The good, the bad and the downright ugly of marketing books

It would be fair to say that for most authors and writers the act of writing books (and other things) is the part of their job that they are keen to be doing. I know that this is the case because I’ve talked to a lot of authors in my time, I am one myself, and without doubt the thing they all complain about the most is the amount of work it takes to get their book (or books) to be seen in front of the right audience at the right time.

This is the case for ALL authors whether they are published traditionally (in the ideal world this would consist of a publisher who loves your book, gives you an obscene amount of money and then pays you a handsome royalty for every single copy you sell so that you can swan off and lie on a beach contemplating the next blockbuster) or whether you are like the vast majority these days, self published.

But, and I say this advisedly, in the vast majority of cases and by that I mean the 99.9999999% of cases it is only by getting your hands dirty marketing your book that it will ever see the light of day on more than a handful of book cases around the globe. The truth is that even in the world of traditional publishing there is little done in the way of marketing of new authors, you have to be the next JK Rowling to score anything at all pretty much and often it will be just one book publicist looking after a list of maybe 200- 300 books at a time.

So, it’s time to roll your socks up and dig deep into your creative soul and learn to lurve the act that is marketing, almost as much as you lurve the act of writing itself. Over the coming weeks and months, I’m planning to explore how you can use the t’internet effectively, what you can do to raise your profile as an author and the things that make a difference in the real world. but first, let’s start with some Book Marketing 101.

I’m going to ask you a question and I hope you’ll give me an honest answer.

The question is ‘who is going to buy your book?’

It’s not as strange a question as it may seem because I know from my own experiences that if you don’t know who is likely to buy your book, you won’t be able to put an effective plan in place to help sell it.

So, let’s try that again shall we, ‘who’s going to buy your book?’

In answering the question you need to think a little laterally because the answer is NOT going to be ‘everyone’. Let me give you an example; my book 101 Handy Hints for a Happy Hysterectomy gives you a hint in the title. At the outset this is not a book written with men in mind (although you’d be surprised at the number that buy it … for their wives and partners) so this narrows down the audience by at least 50%.

Then the word ‘Hysterectomy’ might give you another clue, it’s NOT going to be a book for women who ARE NOT considering a hysterectomy, which in the UK narrows the market down to about 60,000 women.

Finally, I need to take into account that only around 30,000 of those women will be interested in taking an active part in their own health, those that don’t won’t be looking for a book to read, no matter how good the title may sound.

I grant you, that this was an easy one to do – the clues were all in the title and I do happen to know a fact or two about the numbers of women having such surgery; but what about novels?

Sometimes these can be easy too. If you are writing a thriller, it’s going to appeal to people who like to read thrillers and it probably won’t appeal to those who only like to read romance. Sometimes it’s not though and your book could step across several different ‘genres’ and making a decision about which it is may not be so easy.  But make that decision you must, because if you don’t you’ll find yourself doing a lot of needless activity that doesn’t get you (or your book) very far.

To sum up then, you need to know who your book is aimed at, who is likely to read it and why and also any other distinguishing marks or characteristics. Go ahead and list them now and you’ll have the beginnings of a marketing plan.

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  1. Those are some really good ideas and what about those who work in the Charity sector too … you never know, an organisation like the national trust may well be interested in doing something unusual – why not have a word with the manager at a local property?

  2. This is helpful advice. I also think for my novel to get better known, I need to take a day to visit independent bookshops, asking them to trial a copy or two. My novel “Charity Begins with Murder” has a strong geographical focus, so one of the answers to your “who will read it” is “people who live in south London”. Am also thinking of giving a complementary copy to the owner of a local jazz club and cafe, with the thought that she might be happy for me to hold a launch event in the cafe. That’s likely to tick two boxes,