“You Have to Keep Shooting”

Marketing a Book: The Writing is Done. What Do I Do Now?

         By Gary Dorion

             A friend of mine once gave me some very valuable advice when I was starting out in a retail business in Portsmouth, N.H., some years ago:  “You’ve got to keep shooting.” I’ve relied upon that wise saying for the multiple businesses I’ve been involved with since that time. True, sometimes you have to stop when it is clear that you are just “throwing good money after bad.” It’s sometimes difficult to tell when to quit one approach to start another. But with the tremendous changes in publishing that have occurred in just a few years, it is clear to me that independent writers/publishers must wander down many marketing avenues before, during and after publishing a book. 
             If you are swimming in money you can hire promoters to market your book but, if you are like most of us, you need to do as much self-promotion and marketing as you can. In the previous two posts in this series, I discussed how programs such as CreateSpace-an Amazon company-can be a valuable resource that can get you professional results if you are willing to invest the time into learning book design and marketing. These days the writing is only the first half on the way to publishing success. You need to be the force that connects your book to your identified audience. I say “identified” because, if you don’t have a very good idea who you are trying to sell to, then your business plan needs attention in a major way.
            CreateSpace has numerous resources and tools that can guide you along in the process of putting out your own book for very little money. They also will do a minimum amount of marketing. You must build your author pages on various web sites including your Amazon site, set up a blog and/or web site toward which to drive social media and other contacts to, and send out press releases. I provide press release services if interested as I had my own news business for more than ten years in which I wrote articles for some 40 Metropolitan Boston client newspapers and the Associated Press. Contact me at for rates. I can also review your developing book or book plan at reasonable rates.
            One of the major problems you could expect with getting your book reviewed by newspapers is the expense of providing hard copies to those media. Many newspapers want two books. You would think that, in this day of digital publishing, news editors would wake up to the needs of independent writers who aren’t usually loaded with funds-otherwise they likely would  not be independent writers/publishers, right? I haven’t seen any newspapers yet that accept PDF digital copies of books for review which would cost the writer almost nothing. As happened with the major New York publishers, newspapers will, I predict, eventually incur the wrath of  an increasingly powerful mass of independent writers who now are made to jump needlessly through  extraneous financial and other ridiculous hurdles even though they may have a great book. Someday-and I hope it will be soon-writers won’t have to be at the mercy of book publishers, newspapers, magazines and agents to get their product to the reader. Writing-like art-should be accessible without the gatekeepers and maybe the continued development of the internet will render them all anachronisms.                              
             But we’re dealing with reality here and, as independents, the marketing begins during the writing process and must become more intensive as you move forward and particularly in the first few weeks and months after you have published the work. For many years of my writing life I found marketing distasteful but-having been forced to learn marketing as a survival tool-I’ve actually begun to like it.
             The day that you publish isn’t the day that you get to sit back on your butt and say, “great, I’ve finally made it.”  No, this is the time when you have to work harder so that you do justice to your creation. This is the time that an independent writer needs “to keep shooting.” If one thing doesn’t work, you need to believe in your product and try another approach. However, some approaches do not bear fruit for weeks, months or more. Social media, for instance, looks like a great vehicle through which to directly connect with your potential readership and this can happen. But it seems that everyone on Twitter or Linkedin is trying to promote their own thing and so a shotgun approach-trying multiple advertising avenues-is very likely going to be necessary. It is not enough to Twit.
             For my new novel, Comrade Anna, my target audiences are university professors of literature and history and high school instructors. Most of my marketing is geared toward these communities but the book also has strong vegan themes and so another niche audience is the vegan/vegetarian community. Once you understand who your audience is, the next step is to reach them without overselling or being obnoxious. This is a delicate task. How do you do that? Your purpose is to sell your book and often it is to people who don’t want a sales pitch every time they open a browser.


            Well, if you are a teacher-which I am-you can use the personal approach among other approaches. You keep a copy of your novel or other book with you and the inevitable conversations will arise when other teachers see you reading it or editing it. At least in the teaching world, this should occur at lunch hours-otherwise it can be seen as a conflict-of-interest situation. Or (I’m one of those English teachers who believe in using conjunctions to start sentences) you say to a colleague during a conversation, “Oh by the way, my new novel is being published in a week or so-would you like to check it out?” They invariably say yes. You can get the email addresses of such potential readers and send them a complimentary PDF hoping that they will purchase multiple copies or at least turn someone else onto your book  People like getting things for free and often will try to be grateful in some way. The main thing, it appears to me, is to get your book into circulation so people see it and talk about and recommend it.
            Another direct marketing approach to your potential audience is to develop people in your niche market from the internet and try to get email addresses. You can then send them a free PDF copy or offer them something for checking out your book.

             I developed a list of professors and high school instructors along with email addresses that I have been able to pull from the internet. You don’t want to be seen as a spammer so one way to avoid that is to give something away free. Another great way is to blog about issues that are of interest to your market audience-another reason why you need to know what audience you need to target for your book.  In my case, I offer a volume discount but also a free PDF that I send as an attachment in the email to each instructor. Now with this approach I really cannot expect results soon because, if these instructors are going to purchase the book they are probably going to do so for use in a lessons-planning unit. That means that they are much more likely to order new books at the beginning of the academic term and before the spring term begins. So there is probably going to be a long gestation period with this approach during which there might be few sales until the peak ordering times.
            Another marketing problem I am dealing with right now is that Comrade Anna is published but not reviewed yet.  I had to make a marketing decision here-get the book published so I could reap some holiday sales and exposure or wait, get it reviewed, and then publish. So it is important that I give some copies away to people who I want to write a review. Readers are far more likely to buy a book that has four to five stars next to the cover icon on Amazon, it would seem, than if there are no reviews at all. 
            Please check out the next post in the series, Part 4, which will be published soon. 

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