Marketing is an area of being a writer which has never been fully cracked by many. Traditional publishing usually took on this role, and in fact marketing was largely why they thrived. But with the arrival of the Golden Age of Independent Publishing, writers found themselves having to market their own work once it was done. And many, many writers struggle terribly with it.
What eludes them is that marketing is actually part of what they are doing as a writer. They are taking ideas, images, emotions from their own worlds and transmitting them across to others. A large part of this is the writing stage, getting those things down in the form of words and knocked into some kind of workable shape as works of fiction. But the rest of it is then getting the resulting books across space and time and into the hands of readers. That last part is unknown territory to many and seems full of disappointment, frustration and ultimately death to their writing careers.
It’s important to recognise that this is not how it is supposed to be: writers can have marketing strategies and techniques which bring in new public in viable numbers every single day.
So what needs to be done?
In brief, part of the reason why the marketing doesn't work is because it is often a disjointed affair, with part of it being done part of the time in one place, and another part in another at another time. You try to pull things together personally, but the nature of things is such that you get overloaded and distracted, lose interest and valuable time and coordination is lost - marketing campaigns which had been carefully planned lose their impetus and become dispersed, and the effect in terms of bringing readers in is minimal.
Another reason is that there often isn’t a coherent strategy that works. Writers tend to do what other writers do - i.e. have a book, have a website, appear in magazines, put out posts on social media - but often lack a powerful, concept-led, purpose-driven strategy behind the whole thing. When they do think ‘outside the box’, there are sometimes advances - but most of the time conventional wisdom (‘You need a website and a blog etc’) is trusted or fallen back on. So there are piecemeal successes which aren’t capitalised on because parts are missing or not strong enough or not followed through.
The Truth About Marketing
Over the last three years in particular, I have studied marketing in great depth and used its principles to create businesses from scratch which are effectively reaching hundreds of pre-selected customers and bringing in income. I made many mistakes and fell for many deceptions along the way, but now know how to create a marketing machine which guarantees new readers coming in, effectively removing forever the ‘scarcity of public’ which has been the bane of the writer for so long.
There are a couple of basic lies or pieces of false data which should be named and jettisoned straight away: one is that ‘Marketing is hard’ and the other is that ‘It’s all a numbers game’. Experience has proven that, provided that you know what you are doing and use tools properly, marketing is relatively easy (and can even be enjoyable!); and that, far from being a numbers game, it’s possible to concentrate resources on smaller and smaller areas and get better and better results from them in income terms.
I don’t have time to go into everything in one article, but I’ll try to cover the basics here.
Any business operation has several levels of public:
1. Rave fans or established customers who will pay and pay again to get whatever it is that the business provides.
2. Emerging customers, who are working their way through the range of goods and services provided by the business.
3. Fresh customers, who have just signed up for an initial service.
4. Hot prospects, people who haven’t yet bought anything but are very interested and are likely to buy.
5. Prospects - those who have some inclination to purchase but are not as keen as the ‘hot’ prospects above.
6. Public who have needs that the business can satisfy and who are partially aware of those needs.
7. Public who have needs that the business can satisfy but who are unaware of those needs.
As you progress down from 1 to 7, things get less and less predictable and controllable and less income comes in: obviously, rave fans are easier to sell to than people unaware of their needs. A marketing budget and strategy must be targeted accordingly.
Writers have these publics, each of which needs a slightly different approach in order to produce a regular flow of readers.
1. Rave fans
These are the existing readers, if you have them who, apart from buying your books, are interested in everything that you do.
2. Emerging customers.
These are the readers who have been around for a while and are getting to know your work, but either aren’t fully on board yet or aren’t completely aware of what you have to offer. They’re there, signed up and being delivered to, but there is more to do.
3. Fresh customers.
These are brand new readers, who maybe signed up to one book and who aren’t yet totally sold on the whole show. They’re just new people who don’t know what else is on offer.
4. Hot prospects.
These are the ones in reading groups, or browsing the internet, with whom some communication has occurred perhaps and who are continuing to reach and perhaps visit your website etc. Something about your work solves a big need for them. Marketing has to create motion towards action.
People who have expressed an interest but have wandered off or gone cold.
6. Public who are partially aware of your work.
These have not yet contacted you or visited your site, but may have been contacted by it through ads, social media or some other form of marketing. They know that something is waiting for them there, but haven’t given it enough thought or named it enough yet. Marketing has to be very precise and name it for them, based on surveys, in order to prompt them into reaching for your stuff.
7. Public who are unaware of needs.
This is the largest group. They still have needs, but haven’t yet become aware of them, so they are ‘suffering blindly’ and remaining ‘in orbit’ around their routines. It might not even occur to them that they have a need that you could fulfil. Only general marketing can perhaps trigger some recognition and get some movement in this group, effectively moving them up to 6.
The purpose of marketing is to prompt action in each these groups, moving them up the ladder towards ‘Rave fans’.
Each step they move up the ladder, the potential for more readers increases.
Much, much more on this is possible, but that’s enough for now.