Of the Co-op’s stated goals when it was established six years ago, Curtis Bausse says, “Well, I think we’ve done pretty well on the whole. Still struggling with the marketing side, but who isn’t? And as Carl says, there’s more to come, so maybe one day we’ll crack it. One can always dream….”

Why do writers find marketing so difficult? Is it, really? Or are we just that bad at it? I suspect both. Asking me to market my book is like asking me to the moon for lunch.

Traditional publishers that pay royalties and advances have a system. They list your book in their “release ad” in Publishers Weekly and other magazines and provide tip sheets and advance selling materials to their sales forces, who go out into the field and talk to booksellers and librarians; send catalogs to libraries, bookstores, specialty outlets & schools; put your book on the web; send out review copies to review sources and advance reader copies to booksellers; and show your book at conventions for librarians, booksellers, and teachers. They provide metadata about your book to Amazon and other online bookstores, as well as getting it into the pipelines of wholesalers. Most promote new books on social media. They may even take out ads, create giveaways, help organize online or physical tours, write and send press releases.

This is the point to ask oneself, can we do all that? No. Some of it? Yes. Should we try? Probably not. Traditional publishers have honed their marketing. Doing “all that” must be required or they would not have spent all that money doing all of it.

So how do we crack book marketing? Sometimes, problem solving begins with listing what we do know, or can find out, then coming up with some/any idea to try, to see what we can learn from the effort.

I know that advertising with Google ads doesn’t work.

I know that books are not a commodity, in the sense of candy bars or beer, because, like houses, nobody buys a six-pack. Books are sold one at a time like cars and if the buyer likes it, they may come back in the future for a new one from the same dealer. Unfortunately, one book makes too little profit for an author to open a dealership unless that author has a ton of books out there. Steven King or Clive Cussler have their own book dealerships. Amazon does.

Not to compete with Amazon, but to copy what they do well as well as we can, I wonder if authors shouldn’t form independent book clubs where, together, we sell our books. A club’s webpage could be here on the Writers Co-op website. Members could link to the club’s page from their own website and social media. The club could include independent publishers and would offer a wider selection of books for readers to browse. Our advantage over Amazon is that, being small, our books wouldn’t be lost in a digital storm. And members would keep control over their books and keep all profits. What do you think?

What other ideas can we kick around?


35 thoughts on “Marketing

  1. Publishers have a sales force, as you said. We need a sales force. Maybe we should put our nickels together and hire a marketer—somebody who’s good at doing all those things.
    Of course, a trad publisher still wants you to do your own marketing.

    Liked by 5 people

    • An author friend of mine just hired an established professional who has extensive experience working with authors. I’d like to see how that actually works for him before spending a nickel.

      Liked by 3 people

      • victoracquista says:

        GD, I’m not sure if you are referring to me, but that’s what I have done for the promotion of my upcoming release. I have a traditional publisher but they are small and their reach is small. They don’t have a marketing department. My efforts combined with my publisher did not result in a lot of book sales for the first book in a two-book series. So, I hired a professional agency to help with the marketing of book two:
        I won’t get into all the specifics of the 5 month campaign but there are elements that I would not be able to do on my own and my publisher would not be able to do. Will it work? I expect there will be more book sales but I doubt I’ll recover the cost. I only realize about $1.50 per sale whether it’s digital, softcover, or hardcover. I am hopeful that there will be enough sales so that I can attract an agent for the book I am writing now and that agent will help connect me with a bigger publisher with more internal resources. It will be many months before I can answer that since the book doesn’t come out until August and I probably won’t be ready to pitch the book I am currently writing. I am happy to share my experience with the group.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Yup. I was referring to you, Victor. One of the stated goals of the Writers Co-op is for members to try different marketing methods and report on the results. Obviously, we all wish you good fortune and look forward to hearing your thoughts as the process proceeds.

          Liked by 3 people

          • victoracquista says:

            Hi Mimi,
            • CREATE A PRINT AND DIGITAL PRESS KIT – We will write all necessary press material for the publicity & marketing campaign: • Press release for Revelation • Pitch letters: we will write several pitches with angles • Updated Victor Acquista bio • Questions for the press: We will develop ten questions to help direct and focus interviewers.
            • TARGET TOP LONG & SHORT LEAD AND ONLINE MAGAZINES: those that focus on mysteries and thrillers
            • AMAZON REVIEW CAMPAIGN: 15 reviews appear on publication day!

