We write for many reasons. But if we expect significant income from book sales, we’re in for a challenge.
Writing a book requires long hours of reflective time and creative engagement. Marketing involves face-to-face and mediated conversations with family, friends, colleagues, fans, and strangers—and a rather different cast of mind.
But, in a crucial sense, the two phases of self-publishing are one and the same. Publication presumes that we’re striving to:
By the very act of publication we’re striving to reach and influence readers.
The essence of book marketing is sustained and creative work to influence strangers likely to recommend, sell, buy, and enjoy our books.
In all phases of the publishing cycle we need to consider the interests, tastes, and needs of this diverse bunch.
Stark fact: exquisite writing, scrupulous editing, expert typography, and boffo interior and cover design are not enough to rack up sales. Our latest book, however, is our most consequential marketing message—but only if people know about it and are inspired to buy.
If book sales count then, we need to compose and precisely propagate additional messages to spark interest and enthusiasm among our publishing team, reviewers, media and book-sales gatekeepers, prospective readers, and avid fans.
Think of marketing as the many and varied conversations we need to sustain to reach and engage book reviewers, booksellers, and readers eager to buy our books.
Note that there’s no mention here of “target” audiences,“persuasion,” or other such manipulative nonsense. We’re striving to establish long-term relationships. If a reader loves our most recently published book, she’s more likely to talk it up and buy the next.
Enthusiastic readers are our best sales force.
Reviewers and booksellers come in a close second.
In short, marketing is all about bringing our books to the attention of reviewers, booksellers, and readers and inspiring their enthusiastic interest.
Fine writing comes from the heart. It’s sincere and truthful in the deepest sense of human experience. Beautiful books that resonate with readers are the only books worth self-publishing. Extra effort with writing, editing, typography, and design is the highest-return marketing investment we can make.
The same is true of our book marketing collateral, that is, the digital and print messages we convey to promote our books. Integrity is essential to long-term success.
Sloppily written and published books or unprofessional marketing collateral are the fastest ways to kill sales—not only our most recent book launched, but future books as well.