually gave up. But other publishers like Bethany House, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Barbour, Revell, Waterbrook, and more continue to be quite effective. Some of their titles end up on the NYTimes bestseller list. They have proved that Christian fiction does sell.
Is fiction hard to sell? Yes. It is getting harder to compete for space on shelves, both physical and virtual. But it has always been that way. It was hard to sell Christian fiction in the early 80s when I began in this industry. It’s never “easy” to sell a book.
As for films? That is a different thing entirely. A completely different industry. I recently spent quite some time with Ted Baehr of The Christian MovieGuide (check out their web site). He was quite positive on the huge strides Christian writers have made in getting their scripts done well and produced. The future is bright.
Self-publishing is a wonderful option for writers with the moxie and entrepreneurial skills to do it successfully. I know of a number who are succeeding quite well. At the same time I receive dozens of proposals from writers saying “I self-published and failed. Now I need an agent to fix the problems.”
Ann L Coker
Nothing surprising, most of the books I read are recommended by family and friends. A friend in another town recommended my reading a current book, and a friend’s teen daughter said I would like the previous one.
I look forward to your next post about marketing. My current writing project is getting my husband’s sermons in print, and since he has Alzheimer’s disease, he won’t be up to speaking engagements.
Ann L Coker
Another thought: I also find good books while reading magazines such as Today’s Christian Living and Guideposts. It’s not only their book ads, but many of their articles are excerpts from published books.
Thank you for this post!
Early on, I learned this one… a slight deflation, however, accepted.
I have a nephew who has written a ton of books. He has spent 2 years on the road at fairs, bookstores, signings, connecting on social media. He is chockful of energy. But I’ve learned from him because his works are all around the state, and now the country. He went to a random coffee shop, sipping his chai or whatever, and the guy sitting next to him was engrossed in his book…
Weird books, non-fiction, not remotely Christian, they appeal to the folks that have no idea that his health-conscious books are about health, not magic. Seriously.
But a great lesson. Marketing is not my forte so I am gleaning information from him.
The books I’m reading came to my attention in different ways. One a friend recommended. Another is a sequel to a series. The third, I grew curious about as it sat on the sidetable in the living room and I wasn’t doing anything too productive at the moment. I can’t say there’s ever been a surprising way for me to learn about a book. I do remember seeing a commercial for Stephen King’s the stand on television as a child. That’s the only time I’ve seen a novel advertised in such a way.
A local author, who I plan to meet this weekend promoted his book by asking musicians to read a chapter and base a song on what they gathered from that chapter. He then had a special release party where the musicians performed. A CD was released with it as well. I thought that was pretty interesting
Since I write Roman-era Biblical, I watch the 100 Best-Seller Amazon listings in Biblical Fiction, especially for Kindle. While finding new reads, I can also track how my novels are doing relative to comp titles there. I also search Biblical Fiction at Amazon to find older novels. When I’ve gone deeper than the top 20 pages in search, I’ve found some real jewels from the past, like Paul Maier’s Pontius Pilate that sold over half a million since it first released in 1968. Sometimes Bookbub recommends something in the personalized daily email that pulls me into click-&-buy mode. I also find books through the Christian reader groups at Facebook. I used to love browsing at the local Christian bookstore, but their fiction section has shrunk from a few hundred linear feed spine-out to half that size face-out.
I’m reading a couple of books. One was suggested by a friend. Another is from a series. Yet another I grew curious about as it sat on the side-table in the living room.
I’ve heard about a book from a local author who promoted it by employing local musicians to write a song based on a chapter he shared with them. I commented earlier but was told it was under moderation. Thought I’d try again without including my blog.
I’m not sure about the most unusual way… nothing stands out. I’ve found a lot of good books by listening to podcasts about writing and marketing that have book recommendations, especially Writing Excuses.
I agree Marketing is a bear, and it’s taking a long time to learn to do it right, but it’s worth the effort.
I’m curious to know what you think about author taglines as a marketing strategy.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Lauricia, I think author taglines are great because they are a secondary identifier for the author. Some readers may even recall an author tagline more than the author’s name. So yes, a good tagline isn’t the end-all-and-be-all, but it can help. But readers are sure to remember your lovely name. 🙂
oh I forgot!
Facebook and Twitter are the platforms I get 99% of my books from. The other 1% comes from looking at 1 book on Amazon or wherever and decide to peruse some other that looks more interesting or to my taste.
“There are ways an author can cut down on the amount of marketing he needs to do. Next week, I’ll explore a path to consider.”
I’m squarely in the middle of marketing my novel, and I’m definitely going to be reading your article next week, Tamela!
Sheri Dean Parmelee
Tamela, I would add that parents have to market their ideas to their own kids or else someone else will sell their ideas to your children.
Thanks for sharing! If I love a book, I usually get excited about the next novel that author has coming out. Since there are so many authors out there though, a newsletter and frequent social media posts help to keep that author in the forefront of my mind! Connecting with your readers and keeping that connection alive makes all the difference!
Morgan Tarpley Smith
I learned about the book I’m reading from a Facebook reader group that the author is part of! Aha, marketing! Lol
Hmm the most surprising way was probably the free book table at a writers conference. Those are great!!