            These last items wiil run through BookTrib which is a subsidiary of Meryl Moss Media. They have a tab on the website that explains some of these components.
            The long and short lead campaign required me to provide 75 print ARC copies. I don’t think all review sites that receive an ARC will actually do a review, but there should be a good number of reviews generated by various outlets that receive ARCs.

            It’s a five-month campaign and it has already started. Meryl Moss is very connected and networked with thriller writers and has done work for some big-name authors in addition to representing the International Thriller Writers, of which I am a member. It’s an ambitious campaign from my perspective. If the combined efforts of publicist, publisher, and author do not generate any meaningful sales, I am out of ideas.
            Of course, if reviewers do not find the book to be praiseworthy, that’s on me, not the publisher or publicist. I believe it’s a pretty good book and the two-book series tells an interesting story. I am admittedly biased and ultimately the readers will decide.

            Liked by 4 people

  2. mimispeike says:

    Why do we have trouble marketing? Because it’s a damn lotta work. But it’s got to be done. My next steps for Sly:

    1. Finish cover. (GD has seen it. It’s almost done.)
    2. Refurbish art on my website. Build from legally-acquired images. (I’m on that now.) Give my eight-chapter teaser posted there a final look-at.
    3. Print 4×6 postcards in quantity. While I final-edit the remaining eighteen chapters and prepare the ebook file, I mail them out to agents and publishers and whoever else I think of. (No expectations, just a step forward. The price is right. $25 for a hundred.)
    4. When it’s ready, unless a miracle happens, publish my book myself on Kindle.
    5. Post the cover, and a blurb, all over the web.
    6. Repeat steps 1-5 for book two: The Rogue At Sea. (The story is complete/needs an intensive edit.)

    7. And so on. I have seven novellas in the series, several finished, some in progress.

    A joint venture? I’m skeptical, but more than willing to try it.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. mimispeike says:

    When my website is updated and postcards printed and the cover image also printed as an 11×17″ poster, I am ready to try to place the poster in local independent book stores. Bethel CT in particular, an artsy hub for NY weekenders, has (had?) several. What with Covid, I have to see who has survived.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. mimispeike says:

    “. . . independent book clubs where, together, we sell our books.”

    Here’s the problem as I see it: We still have to coax traffic to the site. And that traffic can’t just consist of contributors and their friends and relatives. And that site should be designed-up and looking really sharp, with all the style of a trad publisher’s site. (Fake it till you make it.)

    Content can’t be static. The problem with many sites (mine included) is: nothing much changes. In my case, I’m presenting eight chapters of teaser, an intro to the novella, and the series. I will shortly add a new landing page with rotating content and graphics. After I figure out what that content will consist of.

    A compelling marketing site has movement, visual interest. Sidebars, pull quotes, collateral commentary.

    More lotta-lotta-lotta work.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. victoracquista says:

    Despite time, money, effort, and creative approaches, such as a YouTube channel, and Google ads, I have no marketing success stories to share. I point out that most books published by big houses are commercial failures. This in spite of vetting titles and authors and triaging away many hopefuls; this in spite of resources spent on marketing.
    Over 4 million books were published last year. Successfully marketing of books is difficult and I think it is even more difficult for writers and authors who may or may not have skills and be savvy with marketing and promotion. This doesn’t even mention the time and effort spent marketing which takes away from what can be devoted to writing.
    The vast majority of books don’t sell well, but some do. Why is that? Is it better marketing? More money spent marketing? Blind luck? I am not referring to success by big-name authors with a stable of bestsellers. They can write a new very mediocre book and still sell a lot of copies. What about titles that sell from not-well-known authors? [shrugs shoulders] Dunno?
    I wonder if finding the right influencer(s) could impact sales but if so, how do you connect those influencers to your book? I have been unimpressed with social media and book promotions. Anything I have done or paid for to date hasn’t achieved much. Sure, you can drive some sales by deeply discounting your work and using services like the Fussy Librarian to generate some sales. It makes some sense to do that with book one of a series to hook readers.
    I don’t know what the Co-op can do to help with marketing and promotion. More importantly, I don’t know what we can do collectively that will likely have a meaningful impact on book sales for our members.

