Many writers do not consider themselves to be salespeople and have considerable back-off on the areas of marketing and selling their work, once done. This means that, in many cases, they put together completed books and are then totally stumped about what to do next.
The truth is, for writers, that marketing and selling is built into their product in a way which it just isn’t for something like a toaster or a piece of home insurance.
As a writer, you get to market all the time.
A couple of myth-shattering definitions here: ‘marketing’ is hereby defined in stone forever as those actions taken to draw a person (whether you label that person a ‘customer’ or a ‘reader’) closer to you or your product (whatever that product may be). A successful piece of marketing is one which creates motion towards you and/or your product.
‘Sales’ hereby has its definition etched into the stars as that step through which the person goes on their way towards you and your product at which they commit themselves to acquiring whatever it is you’re presenting. This is sometimes actually an awkward inconvenience and a point of embarrassment, and should not be made a meal of. It’s simply one step on the customer’s or reader’s journey towards you or your product, that’s all. It is not the end of the journey - and if you paint it as the end, woe betide you and your product in the future.
Perhaps those definitions have helped you to see why marketing is in-built for writers. Every word you write, every sentence you construct, every page, chapter, scene, act, story you write has within it the potential to attract, repel or have no effect at all on a reader. The biggest and best ‘marketing campaign’ you’ll ever put together is your story.
This can break down into several specific points:
1. You have to put out the right ‘signals’ at the right times throughout the story so that readers know that you know what you are doing and so that they stay ecstatically happy to go along with it. Details of exactly what those signals are and where precisely to place them in a story are given in my book How Stories Really Work.
2. Your work has to have such an effect upon them overall that, as soon as they finish reading, they become a sales force for you. This is particularly significant in today’s world of social media interaction. Gone are the days when you finished a book and had no one to talk to about it unless you happened to bump into someone who had also read it - now, as the reader closes the book, they are potentially picking up their smart phone to plaster their thoughts about it across the globe. You can make sure that they say the right things by writing a great story.
3. If you want to enjoy commercial success as a writer, then know your market, listen to your market, feel your market, study your market. You can do this in two ways: inauthentically and authentically. By that, I mean you can say to yourself ‘I want to make lots of money by writing a Young Adult story’ and then go and study the YA market thoroughly until you know what it’s all about - then write a story which fits those requirements precisely. People do this all the time and make lots of money. That’s the inauthentic way, though. The authentic way starts the other way around (and will probably be more popular with you). It goes like this: ‘I’m going to write a story which comes from my heart, and put all my real, authentic emotions and concerns into it - then I’m going to find the exact market which shares those feelings and issues.’ Either way, the market is important - but the inauthentic writer creates an ‘artificial’ story to meet a need, whereas the authentic writer writes a ‘real’ story and finds those who share that need.
5. As a writer, give readers results as much as you can before the sale so they trust what they'll get after it. Write excerpts which attract like magnets; construct blurbs which glue attention; design covers which create motion towards your book. More significantly, build an author platform using social media so that readers can get some idea of what they will get when they buy your books.
6. Be decisive in who you are and what you want to communicate to the world. Many writers suffer because they fail to clarify this for themselves and that lack of clarity blurs and weakens their marketing power. Work out precisely what you are trying to say, define exactly what impact you want to have. You’ll be amazed at the power of this step alone.
If you do all of these things you will not notice any need for ‘sales’ to creep into conversations. Readers will seek out you and your work and ask how they can pay.