I’m about to give all authors some advice – and I’m not going to charge you a few thousand dollars, or even a few hundred dollars, to impart my 30+ years of wisdom. I’m going to give this to you for free in hopes you don’t waste your time and money on all those marketing courses, masterclasses, and utterly useless books that all the authors-turned-marketing-gurus-turned-authors are peddling these days.
Here’s my first piece of advice for anyone who is looking into maybe taking a few courses or buying a few self-help books from all these people who claim their info will help launch your book into the stratosphere – yes, even those famed gurus all your author friends are talking about.
So here it is: 99% of the information they offer you can actually find on the internet – for FREE. There are literally thousands of videos on YouTube which will break it down for you, offer you good advice on how to market, how to promote, give you all the dirty details on what it’s really like to try to market and promote your own book. There are articles, there are resources, there are even free PDFs on all this information if you just spend a few hours researching. And as much as I loathe FB groups, there are many, many indie author support groups filled with authors who are more than willing to give you the skinny on everything if you just ask. So, if you do nothing else, find yourself a few support groups and start nosing around. Seriously. Most of these authors are more than happy to tell you what they’ve done and if it’s worked for them. No masterclass or self-help book required.
Here’s my second piece of advice, and it’s what basically ALL the marketing books, masterclasses, free courses, paid course, YouTube videos, and your author friends will tell you – marketing and promotion boils down to two very simple things which you need in order to succeed: a large support group of people who are willing to pimp you out, and/or a shit-ton of money to funnel into advertising.
Advertising. This. This is what it all boils down to. See, being an author isn’t any different from running any other type of business. It all comes down to advertising. That means you have to get your name in front of as many people as possible as often as possible. But I know what you are thinking – how do I do that?
Again, if you go into any author support group and ask your fellow authors what they are doing to advertise, they are going to toss out the same handful of names at you – they are advertising on BookBub, on ENT, on Fussy Librarian, on Freebooksy, on BargainBooksy, and a few other smaller sites, and utilizing both AMS ads and FB ads. Why? Because these sites are where readers are, making them the best choices for getting as many eyeballs on your ad as possible. But be prepared. Some of these sites, such as BookBub deals, come with a price tag starting out in the $300 range and go up to several thousand dollars.
This is why I said in order to succeed you really only need two things – a large group of people willing to spread the word, or a shit-ton of money. You see, advertising on the above mentioned places isn’t going to suddenly get you a built-in reader base. If you are just starting out, getting that reader base is going to take years of consistently shoving your name in front of people as often as possible. Eventually someone will pick up the book, hopefully love it, and tell one other person who may or may not ever read it. Until you become a household name, you either have to have a huge group of people who are constantly pimping you out all over social media, or you have to be ready to funnel a whole bunch of money into advertising. That’s literally what all this boils down to. Keep your name in front of as many people as possible, as long as possible, until you have a fan base built up so they take over word-of-mouth advertising. To do that, you have to advertise, which translates into years of funneling money into promotions.
Now, if you are sitting there with your mouth on your keyboard and a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach while your brain frantically keeps chanting but I don’t have the money to do all that! then you are not alone. Welcome to my world. I’ve been doing this for 30+ YEARS and I still haven’t managed to turn a profit. As in, even with all the sales on my entire back catalog of 15 books, I still haven’t made enough back in the past ten years to offset the cost of producing just one of those books. Why? Because I don’t have the money to funnel into advertising, and I don’t have a support group of people willing to pimp me out all the time.
And therein lies the other thing you are going to need. Time. If you have the time to devote to burning up multiple social media accounts, posting on them multiple times a day, blogging your little heart out, researching and emailing hundreds of book blogs asking for a spotlight on their blog, and interacting on book forums as a reader (This is important. GoodReads will eat you up and spit you back out if you go over there trying to promote yourself as an author), tracking down and securing your own interviews, and basically reaching out to everyone on the planet who has ever done anything with a book, all while still churning out a new book every single month, then yes, you can “make it” as an author without spending too much money. Don’t have that much time? Then refer to the other two things you need as stated above – a large group of people willing to support you, or a lot of money to hire some people who are willing to support you a.k.a. a PR or marketing firm.
Look, trying to get noticed in this industry with hundreds of thousands of new books hitting the virtual shelves each month and hundreds of new authors hitting the industry every day is like trying to get a drop of water to stand out in the middle of the ocean. It’s next to impossible, which means you have got to have some serious resources in your corner to make it happen. It’s not rocket science, it’s just standard business. You couldn’t start a business in your town and think somehow everyone is going to magically know where it is and what it sells if you don’t advertise it, right? You can’t expect people to just stumble across a new business no one has heard of and expect to keep it packed. Writing a book is no different. You have to market it, you have to promote it, and that means you must have money to run the ads, or you must have the funds to hire a PR or marketing firm to do it for you, or you must have a whole lot of people who are willing to promote it on social media for you. Barring having either of those two things, then it all comes back to you spending every single spare second of every single day doing the leg work, contacting blogs, blogging yourself, chasing down interviews, posting in useless groups, constantly posting on social media accounts, and getting involved in the reader world on forums as a reader to keep your name in front of people.
Being an author is hard work, and even that doesn’t guarantee you spot on the charts. Trust me, if all it took to make a name for yourself in this industry was hard work and dedication, then there would be a whole hell of a lot more successful authors. Even funneling a shit-ton of money into your work isn’t going to guarantee you anything. If readers don’t like it, you’re screwed even if you have a million dollars in your back pocket to toss into the endeavor.
Or, you know, you could always win the lottery or get a celebrity spokesperson. And not even that is going to work. Ask me how much help it was to have Bret Michaels as one of my readers. Yeah, do you see my name hitting the big lists?