    Liked by 6 people

    • mimispeike says:

      My thinking is still buoyed by optimism. I thank you for your more knowledgable point of view.

      My thing will probably fail to be a literary phenomenon, but on the road to failure, I am determined to have a ton of fun.

      Liked by 6 people

    • Most books published by big houses are commercial failures? I hadn’t thought about that. But I guess it explains why even famous authors often complained about how little writing paid. I once read that Kurt Vonnegut worked in the family store to make ends meet. Interesting.

      Over 4 million books were published last year? Maybe it’s more about readers than it is about writers. We sci-fi fans loved Heinlein & Clarke and read everything they wrote. Read a few others, too, as time permitted. But time for any reader is limited.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. victoracquista says:

    Most books published by big houses do not meet the royalty paid in advance to the author and are thus commercial failures for the press; however, the author can still do fine, especially if they had a generous advance. Big presses rely on having some blockbuster books that support the weak sales of other titles.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. You’re very right, GD, to bring up the marketing topic. At times we shy away from it, I think, because we have little encouraging to say. But it’s important not to avoid it, and I wonder if instead of a book-selling page, one devoted to specific marketing issues might not be more useful. We’re all trying different approaches, but can benefit from tips and links to relevant material.

    Liked by 6 people

  8. Perry Palin says:

    I will support whatever the group decides to do, even though I don’t have a book to sell now.

    I know I will sound like a broken record with this, but my wife and I know a successful crime author who lives in the nearest big city. We are not great friends, but at chance sightings either he or I will cross the street to wish the other well. He has written a lot of books, and he has sold a lot of books. He has made a good living at writing. He doesn’t have to do it, but I saw in our local newspaper that he is coming out again to one of our little towns of 2,000 souls for another personal appearance/reading/signing event. The writers who do this sell books at these appearances, and the people who buiy the books there tell their friends.

    Liked by 5 people

      • Perry Palin says:

        My small publisher never told me this, but I think he owns the printing company, so when he publishes something he gets the publisher’s take and the printer’s take as well. Because everything is done electronically now, the print runs were as large or small as we wanted them to be, not exactly but almost print-on-demand. If I needed 20 more copies and he was out of books, he would print 20 copies. Of course, I didn’t have graphics and color except for the cover image, which makes a difference. I had a great arrangement because I made $4-8 per book depending on how it was sold, and no one had to gamble on a big inventory. I sold a couple hundred books and then kinda stopped working on it. Same with the second book. I could get them back into print by talking to the publisher.

        I have a friend who self-published a children’s book in many colors, and he ordered 1,000 copies in a first print run because he got a deep volume discount. He sold them all, too, and then had a second printing. Another friend with a lot of black and white images ordered 1000 copies of his book, sold them all, and as far as I know he will not order a second print run. He sold most of his books at readings, signings, and library or bookstore appearances, and he said it was a grind.

        Liked by 4 people

  9. mimispeike says:

    We have a few folks here making valuable contributions to this topic. (Me about to wade into the kiddie end of the pool, I’m all ears.) You others, does this mean you released a book, tried a few things, then lost heart?

    Am I right or wrong in believing everyone on this site has published something except for me?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Book View Café seems exactly like what I was suggesting. Authors are limited to those who have been published by traditional, advance-and-royalty paying print publishers. We’d be open to independently published authors.

      Liked by 3 people

      • mimispeike says:

        The site is bare-minimally acceptable (visually). I’m speaking as a graphic designer. It gets the job done, but it ain’t gonna win any awards.

        Nothing about it knocks me out, drawing me in–what any (professionally-built) page, or site, should do. (Built by writers gets a pass.) These are (I assume) big names. Ursula Le Guin is here!

        Sorry, BookViewCafe. I’m super-critical about my own art, and everybody else’s as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        • mimispeike says:

          Well, I’m wrong. Big 6/5/4 ??? publishers’ sites are only slightly more sophisticated.

          It takes the site of a designer to show me something striking.

          So, never mind.

          Liked by 1 person

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