“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
― Maya Angelou
There are millions of authors in the world and millions more who are “just” writers. Among the multitude are the self-publishers, the traditionally published, the hybrids, the indie-published and the unpublished.
No matter what kind of writer you are, or the kind of writer you know (and you probably know at least one, even if they don’t admit it) there is one thing common to all writers. We all need people to read our books.
For every writer there is a book on how to write better. How to sell more. How to use Facebook, Instagram, email, Twitter, Pinterest, and any of a dozen other proven strategies to sell thousands of copies of books (hint: people buy books based on word-of-mouth recommendation. The trick is getting that first person to read your book and then tell their friends about it – the rest is basic math).
None of the books I have read on the subject of marketing (both general marketing and book specific) state the most obvious way to promote books.
Consider that there is ample evidence out there that writers of all kinds are ego-centric. We put pre-school aged children to shame (they don’t develop an awareness of others until around age 7).
Published writers are solely focused on their own work. They want to make that book succeed. They worked their arses off to get it published (or self-published) and are devoting all their energy towards selling that book and making a name for themselves and hopefully, some kind of financial compensation for the hundreds of hours they invested. An author and publisher friend of mine recently asked people to share an image of an upcoming release by his publishing company on their Facebook pages. If 25 people shared the image – one person would get a free copy of the soon to be released book.
I thought this was great – the book looks terrific and I am keen to read it when it comes out. So I used his image as the cover on my Facebook page.
A couple of days later – he posted that only 4 people had shared the image. In his words,
“Okay. I’ve come to the conclusion that 90% of writers/authors worldwide are needy and self-centred, and focus solely on their own promotion and stuff. They expect others to promote their releases, yet don’t even consider doing the same for the rest of the community.
They give NOTHING back.
For the 10% that are NOT like this, thank you. You know who you are.
For the rest, fuck you all, although you’re probably out self-promoting and not reading this anyway..”
Imagine you are in the center of a sports-stadium.
The place is packed. Every seat, every space on the grass field is completely filled by people. Each of those (say 100,000) people, is a writer with a book they are trying to promote.
You are a reader. You are on a dias in the middle of the field and you say, “What book should I read next?“
The stadium erupts as 100,000 people scream the title of their book and why you should read it. This cacophony becomes a white noise. Completely meaningless and without value.
It’s 100,000 people all yelling the same thing, but with different words. So you end up ignoring their demands and go and watch TV instead or check Amazon for the latest new release from that best selling author whose books you really enjoy.
It sounds ridiculous – but that is exactly what the internet writing and publishing community is like today.
Everyone, everywhere is using all available channels to sell their own books at the same time as everyone else is doing exactly the same thing – to exactly the same customers (divided only by genre interest).
How the fuck does anyone sell anything?
The thing is that authors do. They sell a few books, they sell a thousand books. The ones who sell the most work hardest to find new readers, to connect with existing readers and to promote their books in any way possible.
I think it is time to change the way we approach book marketing.
What if instead of 100,000 authors screaming buy my book! at a reader – 10 or 100 authors started shouting – buy THIS GUY’S BOOK!
Then, a few days later, they all started promoting a different book.
All of a sudden, you have authors with similar audiences saying – Hey, you fans of my cyborg dinosaur paranormal romance – check out this book – by someone else that is very similar! You will love it!
We focus on holding up other authors and saying to our fans – you like to read – read this guy. He says the same to his fans. All of a sudden people are reading books by different authors and telling their friends that they have found this great new book which is just like this other book they loved and away we go.
The only thing that needs to change is the authors themselves. Readers don’t give a fuck – they are our treasured darlings – but they are also crack-whores. They will buy what they like, regardless of who is selling.
You lose absolutely nothing by promoting someone else. You gain a lot of personal satisfaction and you can actually find real joy in seeing someone else succeed. You just need to stop hating them for their success and celebrate it with them.
Suddenly, the wheel turns and you have 10 authors you admire telling their fan-base to check out your latest work. Sales go up, you get new fans – the other authors haven’t lost fans – they have just given them a great recommendation. Because people buy books based on recommendations from those they know and trust.
This works especially well if you are with a publisher that sells more than one book. Or if you are self-published, find authors in groups and forums that write and publish similar works to yours.
It’s not a circle-jerk. You aren’t promoting your book to other authors – other authors are promoting your book to their fans. Through blogs, forums, email lists, social media.
Build yourself a little collective of people who are prepared to stick with it. To do set promotions through their channels for a specified time frame. Maybe 2 days – maybe a week. Talk about what works for you. Do you tweet 230 times a day? Maybe 20 tweets about this great book you are reading (that you didnt write). Write a blog post. Include a review or a discussion about it in your email newsletter. Take information to your writing group and do a presentation on it.
Get creative and realise that your buying audience already knows about your book. Telling them about someone elses can be a great way to share the joy.
Try it and see what happens.