Random Thoughts: To Market, To Market

Today, marketing a book is, in itself, a full-time job. How an author can find the time to keep up with all of the requisite responsibilities and find the time to be artistic and write, is truly amazing.

At one point, a.k.a. “back in the day,” new writers simply had to be the creative geniuses they were, and the only task, it seemed, that they had was to submit their work by mail, or courier if they had the funds, and hope for either a publisher or an agent to accept. And while receiving their work, or treatment, back with a rejection notice was difficult, they had to just regroup, re-package with a new cover note, and send on. Mostly, their efforts amounted to a waiting game, which allowed for plenty of time to write, when not too stressed over the process.

If, perchance, there was an acceptance and publication was on the horizon, it was left to the publishers and agents to handle promotional efforts. And while there were book signings, book tours, or speaking events, these forms of “social marketing” were more often than not, at least early in an author’s career, exciting and quite the ego boost – unless, dare I say it, the audience was a “no show.”

But today, although it is far easier for writers to become published – with Internet “publishers” willing to publish most, if not all, books in electronic format – it is that much harder to promote and market. Today all writers need a website (of course). Publishers will set up websites for their authors and sometimes separate ones for their books, but if no publisher is involved, the task falls to the author, their friends or family – even if the task is simply to hire someone. But the design, style and element choices still fall to the writer.

In addition to a website, and especially if the author hasn’t reached “Rock God” status – like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer – they generally need to have a blog. And not just a blog that lies dormant week after week, but something that is updated at the very least weekly, if not daily. And respond to comments and questions posted by their fans.

Further, these self-published authors will need to have someone design cover art for their work – because even if only in eBook format, an image must appear next to the description, cost and author information. And, depending upon genre, a book trailer or promotional video about the book, will need to be created.

But all writers, excepting the “Gods,” also need to be active in their social media marketing. These activities include, but are certainly not limited to, having a Facebook page and Twitter account. Facebook, which demands daily, if not hourly monitoring, requires the author to post news, teasers, and other comments, answer questions from fans, and on. Twitter – except if you are J.K. Rowling who sets up a Twitter profile, has three Tweets in a year, and close to 300,000 followers – requires an almost constant presence – and subsequent enrollment in a Tweet withdrawal support group.

Even established authors have required face-time with the fans. Not only with the traditional book tours and signings, but also webcasts, podcasts and vlogging, just to name a few. Fans of any genre want to feel that personal connection with the author that was at one time unattainable for many. Remote locations or standing in lines for hours are not always feasible for all fans, and so these glimpses of the writer through their computer or smart phone help to create that bond.

And for some, contests and giveaways help to promote. Adding yet another “to do” to the list for a fledgling, or seasoned, author.

The above aside – although can they really be put aside – online interviews, Q&A’s and live chats serve to supplement the traditional interview forums: TV appearances, and magazine and newspaper interviews. And though the cache of the top publications still exists, for many it’s the quantity of placements and mentions rather than just the quality of placement that reigns.Depending upon audience, traditional media sources are not always the “go to” spots for readers. Word of mouth around the Web can hold far more appeal for some readers (if not authors) than even a raving review in The New York Times.

It was certainly easier for those who had reached celebrity status prior to the demands put on today’s creatives. But just imagine the success one can have if they could do all that writers from previous generations had and survive the constant, ever-changing demands on them today. Now that is a feat to be proud of.

So, hats off to you as you head out “to market.” Just take a deep breath, dive in and “Welcome to the Jungle.”

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