The Simplest Way to Market Books

Book marketing is tough. I know because I’ve tried it and I’m still trying. The choice of what some like to call marketing tools is stunning. There are also thousands of people ready to help you with what is effectively your war effort — a war on global oblivion of your brilliant work of art. However, there’s a much simpler way.

I’ve decided to call it Nanny’s Way of Marketing a Book, after Terry Pratchett’s Nanny Ogg, who’s the witch I most identify with because we share the same outlook on life, mostly. Basically, it comes down to this: nothing ever needs you giving it 100% of yourself. Take it easy and have fun every chance you get. Fun is important for your good health.

Now, before I dive into it, I need to make one thing clear. Simple is often mistaken for easy, which it isn’t. The two are not always internchangeable although in a mathematical context they may be. Simple, per the Oxford English Dictionary, also means “plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design; without much decoration or ornamentation.” Easy, on the other hand, means primarily “achieved without great effort; presenting few difficulties.” See the difference? Right.

It is an important difference because Nanny’s Way of Marketing a Book is very simple but it is not easy at all. Because Nanny’s Way of Marketing a Book essentially comes down to you marketing yourself. I know exactly how distasteful this sounds so be grateful I didn’t use the words brand and build in combination with marketing, okay? That’s because I hate cliches old and new but I can’t turn my back on realities such as the fact that it’s always easier to sell books if people know you.

I’ve seen the power of personality myself. I’ve bought a couple of indie books based solely on the personality of their authors, which was a personality I liked, so I wanted to see what their work was like. Now, the question of whether the work lives up to the personality-based expectations or not is a separate matter I will not discuss. We don’t care about that now. We care about selling books. And I have a fun story to tell you.

Last week I got a work-related email on my work email. The sender was proposing an interview with the CEO of a company involved in things that are relevant to the topics I write about in my professional capacity. The email was also very professional until the P.S. The P.S. said the sender had found my email address on this blog. Where he’d seen The Lamiastriga. Which he said he had now added to his TBR pile because he’s a fantasy fan. Did I make an effort to win the heart and mind of that one person? No, because I didn’t know how. He’d found my book accidentally and had liked it. Accidental occurrences are an underrated marketing tool.

I know a lot is being said about — okay I have to mention it, just once — building your brand as an author. I disagree. Let’s not talk about brands, which smack way too much of cold-hearted, profit-obsessed business. I doubt any writer worth their salt is singularly after the hypothetical profits. I, and I believe most of us, are after the readership, after people reading and appreciating our work. For which you don’t need some artificially created — and normally quite expensive — “brand”. You need yourself.

Take me, for example. I’m middle-aged — a word that makes me cringe but is factually if not subjectively correct — and I’ve written three books and have another three in various stages of incompleteness. I like writing supernatural stories because I like reading supernatural stories. If there’s a bit — or a couple of bits — of humour in them, all the better because the two masters of writing I swear by are Sir Terry Pratchett and Umberto Eco and they knew how to do supernatural plus funny brilliantly.

I used to be shy but I outgrew it and I’m now at my most confident. I feel attractive and smart most of the time, which is light years better than how I felt in my teens and twenties. I also used to smoke and I haven’t given this up entirely but I’ve switched to Iqos, so that’s all right. I have a close personal friendship with alcohol in the form of beer but my excess days are far in the past where they should be. I have a husband and a daughter, and about two hundred unpopular opinions about everything.

Now, I have to say this is not exactly the bio I send with my query letters but it’s just as honest as that one. It’s just more personal. That’s how it works: I tell you –where you means potential audiences — who I am as a person and I leave it up to you to decide whether you like that person enough to see if their writing is any good.

Simple, right? Easy, no. Because the only way — or channel if you like buzzwords — I have of reaching people is this blog and my Twitter account. And reaching invariably means writing — a lot of writing.

I recently spoke to a literary man on Twitter about author newsletters. These are being promoted loudly enough for even me to hear about them. Forget it, he said. These only work for famous authors who have enough readers to want to read a newsletter. He was right, of course. Who cares how far along I’ve come on my Not-Even-A-Working-Title funny ghost story manuscript? No one besides me, that’s who. But how many care about the release date of James Patterson’s next bestseller? Many-many, that’s how many.

So unless you’ve got unlimited financial resources and can spend on professional marketing services, I suggest you, like me, focus on yourself and getting yourself out there. If I can help with anything — an author interview or guest blog — just let me know at the email address on the About page. That’s the easy part. The hard part is all that writing, podcasting, vlogging or whatever else we need to do to to make ourselves known to the world we want to throw our books at. Sorry, not throw, of course not. Offer is what I meant, offer.

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One of the benefits of having a blog rather than just a social media account is you can bluntly offer your books without it looking too annoying like all those retweeted tweets with people’s books. Here I can add the links to my books to the end of the blog post, which, you have to agree, looks a lot less intrusive and annoying. Anyway, if you’re in the mood for some dragons and vampires, or mysterious vanishing planes, try The Lamiastriga (which you can’t read for free on this blog) or Sky High (which you can read for free on this blog or on Kobo).

6 thoughts on “The Simplest Way to Market Books”

    1. But only to trusted people, right? Luckily, I’ve never been asked to lend a Pratchett to anyone but if I had, I’d only lend it to people I’ve know for at least two decades and communicate with on a daily basis — that’s a grand total of seven people.

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  1. Can’t argue with Nanny. I just find it hard to “market myself” or do any sort of marketing. I’m a very internal person. Plus, my childhood dream of being an author never included being a salesman. But it is what it is. I do find blogging easier than other social media.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. The selling part of the whole thing is distastetful, intrusive and generally abhorrent. Like you, I find it most palatable in blogging but most of all in just being myself, you know? So many people go to great lengths to embrace this or that political narrative to become more likeable and sell books and I just can’t do this, so I won’t. I’ve tried paying for marketing, though — I once paid a social media book promotion service because I’d try almost everything once (Nanny’s Way, after all) but of course it didn’t help at all so that was the end of it. So I’ll just keep writing, blogging and liking unpopular tweets. 😀

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      1. Not unless you’ve got unlimited budget for the purpose, no. 😀 Book reviews are essential, I’ve heard, but I can’t seem to be able to convince any book reviewers to review my book. Maybe trying to get in touch with some would help…

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