Authors as Marketers

Thoughts on Digital Self-Publishing (DSP), Series Four

All successful authors are successful self-marketers.

Occasionally, you'll see traditionally-published authors arguing that they aren't interested in “going indie” because they don't want to do their own marketing. This is misleading; what they really mean is that they prefer doing the kind of marketing required by traditional publishing over the kind of marketing required by DSP.

Traditional publishing compresses its marketing to a single selling point, known as the “pitch” or “query”. Authors pursuing traditional publishing must send one-page-or-less queries, which pitch their book to agents and/or acquisition editors. Writing good queries is arguably the single toughest marketing job there is in normal business. It's so tough that writers (myself included) actually celebrate personal rejection notes. The people we're marketing to are so busy that even getting their attention to the point where they'll take time to write us a rejection themselves, rather than handing the job off to an underling who will send a “Dear Writer” form letter, means that we've written a good query.

This may sound a bit masochistic to those unfamiliar with the situation, but that's not even the most absurd thing about traditional publishing. Although a traditional publisher typically does a good bit of pre-release marketing, in both the typical traditional and DSP scenarios post-publication marketing is left up to the author.

For a lot of us writers, marketing isn't our primary area of expertise. Even if we do have marketing backgrounds, that experience often isn't directly applicable to “building an author platform” or selling books. The sooner we admit we've got something to learn, the quicker we can get on with learning it.

So what does it take to market a book? What are the requirements for success?

It takes creativity. It takes a little bit of technical savvy. It requires a basic understanding of online social etiquette. It requires the willingness, eagerness, and ability to self-educate. Above all, it requires a top-quality product: a really, really good book.

That list is prioritized in reverse, by the way. And that's exactly how we're going to go through them, beginning with the next post.

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