At a writers’ conference about ten years ago, at the end of a talk by a well-known novelist, she was asked how much time she spent on marketing. I don’t think I was the only one in the room who was left stunned and feeling totally inadequate by her answer.
“Writers need to spend 50% of their time writing and 50% on promotion and marketing.”
I can’t say I made an instant decision to change my ways and if I’m honest, most years I’m lucky if I spend 5% of my time marketing. It’s hard enough making the time to complete one novel let alone thinking about promoting myself and my books. There was a time when each January I would set out my writing goals for the year which included things like how many social media posts I would write each week, letters to local social groups offering to act as a speaker and so on. If I trawl back through my blogs, I’ll probably discover a couple on the subject. I seem to remember recommending that my readers set themselves modest achievable targets. I may even have kept up with mine for the first month ticking off figures on an elaborate excel sheet but after that…
I’ve yet to find a writer who admits to liking that aspect of a writer’s life, but we all know it’s a necessary evil. What is the point of spending a year putting your heart and soul into producing a brilliant novel that you are proud of if no one else is going to read it?
For the first time ever, I produced this year’s novel in six months. I was tempted to try to write another to make up for the fact that last year was completely unproductive – I was too busy producing cruise lectures. I decided instead to ‘do’ something about increasing my book sales.
Back in March, I took part in a Book Fair for local authors (see my June blog) and I suggested that we local novelists should get together to form a marketing group. Meeting up once a month to discuss marketing ideas is proving a great way to keep focused on what I need to do.
On the marketing front, September proved quite a productive month, even if I was indulging in a couple of the more interesting activities.
First came the book launch. Our tiny local library (open only three half days a week and manned entirely by volunteers) was willing to host the launch so the next thing was to promote the event. In an effort to keep costs down, I designed the poster myself and distributed it as widely as possible. I pestered not just the two writing groups I belong to to support me, but I made sure that the yoga and Tai Chi groups that I teach plus the line dancing classes I attend all knew about the event. I even timed the event to start when my line dancing class at the community centre next door finished and bribed them all with free coffee and homemade cake! I posted on my own Facebook page encouraging friends to share and on the local community Facebook pages and did a live interview on local radio about the book.
I promised to keep the event short – a twenty-minute PowerPoint presentation about how the book came to be written with lots of pictures showing the places mentioned in the book ending with reading a short extract.
It rained solidly that morning and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who turned up and even more delighted with the sales. All the time and effort had been worthwhile.
The following weekend, I had a table at a craft and book fair in a neighbouring small town. Sadly, we didn’t get many people through the doors, but I did sell a couple of books. The best part was meeting a couple more writers who are keen to join our marketing group.
I’m still hopeless at social media but all the time and effort I’m putting into marketing is beginning to have an impact. Most of all, having a support group who understand the trials and tribulations involved has made an enormous difference to my approach. Marketing will always be a chore, but perhaps it’s no longer quite as daunting and oppressive as it used to seem.