Trying to distill the essence of marketing a book is like creating a system for winning the lottery. Here are a few perspectives of ours that, candidly, buck some of the notions presented in the hundreds of—mostly self-published—books on marketing for writers. All revolve around creating that elusive platform.
What is a Platform?
In the old days it was called a network: how many people know you that like you and trust you enough to recommend your product or service to others. For writers in the 21st century, networking is done on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Google circles, plus any other personal or professional groups in which you participate: church, hobbyist groups, alumni, and social.
But having a lot of “Friends” or “Followers” is not sufficient. Are you credible to them? Do they read what you post? We work with our authors, assisting them in working through the process of developing a
Which comes first, Platform or Publication?
I attended a writers’ Meet-up two years ago that was proffered as a round-table discussion of book marketing. One self-appointed guru spoke at length about his 50,000 Facebook friends and 40,000 Twitter followers, and how he was sure that sales would go through the roof once he had finished writing his book and self-published. I sat in awe. I friended him and followed him. I saw pictures of his family at Christmas. However, I haven’t heard a damn thing about his book since.
RULE #1: Thousands of friends and followers are of no value if you haven’t published your book.
At the same Meet-up, another gentlemen elaborated on how he inaugurated sales on Amazon. He claims that he got fifty people he knows to all buy his novel within a small window of time. Amazon doesn’t rank books by how many have sold as much as by the velocity at which they are selling. When a book is purchased through fifty independent accounts in a short time, it’s ranking goes almost to the top. The higher ranking increases a book’s visibility to people who scan for its genre, or use specific key words with which the book is tagged.
“How many did you sell that first month,” I asked.
“Ten thousand,” he said.
“Wow. How many now?”
“Maybe twenty or so per month.”
He’s keeping his day job.
He had spent thousands of dollars to prepare, promote, and market his book. Perhaps he paid for the fifty books purchased by his friends, too, though he didn’t say. Certainly he made his money back, but the $80 or $90 he’s raking in each month from current sales is not impressive. Here’s the punch line: I made the $15.95 investment and bought his book. It’s terrible. A story that might have had some redeeming value, reads like a middle-schooler’s attempt at a term paper with unimaginative wording, uninspired visuals, and hackneyed clichés. Might that have any bearing on why, with 10K books out there, it’s barely selling now?
RULE #2: All the marketing savvy in the world won’t support a badly written book.
This may be avante garde, but it is our opinion that the first step, the most important step, the essential step in marketing your book is first to write a damn good book. And to your creative inspiration, must be added constructive critique, effective cover design, and alluring title selection.
RULE #3: Editorial direction, the input given by the publisher’s editor regarding the text of your manuscript and it’s packaging for the public, is essential to a book’s success.
For first-time authors, publication must come before platform, for only then do you know what kind of platform to build. However, you can get started working Facebook and Twitter, make friends and followers, and participate in blog discussions. Get yourself known. Engage a hundred (or fifty or twenty-five) people who might feel that they know you, and who read and enjoy your posts and comments. Then you’ve got a base among whom there will be those who buy your book to read, not just to game Amazon.