I’m part of We Make Movies’ writing critique group (a great group) as well as a writing critique group on Facebook. One of the Facebook members recently posted, “Why is self-promoting and marketing of one’s art so hard?”
Boy, get me started talking about indie art and I will go on FORFUCKINGEVER. My comment grew so long that I decided to repurpose it as a blog post. Here it is.
In the post I refer to “you” and “your art.” This is the specific person who posted in my Facebook group. I’m not talking about YOU (unless you’re her. God, this got confusing).
A few things.
First and most important
My marketing bibles are How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn and Write. Publish. Repeat. by Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David Wright (and you should totally go buy those books with those affiliate links so that Amazon tosses me a quarter).
Those books will be a MASSIVE help to you. They are written for authors, but they have incredible marketing advice for any indie author (similar to how Save the Cat is written for screenwriters, but contains valuable storytelling advice for novelists).
Education is key.
The single best advice I’ve ever received is that the best way to market your art is to make more of it.
If you have a pen name with multiple other books out there, then feel free to disregard this piece of advice. But a search on Amazon shows me only book with your name on it.
And it’s a compilation with three other authors.
And, if you’ll forgive my saying so, it’s 186 pages for $9.99 as an ebook, which most people would consider steep.
I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, good, bad or indifferent, although my instinct would be to price that book significantly lower.
What I AM saying is that you need to get more art out there, more things you can play around with.
There’s not enough focus on YOU with that book. It’s a tough sale.
What if you do reach a reader who likes what you have to say? And they go to the store to buy your book, and see it’s an anthology for ten bucks?
They might think, “Well, I want Elaina’s book, but I don’t want to pay an extra $7.50 for these other people I’ve never heard of.”
What happens if they overcome that, buy your book, read it, and love YOUR story? What do they do next?
Because they can’t.
They can’t buy your next book because there’s nothing else in the Amazon store with your name on it.
I didn’t start marketing until I had three titles out, a trilogy of novellas that was also packaged as a compilation. After the compilation released, I made the first one free, included links to the second novella AND the compilation (for a discount), and promoted the crap out of the first free novella because that was the easiest sell.
It creates an addiction when someone reads something you wrote and immediately clicks to buy the next one. It’s repetition. It makes you remain in their head.
One encounter is nothing — two is the beginning of a habit.
Here is my main takeaway from Joanna Penn’s book, and the way I handle ALL of my own marketing (which is successful):
Marketing consists of talking about the things in your art that you love, to people who will also love it, in WAYS that you love.
Therefore, if you think marketing is HARD, YOU’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT.
There are many ways to market yourself, but you don’t have to do all of them. They’re all effective if done well, so do the ones you WANT to do.
I do a lot of stuff to market myself. But it’s ALL stuff that I love doing. It’s all FUN. Here’s some of the things that I do:
- Vlog every day about whatever I want
- Blog three times a week about whatever I want
- Run two weekly hour-long podcasts
- Occasionally guest on other podcasts and radio shows through RadioGuestList.com (FREE)
- Occasionally contribute to blog articles and newspapers through HARO (FREE)
- Create tutorials (both video and written) about technical aspects of writing and filmmaking
- Review books by other authors (part of blogging)
The vlogging and the blogging attract people to my art because I talk about topics I WANT to talk about — and those are usually topics that find their way into my books and films as well!
It’s completely natural for me to be vlogging about how I don’t like horror, for example, and then say, “That’s why, when I wrote the book Non Zombie, I included a lot of humor.”
Bam. Book plug.
But it’s completely germane to the conversation.
In terms of time commitment, marketing doesn’t have to be prohibitively high.
Doing my daily vlogs takes me about an hour each, so 7 hours per week.
Blogging takes me about a half-hour per post, since I just re-purpose a cool topic from my vlog. So 1.5 hours per week.
Podcasts take me an hour each, so two hours a week, plus another hour to post the audio online. 3 hours.
I probably guest once every two weeks, so that’s another .5 hour per week.
HARO submissions take me about an hour, and I submit to about one per week, so 1 hour per week.
Tutorials happen about once a month, but they’re big projects. Let’s say they take me 4 hours, and that means another 1 hour per week on average.
I try to review a book a week. Aside from reading time, which I don’t count because it’s personal time and I’d be reading anyways, writing a good review takes me about 2 hours.
7+1.5+3+.5+1+1+2 = 16 hours per week.
I work much more than 40 hours a week on my career. But assuming I’m on a normal schedule, take those 16 hours out and I’d still have 24 hours a week to write or shoot movies.
And all this marketing is FUN. It’s all things I WANT to do, that I would be doing whether or not it promoted my art.
Other people take some actions that I would NEVER consider undertaking.
For example, social media marketing. There is a technology to marketing through social media, and I have absolutely no interest in learning it. I find most social media marketers annoying, so why would I want to be one?
Yes, I’m ON social media, but for personal use. Yes, fans reach out to me sometimes and I respond, but that’s not “marketing work” any more than receiving fan mail is “marketing work.”
Another promotion activity is gaming Amazon’s algorithm systems to drive your book or film up the rankings.
There is a whole technology to this, one that’s very clearly outlined by David Gaughran in his books “Let’s Get Visible” and “Let’s Get Digital.”
Those are great books. Many people have tremendous success with them. And yet it’s so complex and boring and mathy to me that I stay as far away as possible.
To reiterate: Marketing is making your book(s) known by talking about things you love (which are in your book) to people who also love those things.
I’m a geek. My art is pretty geeky. If I start talking to people about geeky things, my art inevitably come up because it’s part of my life and who I am.
That’s marketing. That’s successful. And that’s how I try to roll.