In order to be successful as an author, in terms of books sold, you need to market yourself as an author. It’s not just about writing stories. Not these days.
Once upon a time being a writer meant just that … writing. He or she wrote his/her story, submitted it to a publisher and, if it was accepted, sat back and waited for the royalties to roll in. These days it’s
different and if you want to be successful in terms of sales, you need to do more than just write. You need to promote yourself and your book(s). You need to become known to your readers. You need to welcome and practice the marketing business with open arms.’
Marketing? I didn’t know the first thing about marketing and, if I was to be truthful, I’d have to admit that I was one of the world’s
worst salesmen. And another thing, if I did go down the marketing trail, when on earth would I find the time to write? After all, that’s what I do. I’m a writer not a salesman. If you’re thinking like me, you have my full sympathy. Unfortunately,
if your ambition is to be successful as a writer, to become well known and to sell lots of books, you, like me, have to resolve this catch-22 situation.
In the end, my solution was to heed my publisher’s advice and to give marketing a go.
where to start?
First up, because my books are geared towards the teenage market and because I’m an ex teacher, I reasoned that it’d
make sense to try and set up author visits to schools.
Firstly, download a list of Australian schools with all relevant information and contact
But now it was decision time. What form should the school presentations take? Should I charge the schools? How big should
classes be? What should my subject matter be? And so on …
Suffice to say, I did visit several schools — in Tasmania and on the
mainland. From the outset, I decided that initially my main objective should be to establish myself as a writer in the school system. Hopefully, this would eventually result in increased book sales at a later date. I certainly didn’t sell many books
on my visits — usually one or two for each school library. (I learned later to make use of order forms for students which I distributed to schools before the visit.)
However, besides raising my profile, there were other benefits that I hadn’t envisaged. I began to get phone calls from newspaper and radio journalists requesting interviews. This, in turn, led to libraries and service clubs inviting
me to give author talks. People were stopping me in the street asking me how my books were going, and for the first time since I’d started this marketing business, I felt that I was I was getting out there
… becoming known as an author.
Success? I suppose in a sense it was, but in terms of books sold I certainly couldn’t brag. I
knew then that I had a way to go yet.
That’s when I decided to invest in an air flight to Melbourne and a one day seminar which featured
Hazel Edwards of ‘Authorpreneurship’1 fame. It was well worthwhile. I learned several things.
I learned about the
need for a personal web site, which I’ve since set up. I learned about the usefulness of social sites too, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. As an example, my personal web site –over twenty thousand hits in four years – has enabled
me to promote myself and my books to the general public. It has also provided readers with links to my publisher and to all distributors of my books. I’m even getting fan mail!
But it’s here that I need to make a confession. My dear wife, who’s something of a computer whiz, does a lot of the computer marketing for me. She keeps my social sites up to date and she contributes to
other sites such as Wattpad, Goodreads, Inside A Dog, etc. A great help in terms of me having more writing time.
Anyway, in my experience
so far, and at this stage of my writing career, I would say that in terms of balancing the two, a fifty/fifty split between writing and marketing would be about the right mix for me. Plus, I’ve found that researching – if that is required –
can be done in conjunction with marketing. Writing, I feel, is a different matter. I like to keep that as a separate, special process. That is, I don’t like thinking about upcoming book or school presentations, signings or interviews, whilst trying to
write the plot for my next novel. But that’s just me. Everyone’s different.
Now, after three books, and having tried all of the
above to market myself as an author, I still get a twinge or two whenever I have to sell something. But I think I’m getting better.
again, I still have to ask myself whether it was worth it, whether I achieved anything?
My 'Forest' trilogy, 'Forest Spirit', Forest Shadows'
and 'Forest Secrets are now a reality and I am researching another novel, ready to start writing my new novel very shortly.
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discussion paper, Hazel Edwards, Melbourne, 2009.