Do You Suffer From Marketing Inadequacy?

The success some authors have in marketing their books can overwhelm writers or even cause them to give up

Do You Suffer From Marketing Inadequacy?Last week we talked about how to deal with writer envy, of how to avoid having the abilities of other writers overwhelm us. While the threat of writer envy does assault me from time to time, I’ve mostly come to peace with my writing ability. I know I am good and am getting better. I may never be really great, but I’m okay with that – most of the time.

However, the flip side of writing ability is marketing proficiency. I must admit that I sorely struggle with my lack of promotional prowess. I’ve taken classes (even at the graduate level) and understand the theory. I know what to do, yet my gut churns when it comes to implementation. Too often it feels smarmy. Yet when I press through, I do well, but too often, I don’t bother to push myself to act.

I see other authors who successfully promote their books into the stratosphere of success, book after book. Their results devastate me – especially when the book isn’t well written. The sad reality is that a marketing maven doesn’t need to write a good book to make a lot of money. They just need to excel at marketing. I am envious.

So if we’re not good at book marketing, don’t want to do it, or even feel it is beneath the art, what are we to do?

Give Up: We could just forget our passion to write, our dream to create art, and move on to a less frustrating, more profitable career. Yet would that make us truly happy? Or would an unsatiated compulsion to write roil in our souls? I think we all know the answer.

Ghostwrite: Writing for others as a ghostwriter, writer for hire, or collaborator allows us to write – and earn money – without the need to market. I like this. I do this. Yet I also want to see my name on the cover. True ghostwriting assignments don’t provide that option.

Write But Don’t Market: This is a built-it-and-they-will-come mentality. We focus on the art of writing and forget about the business of writing. In rare instances it works. Usually not. Don’t pin your hopes on this strategy.

Outsource Marketing: I’d love to hire someone to do all my marketing for me. It would be so freeing. Yet two questions nag at me: Would it be cost-effective? (likely not), and would they produce acceptable results? (doubtful).

Press Through: Every job has fun aspects that we like and other chores that are, well, chores. We must slog through the difficult toils to resume the joys of creation.

I’ve considered each of these five responses. I often vacillate between them. Though I seldom consider quitting any more, the other four considerations pop up each week. I don’t have an answer, but as I try to figure one out, I will continue to write.

What is your view on marketing your work? How do you balance marketing with writing? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Should You Monetize Your Website or Blog?

Platform building gurus recommend monetizing our author websites – that is, to sell ads and place affiliate links. They also say to start sooner rather than later. They suggest this for two reasons.

First, selling ads will generate some revenue. Maybe it’s only enough to pay for hosting, but every bit helps. Second, at some point we will want to sell our books or services on our site. It is better to get people use to the promotional aspect now, so they are not shocked (or critical) later. If we start when our traffic is small, there are fewer people to react negatively. No one wants to build a huge audience and then upset everyone by introducing advertising.

Though I don’t presently have ads on this site, I do accept advertising on many of my other ones. It’s on my “to do” list to add them here, too.

Sell Ads: The first thing we can do is sell ads directly to businesses, organizations, and individuals whose message will resonate with our visitors. Unfortunately, we need to have about 10,000 unique visitors before we can get anyone to actually pay us. However, we can put an “advertise here” box where the ad will go. We can also do an ad swap with a friend to cross-promote each other.

Ad Servers: Another solution is to sign up with an ad server, such as Google AdSense. They will generate code, which we add to our site. The code will automatically place ads there, and we earn money every time someone clicks on the ad. This is pay-per-click advertising. Usually the amount is only pennies, but it can add up.

The one warning is to carefully select the types of ads we will accept. Otherwise our site will show ads whose message we might not agree with or that will offend visitors. We don’t want that. (The better paying ads are usually the ones we don’t want.) In addition to broad categories, most services allow us to block certain domain names, such as to a competing book.

Affiliate Links: Affiliate links are links to products and services we endorse. Whenever someone clicks on one of those links and buys the offer, we get a commission. Again, it is important to carefully select who we will promote. If their offer is questionable or lacks value, people may blame us. Also, even though it doesn’t cost the buyer anything, it is ethical to note when a link is an affiliate link.

Taking steps to monetize our website or blog will not generate much money, if any, until our traffic is higher. It may also seem like it’s more bother than it’s worth, but it does prepare people to respond positively when they see our ad for our book or service on our website. Isn’t that the goal?

Promote Your Blog

A few weeks ago, when I finished my series on blogging, I invited readers to post a link to their blog. No one did. I know many of you have blogs, so I’m not sure what went wrong. Perhaps the offer got lost in the post or maybe the series dragged on too long.

Anyway, here’s another chance. In the comments section, please post a link to your blog. If you want, give the title and share your tagline or a short description. Grab this chance at some free promotion! After all, “If we don’t promote our blog, it doesn’t matter.”

What’s the web address of your blog?

If We Don’t Promote Our Blog, it Doesn’t Matter

When I started blogging in 2008 my readers came from two sources: friends who knew about my blog (that is, I told them about it) and people who discovered it online. I had more readers who I didn’t know than people I did. The power of blogging became apparent when, after two weeks of blogging, someone in Africa commented on one of my posts.

While that still happens today, it’s far less common; there are so many blogs out there that few people will accidently stumble upon our particular blog.

