At every writer’s conference, I see fledgling authors roll up their sleeves when told well-established truths on writing:
Writing is important.
Make it a priority.
Schedule time for writing every day, or as regularly as possible.
But when they’re exhorted to market their books?
While a small group of enthusiasts may swap tips between sessions, the attitude of far too many—especially authors who fancy themselves literary—is that the promo piece is unsavory. They’re too important, and drumming up their own book buzz feels beneath them. (“Isn’t that someone else’s job?”)
Or they’re too introverted. Too icked-out by the idea of becoming a self-promoter.
The problem? Their books join the other million-plus published annually that don’t find their forever home in the hands of the right readers.
In his March 2021 interview on The Creative Penn podcast, author Steven Pressfield told host Joanna Penn that he’s spent as much time mastering book marketing as he does writing books. If he didn’t, he’d need to simply stop publishing books. (For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading his work, try The Legend of Bagger Vance or Turning Pro). This legendary author, whose books have had both critical and popular acclaim, acknowledged that without gaining some marketing muscle, his career could be dead in the water.
When I first began my author marketing journey, I assumed I needed to be funny or outgoing or remarkable somehow to succeed. And while on a good day I could fake it til I made it and nail one or so of the qualities, it felt inauthentic and forced. It was unsustainable, and I had an emotional hangover afterward.
But I was committed to getting my work into the hands of readers. Not only did it take eons to write my book, but I’d committed money I didn’t really have to hire a PR team. After spending several thousand dollars to get the normal 180-day campaign that still relied on me to pick up the baton once the contract ended, I had to face facts: I could live with some new debt that would soon be multiplying, or I could learn how to do my job.
As an author, marketing your work will always be your job. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Author and speaker Dale Carnegie taught long ago that we become more interesting when we’re interested in other people. It’s a perfect message for us self-conscious authors who worry we’ll need to constantly toot our own horn and be obnoxious after the book is published. No, that’s not what marketing is.
Give up trying to dazzle potential readers and replace those efforts with making a contribution to the community. When I started taking this approach instead, I realized how much more fun book marketing could be. I gave up the misplaced fears that other authors were my competition, and found ways to elevate their work as part of my own marketing. I might have a Facebook Live event for their new launch, or agree to be an early reviewer for their pre-order campaign. I help writers who needed sources to finish their work, whether or not that provides me with more sales. I also took Amy Porterfield’s Digital Course Academy to learn more about marketing essentials and became a Help a Reporter Out warrior.
While it would be terrific if we could all get a BookBub deal out of the chute and end up on a bestseller list soon after our books are published, we can take a deep breath, recognize this is a marathon and not a sprint, and start to enjoy the process. Enjoy serving. Serve readers. Serve other writers. Serve your community with your writing. And enjoy being a part of a supportive writing community that can last and pay dividends, long after the book royalty checks have begun to dwindle.
Today, I tell my own book marketing students that book marketing deserves their time and resources as much as writing does. It’s both a skill and a practice.
Marketing is important.
Make it a priority.
Schedule time for marketing every day, or as regularly as possible.
Lizbeth Meredith is an author, podcaster, and speaker who recently relocated to Chattanooga, Tennessee from Anchorage, Alaska. She’s been featured in the New York Times, Readers Digest.com, and MarketWatch, and her memoir is optioned for television. Connect with her and her work at lameredith.com