TUESDAY TIPS AND TIDBITS – Mr. M, the Self-Published Author’s Worst Best Friend
Who is this mysterious Mr. M everyone keeps saying you, the self-published author, simply must meet? Maybe you’ve already got a significant other in your life, and you don’t want any demanding complications from some smarmy dude everyone’s all gaga over. Well, everybody needs friends – especially the author who self-publishes a book. And every single self-published author who wants to sell books needs to be very close friends with Mr. M. He’s the person when it comes to book marketing.
Oh! There’s that dreaded ‘M’ word – marketing. Go ahead, you can say it out loud without fearing Freddy Kruger’s going to come flying out of the bathroom mirror or your bedroom closet and rip your face off – or whatever thing it is you fear, that you subconsciously have told yourself will happen if you even say that dreaded word.
There’s nothing to be afraid of except fear itself – as long as you take a realistic approach to marketing. And if you’re an author who’s thinking about or has already decided to self-publish, then good ol’ Mr. Marketing is going to have to become a familiar acquaintance. No, more that that. Mr. Marketing is going to be your very favorite friend, good buddy, best pal. Mr. Marketing is going to go everywhere with you ... to work, to school, to your mom’s house for Sunday dinner. He will even go on dates with you, whether you’re single or doing the married ‘date night’ thing. Mr. Marketing is going to camp out in your apartment, or house, or basement hovel, or wherever you call home. So you might as well keep a spare set of PJs and an extra toothbrush for Mr. Marketing, because he is going to be the last face you see before you close your eyes at night, and the first face you see in the morning when you stare blandly off into space over your cereal bowl. Mr. Marketing is going to be your second shadow from now on, so get to know him as well and as quickly as you can. That is, if you want to sell more than ... say ... five copies of your book. Total. For however many years you have your book out there for sale.
And let me tell you, Mr. Marketing is not an easy guy to get to know. He’s quirky, unpredictable, and fickle – and he loves to play practical jokes. What do I mean? Well, you know that awfully-written teen-slasher romance some gal in your writers’ group self-published five months ago? Yeah, Mr. Marketing’s going to make that an astounding bestseller (at least a bestseller in the awfully-written teen-slasher romance genre). And just to make things more interesting, Mr. Marketing will ignore your repeated pleas for some kind of recognition – any kind, good or bad – for your book that hasn’t sold any copies in the last three months, despite the all the book blogging and promotion flogging you’ve been doing. The fact that you’ve given up your bed for Mr. Marketing and have taken to sleeping in the chair with your laptop means nothing. If left up to Mr. Marketing, all your hard work at self-promotion could end up producing zero results. So take Mr. Marketing’s advice, but don’t leave it up to him to make the magic happen. That’s your job – and yes, you did sign up for it when you decided to publish your own book.
You’re probably saying right about now ... Mr. Marketing sounds like a real demanding pain in the rear, like one of those pesky distant relatives who comes to visit and then never seems to want to leave. And really, who wants to go to all that extra trouble to befriend some self-absorbed snark like Mr. Marketing? Why doesn’t he just go make a nuisance of himself somewhere else? Who the heck would even want a despicable scoundrel like Mr. Marketing for a friend, anyway?
Well, you, for one. Not because he’s a likable guy, but because he knows people. And he knows stuff, like how to make connections with your readers, how to get the word out about your books, and how to meet real people whom you can call real friends. Mr. Marketing is the type of guy you have to study. Sometimes he gives up his secrets grudgingly. But once you figure out all his little quirks and plans and shortcuts, you can be well on your way to becoming an author who sells tens of thousands of copies of your book, rather than ten ... period.
And the truth is, Mr. Marketing doesn’t really care whether you like him or not, because he has many, many, many other writers out there just begging to be his friend, promising to do anything if he’ll just show them some of his winning secrets. Mr. Marketing doesn’t need you at all. You need him. But there are a few important things to remember before you open your door wide and invite Mr. Marketing in...
MAKE FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE. Mr. Marketing’s number-one secret that self-published authors need to know is ... drum roll please ... how to make friends and keep them. How to meet influential people who can help you on your quest to be a successful author – and actually get them to help. In short, how to get in good with the right kind of friends in the book and reader business. To do that, you need to follow Mr. Marketing’s example and network. (Sorry, there’s another nasty term nobody wants to use.) I don’t mean just go to writing conventions and pass around your business card or a collection of writing samples on a CD to a bunch of strangers wandering around. I mean really meet and talk to people. Learn to schmooze and be a pleasant partier. Practice the gift of gab but know when to shut up. Never say bad stuff about anyone to anyone, because Mr. Marketing, with his quirky sense of humor, will make sure it gets back to the wrong person, pronto. In short, be you, but make sure you are always the best you can be.
MODERATION. While Mr. Marketing may be camped out in your living room, don’t let him take over your life. Another of Mr. Marketing’s most important secrets is that successful authors have a life outside their writing ... a life they share with family and friends. Maintain a balance between work and play, and work and life. Maintain a good work ethic. Take care of your health. Take care of your family. Take care of your day job to keep food on the table and a roof over your head. In the merry-go-round of life, don’t fall off the carousel horse as you grab for the brass ring.
PERSPECTIVE. Another important thing to remind yourself of periodically is to keep things in perspective. Self-promotion is not always about you, and it’s certainly not always about your book. People are constantly bombarded by infomercials and ads, and they tire quickly of repetitive sales pitches. If that’s all they hear from you, they’ll stop listening. If you want to attract a reading – buying – audience, make sure what you have to sell is something they want to buy. If Mr. Marketing teaches you anything at all, it’s that blogging, tweeting, facebooking, conferencing, book signings, and all that stuff is not about the book or about you ... it’s about life, about the connections life offers, about what you have to offer your readers. The key is to turn things around so you can answer one question and answer it well when prospective readers ask, “What’s your book got for me?”
GIVE AND YE SHALL RECEIVE. Be a good friend, and you will have good friends ... friends you can count on when the chips are down, friends who will tell their friends about you and your book. Friends who know friends who might give you some newsworthy exposure or in some other way boost your chances of getting the word out about your book. Team up with other like-minded authors to share the burden of promotion. Treasure and respect those professional bonds, because you never know when something surprising and good will come your way.
And finally, just be a good person. Think positive. Treat others as you would have them treat you. And treasure the people in your life who make your life worthwhile. Enjoy your life and don’t take anything for granted.
WRITE A DAMN GOOD BOOK. After all the hype and promo and sales pitches are done, at the end of it all better be a really good book. Otherwise everything Mr. Marketing can do for you will be wasted.
There are many things that are necessary to make a book good. Good editing, good cover, good marketing approach. But for your book to be great, it should have a life of its own, a life that sprang from the essence of what is important to you. This is what should be in your book. Whether it’s humor, horror, romance, children’s bedtime stories, or nonfiction, your book should be personal enough to mean something to you. If it does, chances are it will mean something to the people who read it, who will tell others to read it, and then like a chain reaction, you will have marketed your book.
This will happen only because you put what was important to you in your book, and you believed in yourself and your book. If you believe in you – in your book and your ability and perseverance to make your book a success – you’ll do what it takes to make your book the best it can be, what it needs to be to fulfill its destiny in the world of reading and the lives of your readers.
If Mr. Marketing teaches you anything worthwhile, it will be that – and that’s what will sell your book!
Pat Morrison, Penumbra Publishing