Assuming we want people to read what we write, we need to promote it. Here are some ideas:

  • Let our social media friends, followers, and circles know about our posts. The greater our reach on the various platforms and our degree of activity, the more people we will drive to our blog and posts.
  • Include a link to our blog in our email signatures.
  • Put our blog on our business cards and promotional materials.
  • If our blog is part of our website, make the posts easy to find.
  • If our blog is separate from our website, link from one to the other and add supporting info on the blog, such as an about section, a bio, contact info, photos, and other interesting content.
  • Go old school and actually tell people about our blog.
  • Start an email list and promote our posts to our list.
  • Guest blog on other like-minded sites, and some of their readers will become our readers.
  • Follow best SEO (search engine optimization) practices.

When we get people to our blog, we want them to keep coming back. Here are some tips to do that:

  • Let them subscribe via email and be notified of each new post.
  • Provide a link to an RSS feed so they can easily access posts from their blog reader.
  • Post according to a schedule. That way they can form a habit of reading our posts on a regular basis. (I post here every Saturday morning.)
  • Ask for comments and interact with those who comment. While some comments don’t warrant a response, most do.
  • Make it easy for people to comment; don’t require them to log in, sign-up, or be approved. If you must moderate comments (which I do not advise), approve them quickly.
  • Post great content!

When we take these steps more people will read our posts – and isn’t that what we want?

What is the purpose of your blog? What tips do you have to increase readership?

Don’t Be That Guy: Embrace Your Fans and Feed Your Followers

I once attended a lecture by a writer I admired and followed. He said he’d hang out afterwards, during the break. I bought his latest book and returned to have him sign it; I hoped we might talk a bit. He was gone. I waited. Nothing. Then I roamed the building but couldn’t find him. Undaunted, I figured I’d catch him after his next session, but he took off as soon as it was over. I regretted spending money on his book. Maybe I should have bought a book by someone who actually cared. I wasn’t such a fan of him after that.

Another time, while making small talk at a social event, I mentioned I was a writer. My new friend perked up. He pointed out another writer in the crowd. She’d just published her book. He gave me her name. At an appropriate time, I introduced myself and asked about her book. She recoiled and hissed. “Who told you?” I pointed to my source and told her he was really proud of her. She calmed down a bit, and I suggested we chat a bit afterwards. She nodded, but she disappeared before the program ended. She missed an opportunity to connect with a potential fan, and I missed the opportunity to network with another writer. Her book intrigued me, but I haven’t read it. Her reaction diminished my enthusiasm.

Yes, we all have bad days, make mistakes, come across negatively, and let people down. But fans and followers are precious to writers and we need to take care of every one of them.

Someday, I’ll be that writer with a book someone wants signed or have a fan who wants to chat. I’ll remember these situations and will strive to not repeat their mistakes.

Has a writer ever endeared him or herself to you? Has the opposite ever happened?

Turning Fans into Influencers

Although the labels vary, writers have three levels of supporters: Friends, fans, and influencers.

Friends like us and follow us, be it online or in the real world; they may read our books.

Fans adore us and our writing; they will read everything we produce.

Influencers may be a friend or fan, but whether or not they read our books, the important factor is that they influence others to embrace our work.

Writers need all three groups, but influencers are critical in getting the word out. As a writer, I have friends and fans but I’m not sure if I have any influencers. I’m not even sure how to find or cultivate them. Fortunately, someone just modeled this for me.

Two weeks ago in my post Stay Within Your Genre, I confessed to being a fan of Robin Mellom, courtesy of her book Ditched. She then shocked and honored me by leaving a comment! I’ve never had an author do that. This simple act moved me from fan status into influencer status, not a big influencer mind you but an influencer nonetheless.

In a brief 170 words, here’s what I learned about cultivating influencers:

Be polite: She began her comment low key and unassuming, almost as though asking for permission to join the discussion. In a world of loud and brash self-promotion of “BUY MY BOOK,” her humility was refreshing.

Be appreciative: She thanked me for my words. She didn’t need to, but it was nice to hear. I now know that she is a great writer and a nice person, too.

Add to the discussion: I’ve seen too many people comment badly. Regardless of the topic or thread, their message is twisted into “Buy my book.” Not Robin, she made relevant comments to my premise of staying within one genre. Her experience shows that you can write to multiple audiences. That’s so encouraging to hear.

Have appropriate self-promotion: She did in fact mention her next YA book, Busted. Sharing this information fit nicely into the discussion and answered my implied question. From this I learned that when self-promotion will advance the discussion and supports the post, then do it, but if it doesn’t, then the best action is no action.

Be positive: Throughout it all, she was positive and upbeat. Though she could have been nit-picky over some minor inferences, she was not. Her comment was as fun to read as her book.

That, my friends, is one way to turn a fan into an influencer. Now I know.

How to Write Press Releases

Among the many things writers can produce, one item is a press release. But there’s an art to penning a compelling one.

Although the intent of the press release is promotion, it should not appear so.

A press release is foremost a news item, a noteworthy occurrence. A good press release will focus on that. A great press release will also be interesting or entertaining to read.

As a magazine publisher, I’ve been on the receiving end of press releases for years – and have seen too many bad and boring ones, often with over-the-top marketing hype.

Lately I’ve been creating my own press releases. Why? To promote my writing and me – and hopefully be newsworthy, interesting, and perhaps even entertaining in the process.

I post my press releases on my websites and distribute them through PRlog. See a list of my press releases.

If you want to write press releases – for yourself or others – go to PRlog (or any other source of press releases) and study what you see. Note what resonates with you and what turns you off. Which ones are interesting, and which ones are boring?

Most importantly, scrutinize the headlines. The headline is the most important part, for if you have a bad headline, no one will bother to read the rest of the announcement. You headline should avoid hype, unfulfilled promises, and clever writing. Be factual and interesting. Grab readers attention with the headline, and it’s done its job.

Now you have an idea of what your press releases should look like – and are better prepared when it comes time to write one, either for yourself or for others.