I once surveyed all the authors I knew about what they wanted most for their writing.
The universal response was “Someone to do my marketing for me.”
I considered setting up an affordable and effective marketing service and then trying to sell it to all those people, but that’d be like Henry Ford giving us faster horses.
What authors really want is a way to spend more time writing and less time marketing, but still sell books. And if possible, to do it without hating themselves in the morning. Or being hated by everyone around them.
I’ll state my premise up front: the way to do that is follow these two steps:
- Write more top-quality books, and
- have a great email/newsletter list.
Authors who write more good books sell more books.
Authors with a newsletter email list full of fans sell more books.
And they do it with less marketing, more writing.
The Magic Formula
Everybody loves a step-by-step to get reliable repeatable results. A checklist for success.
The thinking is, if only we could find exactly the right time of day to tweet, the precise number of blog posts to write each week, the perfect balance of Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo and just the right book launch strategy, everything would fall into place.
There’s good news, and there’s bad news.
The Good News
Marketing is easy: tell people who love books like yours that you’ve written one.
The Bad News
I don’t know who those people are. Neither do you.
Back to the Good News
You can find out who those people are by watching them sign up for your newsletter. A newsletter list of people who signed up because they care is the Golden Ticket, the brass ring, the Holy Grail.
So here’s the one-step magical formula for marketing your books: tell your newsletter list about it.
If you wish you didn’t have to spend so much time marketing, you hate marketing, why do you have to sell yourself for pity’s sake what’s with all the marketing I just want to write, here’s some more good news: building your newsletter is the organic result of making personal connections with people.
It’s slow. It’s not guaranteed. It involves interacting with other human beings, something many authors are unaccustomed to.
But it’s relatively easy, it won’t interfere with your writing, or anything else in your life, and it doesn’t require skills beyond what you already have. You’re probably already spending more time on social media than it requires.
Here’s how it works (wherein we finally get that list you’ve been looking for.)
The Step-by-Step List
Everything you do to market yourself (yourself, not your books) leads folks to your newsletter. Here’s how it works:
- They sign up for your newsletter because
- they like what they read at your blog because
- you answered their question generously after
- they liked your Facebook page because
- they read your Twitter feed about
- your comment at someone else’s blog.
Swap in any social media platforms (Pinterest, LinkedIn, Ello) because mostly, it doesn’t matter. Go where your people are. Or, be where you already are, and connect with your people who are also there. 7 billion people on the planet. Finding people is not hard. Narrowing your focus is hard.
Go forth and be generous and patient. People will follow you home. Slowly. But they will.
And when they fall in love with your writing, the hard part is done and the marketing becomes dead simple: tell them you’ve written another book.
Should I Give Something Away?
Another ubiquitous question. For your author newsletter, I say yes, yes, a thousand times yes. The best way to let visitors become fans, to fall in love with your writing, is to give them some of it, like a sample in the grocery store will have you scrambling to the aisle where you can pick up some of that coconut cherry almond fudge you just sampled.
Generosity is your greatest marketing tool. Don’t use it sparingly; spread it around like manure (or, perhaps, coconut cherry almond fudge) and watch things grow.
Generosity and free aren’t the same thing. Generous can include over-delivering on what you were paid to do. I’ve had generous helpings of fish at our favorite chippy in St. Paul. Paid for, but still generous. When you hire me to help with your writing and publishing, generosity will be ladled over you like gravy. Good white gravy like we make in Texas for your sausage and biscuits; that kind of generous.
A newsletter is your inner circle, the folks who’ve said the blog and other social media isn’t enough; I want more.
What smart marketing person could miss the fact that these are the folks most likely to spend real live money on other things you offer?
It’s about context. A free sample doesn’t lead anyone to believe the product is free as well. If I give away my first mystery in a series to get folks hooked, they don’t believe they can have all the others free.
Quality Leads to Quantity
While this form of list-growing is slow, it’s oak-strong. Most of the folks on my list are people I interacted with personally before they signed up. I taught them something, and explicitly or not, let them know I had a newsletter.
My personal approach gives me open rates 3X more than the average. My small list engages.
We are not the Persians with an army of millions, coming to take Greece. We are the Spartans, defending the pass. Small, focused, changing the world so it won’t change us.
Want to spend your time writing instead of marketing?
It’s a one-item list:
Make good use of a newsletter.