The business side of writing requires that today’s authors (especially new authors) cannot focus solely on their writing. They need to gear up the analytical left side of their brains to think like entrepreneurs. Extroverts make great entrepreneurs. Alas, most writers are introverts. We love to sit alone at our computers and create worlds.
“I don’t want to do all that promotion stuff, and I don’t know how!” is the initial reaction. It’s like telling a boy who loves baseball that, in order to succeed, he must take up needlepoint.
Writers are generally aware they must compete fiercely for discoverability. In recent years, the estimated number of books published (including self-published) in the United States is 4,000,000 a year. Yours is one of them. It takes a lot of effort to have that book noticed. It’s one frozen drop in a Niagara of ice.
There’s a (marketing) flaw in writers’ tendency to hang out with other writers—you know, people who don’t ask, “So when is yo(of a dozen or more) is done. We should be trying to connect with readers. That takes work and as much creativity as goes into the novel itself. “My book is for everyone” isn’t a marketing strategy.
Book groups, e-newsletters, and now TikTok are among the ways to reach some readers, but are they the right ones for your book? Are you comfortable with them? I like book groups, I like the Q & A, and the participants often buy the book, unless the club is sponsored by a library. TikTok’s audience skews too young for my books (half of their users under age 30), but would be perfect for another author.
I like participating in book fairs. They’re fun, but I’ve learned the hard way they aren’t a very efficient way to sell (my) books, though children’s authors seem to do better. And have a lower price-point. At book fairs, I do fall prey to that tendency to hang out with other writers. As we sit or stand there, hoping to catch the eye of a potential customer, whom do we talk to? Each other, of course.
Despite the hurdles, today’s authors have marketing opportunities in both traditional and electronic publishing. A key difference is that traditional publishers are most interested in initial sales. If a book doesn’t do well out of the gate, their efforts to promote it go from almost nothing to nothing at all, and the book vanishes. By contrast, Amazon (Kindle) and other e-publishers are in it for the long haul. Maintaining the e-file is all but free, and if an author has a book success next year or the year after or the year after that, sales of the earlier book/s may very well creep upward too. This can be a boon to writers sitting on a backlist of books that never sold well, simply because they didn’t get a big enough jolt in visibility.
The publishing mountain continues to get steeper, but writers persist. It’s in our bones. And at least one side of our brains. But, like climbing any mountain, you do it one step at a time.