There are many misconceptions about marketing.
Among them is that marketing, in some way, cheapens creative writing. As a result, most writers, artists, and other creatives avoid marketing like the plague – as if it would infect every aspect of their work.
Several writers think this way because much of the advertising we see every day is not appealing. The industry has gotten a terrible reputation for brainwashing people, being sneaky, and generally causing trouble.
However, all that stuff is NOT what marketing is about!
No one could earn a living writing, share their story, or gain fans and followers without marketing – real marketing
Marketing is so much more than running an ad or a television spot or selling yourself long and hard! Marketing isn’t sleazy! To make people want to read your work, you can tell them what they need to know in an ethical, honorable, and effective way.
Know what isn’t marketing
What keeps so many writers from getting out there and promoting themselves? This stems primarily from a misconception about what marketing is and what it involves.
One of the fears (and it’s an understandable fear) of marketing your work is that you have to ruthlessly promote yourself and sell out your ideals to make a profit.
It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Marketing isn’t just sales or advertising; those are elements, but they’re far from the whole picture.
As an independent writer, you’re not going to advertise your book with full-page ads filled with scantily clad women in the newspapers! Likewise, there won’t be billboards on highways announcing dire consequences for anyone who hasn’t read your book.
You will not hold people at knifepoint in bookstores while they carry your work to the cash register, nor will you mislead people into believing you’re something you’re not.
Marketing isn’t about brainwashing or trickery, but finding people who are genuinely interested in what you do and what you have to say, and telling them what you have to offer them.
People can misuse marketing, but that doesn’t mean you should. Marketing is only sleazy or unethical when its practitioners are. It is not the hammer’s fault when it is used to harm another person, and it is not marketing’s fault when they lie.
A hammer can also be used to construct beautiful things by a carpenter, just like marketing can boost your audience and readership.
Knowing how to do marketing the right way
Now, let’s talk about how marketing can be used ethically and effectively to get your message out to those who need or want to hear it.
As a starting point, let’s make this fundamental assumption: you cannot force anyone to do something they don’t want to do.
Despite what some people think about marketing, it’s true. Yogurt isn’t something a person hates but will pick up when they see an advertisement. That’s not how it works.
Likewise, a Science Fiction blog post will not make a die-hard Star Wars fan run out and buy a batch of fan fiction. It’s simply not going to happen.
So what’s the point?
Here’s the honest truth – there will always be some folks out there who’d love to read your work. But they don’t know who you are or why they should be looking for you. It’s your job to let them know that you exist and that you have the material they’d like to read! Marketing is what you’ll use to accomplish that.
It doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Connecting with people who could be interested in your work?
Let’s take a closer look at this whole marketing thing. This process has three distinct and important stages: aligning with readers, attracting readers, and engaging with readers. Alignment is about connecting with the right people, attraction is about grabbing their attention, and engagement is about establishing a relationship.
All of these elements are necessary for any good marketing strategy, but let’s take a closer look at what they mean for you, as a writer.
Aligning with readers
You’ve probably heard that you should picture your ideal reader. There is no doubt about this. Unfortunately, even if you’re a brilliant writer, you’re unlikely to find that your work appeals to everyone. So if someone isn’t interested, it’s better not to bother them!
Many authors fail to identify their ideal readers, which is one of their biggest mistakes. However, it can be challenging to admit that people will not find your writing appealing. Even though a 20-year-old surfer dude and a 65-year-old grandma of two might like the same books, they probably won’t.
You should invest your limited time and money into making connections with people who are most likely to be interested in your work.
There is a type of person who will actually understand your writing-and you, as the author, will know who that person is. Consider how they live their lives, how they read, and who or what they consult for recommendations. Create a mental picture of them, paint a mental picture of where they spend their time and what they do when they need something new to read. That will be your path to them.
To get started, substitute the word “customer” with “reader” in this post about finding your ONE person.
In reality, this part of the marketing process is the least important of the three, but it is the one that most people associate with the word “marketing.” This is probably because it includes all of the things that people do to get noticed.
It is about getting out there and making yourself known, whether posting on popular blogs, sharing information on social media, taking out ads with Google or in print, joining communities, etc. You can attract someone’s attention in many ways, and as long as it’s the right person, that’s usually enough to start a relationship.
Identifying your target reader is only tricky if you don’t know which audience you are trying to cater to. But, again, this part isn’t difficult if you can do it. If you’re having trouble getting attention, go back to the alignment section.
You’re not trying to fool or trick anyone into buying your book. Instead, you’re letting readers know that you have something unique to share! Naturally, they will appreciate receiving this information.
Engaging with readers
In order to engage a reader, you have to help them move from knowing about you to buying and reading your work. Sometimes that’s as simple as saying, “Here’s my book!” Then they buy it, but sometimes it takes a bit longer, and that’s okay.
When you have someone’s attention, you have to get them to take action. You don’t want them to know about you; you want them to read your work.
Invite folks to sign up for your mailing list so you can provide samples of your writing, discuss ideas and keep them updated on your new projects. Again, an appealing alignment will make this more attractive to a reader.
Whenever you ask them to take action, whether it is downloading your ebook or writing a review on Amazon, you want to thank and reward them for their support.
In a cycle, you ask for something, provide something of greater value, and then ask again. In time, a stranger you met through advertising or a blog post becomes a loyal fan who tells all of their friends when you have something new ready, and who purchases whatever you produce.
All of this seems a little overwhelming, doesn’t it?
You don’t have to worry about that – it’s okay. You’re a writer first and foremost, and marketing is a big topic.
Some easy first steps are:
Think carefully about who your ideal reader is. Look at existing readers and try to figure out what they have in common. Are they more likely to be mothers? Self-employed? Living in cities? This is the best place to start fleshing out your reader profile.
Participate in the online and offline communities where your readers hang out! Join their forums if they have them! Comment on their blogs, too, if they do! Put up notices at the library if they go there!
Organize your relationship-building process. As soon as someone knows who you are, what do you want them to do? Would you like them to buy your book right away? Would you like to build a long-term relationship? In addition to your book, what else can you offer them to make a relationship with you appealing?
You aren’t doing anyone any favors by sitting around twiddling your thumbs and hoping people will discover and enjoy your work. To reach out to people, you need to share what you have to offer.
It’s not wrong to give someone all the information they need to make a decision. However, it is only shameful never to give someone the chance to do so.