Sometimes we think marketing is easy. Sometimes (especially by marketing gurus) that if you say the right words, follow the right script, and start the right conversations, readers will magically appear to buy your books.
But this isn’t true.
Marketing is far more 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. What works for the writer next to you doesn’t work for you. 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.
And you wonder if it is worth it.
When you’re traveling through a jungle (note, the most strenuous hiking I’ve ever done was a night hike in the Hollywood Hills and it nearly killed me) they tell you what to expect but you don’t get it until you in the middle of it.
It’s the same way for 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, slowly build relationships and be patient.
2. As you bushwhack through the jungle, you get stronger. Marketing is much the same way, the marketing I do next week, next month, or next year is easier because I worked at it today.
3. You need to be prepared for anything. A jungle explorer has a kit and a pack. Book marketers need business cards and their books with them. I have so many conversations about my books, I always want to be able to put one in someone’s hands.
4. Sometimes jungle trails are actually trails that have been traveled by many. In marketing, it’s not quite like that. 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.
Your book is unique to the world so it will have it’s own marketing journey.
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.
6. Good judgement comes with experience. The only path to experience is hard work. I’m not going to make it to the mountain top unless I’m willing to hack my way through. I’m not going to sell books at all unless I’m willing to market, face my fears, and do the work.
7. There’s always something to learn. Even if you’re first book sold thousands of copies, you could probably stand to read about what others are doing. Figure out a way to give back to your readers. Or try a new social media platform.
8. There’s victory in persevering. You can’t give up because you never know what’s behind each corner. The small gig you had at the library lead to this book club, which lead to this bookstore appearance which led to this other thing. If you quit because it gets hard, then you have know idea what success could have been yours.
You most writers hate marketing. Figuratively speaking, you come away weak, dirty, mosquito bitten, smelly and ready for a stiff drink. But if you’re going to succeed as a profitable writer, it’s must.
Someday you’ll reach the summit, you’ll have a large fan base, a tidy profit and the satisfaction that you did it! Marketing is hard. But you’ll be able to turn around to the writers behind you and say,
“It’s a jungle out there. But it’s so worth it.”