Marketing malarkey melancholy

by SJ Griffin

I don’t know whether I’m being terribly English about this but I do find the marketing aspect of being a Lady Novelist a bit of a struggle. I have just logged onto my Linkedin account and there are lots of marvellous people discussing marketing and the merits, or otherwise, of free book offers and all sorts of other things. It’s very supportive and smart and while I’m reading it I’m a puppyish bundle of enthusiasm. And then, and then…


Some people say ‘oh, I could promote your book, it’s just soooo hard doing my own.’ Let’s be clear, I couldn’t promote your book either.

 A change of gear

Writing a book is a very specific exercise. It is to writing a blog post or some promotional copy what swimming the channel only doing backstroke is to changing the oil in a helicopter. I am still geared towards lying on my back staring up at the sky trying not to think about the overwhelming numerous of slimy sea creatures beneath me, looking up hungry at my tired body like I’m a little landfood smorgasbord. I’ve not quite managed to get myself in a place where I can snap my fingers with enough jazzy pizzazz to say: ‘Hey, read my book, lovely reader, you’ll love it.’ I should probably throw a ‘baby’ in there somewhere, right? This is further complicated by my really wanting to start my new book (chapter plan done, ready to roll) but feeling that I really must show some commitment to the trilogy and promote it properly.

 An act of faith

A friend of mine once said, back in the days when I thought that entering endless short story competitions was the best way of writing a book, that sending your work out, whether it’s an academic paper or a piece of fiction or poetry, is an act of faith. I think that’s right. We are saying to the world: ‘Look at this thing I did. I believe in it.’ And we live in a cold, grey world where it’s hard to believe in things sometimes, so that’s a special act, that small act of faith in yourself. It’s important. And what is saying ‘look at this thing’, when we really get down to the basics? Marketing. Promotion. I may think it’s mystical and wonderful. I may be giving away work for free but it is still marketing and PR and all that stuff that’s the main reason I don’t watch television.

So, it must be done. Now we are grown-ups, if we have no faith in ourselves, why should anyone else?

A shiny diner in the desert

So, what is the answer as I trek through this arid and dusty environment, beset by vultures on all side and tripping over the stinking rotten husks of previous attempts at marketing? I don’t know. I do know where to start finding the answer.

Drum roll….

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide by Mark Coker

Food! Sustenance! A cool glass of water without dust and bugs floating on the top! Even if you don’t publish through Smashwords (note: I do, and I do recommend it) this is useful. It includes 41 tips on using social media and other free things to let lots of people you’ve never met know that you’ve written a book and think they will love it. 41, that’s lots. But most importantly;

 “we cannot promise you your book will sell well, even if you follow all the tips in this guide. In fact, most books, both traditionally published and self-published, don’t sell well. Whether your book is intended to inspire, inform or entertain, millions of other books and media forms are competing against you”

And breathe. Doesn’t that feel better? No one is expecting you to out sell JK Rowling. No one is expecting you to achieve Don Draper levels of genius and revolutionise independent publishing.

The Marketing Guide is full of helpful suggestions that aren’t intimidating. I read the self-printing book that Catherine Howard wrote, a couple of years ago when I’d just finished writing The Vanguard and I thought it was good. It’s become less helpful, in hindsight, but if there is an updated version it might be worth having a look at it. One of things that I now realise didn’t work for me about it is that she already had a really strong blog presence and twitter following to build on. Mark Coker’s book, which is free, is better if you are pretty new to it all or don’t like social media very much so haven’t really got off the ground with it. After reading it the other week I came up with a three month plan of action with which to take over the world. The fact that I’m a week behind is neither here nor there, because I am only a week behind. I have started. And when one is attempting to change the oil in a helicopter it helps to know where the oil is, it helps to start. I have never really managed to do that before.

So, if you’re not sure where to start, or you’ve stalled I’d recommend Mark Coker’s Smashwords Marketing Guide. Food for thought and oil for helicopters.

And for dessert: The Secrets to Ebooks Publishing Success