Some authors would call marketing an adventure.
Yet other authors would call marketing a long, torturous, mosquito ridden trek full of disease, peril and snakes. In some ways finding buyers for your books is easier than exploring the Amazonian jungle.
If you have studied, worked, created, drafted, revised, edited and completed a novel, it’s unlikely you took the time to learn the skills to sell it.
And because it seems hard, as hard as hacking your way through a rain forest, you may have a negative opinion of it.
You may think that to sell, then you may have to be annoying to buyers, like a jungle mosquito. To sell, you think you may have to cajole, manipulate, and lie, like a disreputable tour guide who brought you out into the forest to take your wallet. You may also believe you have to yell the name of my book as obnoxiously as a howler monkey to get attention. Or tweet constantly. You may think you have to send auto DMs. And it’s likely You may think you have to spend a lot of money, buy ad space, get onto every single social media platform, harass local bookstores, and whatever else to gain potential readers and convince them your book is worth buying.
No matter what you think about selling your book, if you are going to have readers, a make any kind of money, you’re going to have the face the jungle of marketing.
1. Surviving in the jungle is a day to day, moment by moment process, not a one time thing you do.
Marketing is the same way. To succeed, you need to look at the long-term for yourself as an author. You need to slowly build relationships, one reader at a time. You need to be patient, because the only way to have a big readership ten years from now is to work on it as much as you can now. If you want to play an interactive game about exploring the jungle, click here!
2. As you bushwhack through the jungle, you get stronger.
The marketing and publicity I do next week, next month, or next year is easier because I worked at it today. Don’t know where to start? Contact your local library and tell them that you’re a an author. They may want to stock your book, hold an event or keep you in mind for future events. Then, contact local bookstores, consignment shops, senior centers, your local newspaper, local access television, anything that gets your name out there, helps you engage with the public and may lead to sales. As you get used to talking about yourself, more opportunities will present themselves, you’ll make more connections and marketing won’t be so awful. Here’s a video from a guy who decided to take a camera into the jungle.
3. You need to be prepared for anything.
A jungle explorer has a kit , pack, malaria tablets, ways to find water and probably something sharp to kill dangerous critters. Book marketers should carry business cards and their books with them. They should be prepared for the “what do you do” question. Marketers should have a 30 second pitch ready. Also, they should have a calendar to schedule an event. They shouldn’t shrink when people ask anything, because they may just sell a book. I’ve sold several books because I was prepared, confident and was willing to make a sale right there. You may also find the wisdom of Guns and Roses helpful in this situation too.
4. The trails may not be trustworthy.
In marketing, it’s a good idea to study what’s effective for others, but in reality, you have to find your own way. Your book is unique to the world so it will have it’s own marketing journey. What works for some may not work for you. But that doesn’t mean you quit, it just means you sharpen your machete and keep hacking. While you read over your notes, listen to these rainforest sounds!
5. If you’re headed in the wrong direction, you could find yourself in trouble.
I have absolutely no desire to get lost in a forest, Amazonian or otherwise. I also have no desire to waste time and resources on marketing that won’t yield a return. This is the tricky part. We’re the only ones who decide what works and what doesn’t. Marketing plans are just that plans. They need to be flexible. You need to be willing forget the latest social media trend and try a local craft fair, if you think you need to. Everyone who successfully markets has to try and keep trying until something finally works. This guy camped for two nights in the rainforest and took a video of it!
6. There’s always something to learn.
Scientists are still finding species of plants and animals they’ve never found before in the deepest parts of the jungle. They’re discovering that there is more to learn. Writers need to be willing to learn too. Learn all you can about marketing and publicity, but also keep learning about craft and creativity too! National Geographic is a great resource for learning about the jungle.
7. Rewards come through persevering.
Now you may not conquer a land and you certainly won’t find lost cities of gold, but you will find your own personal treasure if you don’t give up. The small gig you had at the library lead to this book club, which lead to this bookstore appearance which led to this other opportunity. It’s slow, tedious and sometimes disappointing. If you quit because it gets hard, then you have know idea what success could have been yours. Here’s a video from the BBC. I love them.
8. Jungle exploring is for the strong, so is marketing.
9. An effective marketing plan, like a jungle journey Is deliberate and thoughtful, not impulsive.
Finally, if you still haven’t caught the metaphor, marketing is like a neophyte jungle explorer with a coffee stained map in one hand and a machete in the other, who hacks and trudges through the rainforest hoping not to be eaten alive by local fauna.
If you’ve tried to sell a book, you know this is true.
This is what marketing is: you’re on the hunt for contacts, relationships, attention and sales. You’re looking for the perfect opportunity just like a entymologist is looking for the rare species. Like a jungle explorer, you’ve learned the lingo, you’ve trod carefully and you know the shadows around can smell your fear. And you wonder sometimes if you’ll succeed, get malaria or get lost.
To sum up: It IS a jungle out there, but with the right tools, the right attitude and perseverance, you can survive marketing your book.
Just don’t forget the mosquito repellent.
Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement and community.