Writing a great book isn’t enough

June 3, 2022

You have written a great book, and now an adoring public is going to make you famous. What’s missing from this picture? What’s missing is this piece: How does the public know you’ve written a book?

If you are planning to give your book away to friends and family, customers, or sales prospects, or if you will be hand-selling your book to people who come to hear you speak, then you can ignore this post. This post is for authors who want to sell books to a public that doesn’t already know them.

So if you’re still with me, I’m going to say a few words about a dreaded topic: marketing.

One of the very first questions I ask of an author who comes to me for my help in publishing their book is a broad description of how they plan to market the book. I’m not a marketing consultant and have no plans to become one. But I want to know that there is some plausible scheme in place for connecting with an audience. Spoiler: “I’ll list it on Amazon and people will discover it” is not a marketing plan. Listing a book so the people looking for it can find it and buy it is good. But first people need to be looking for it.

I know, I know. You hate that word. It sounds so crass. But marketing is at the heart of what it means to publish a book—literally to make it public. The publisher’s job is to make a connection between the book and the audience for the book. And the author is the one person in a position to facilitate that connection.

Perhaps you’re one of the fortunate authors who has secured representation by a literary agent and that agent has managed to get you a publishing contract. Congratulations. But the publisher is still going to require that you be heavily engaged in promoting the book. On the other hand, if you are publishing the book independently, you’re still going to require that the author (you) be heavily engaged in promoting the book. This is true whether you work with someone like me or succumb to the blandishments of a vanity press. I’ll make your book, but you’re going to market it.

I can refer you to a book marketing consultant who will work with you to develop a marketing plan, if that’s something you want to consider. But you’re still the person who is going to have to execute that plan. The marketing consultant can’t do that for you, and neither can I. What that means nowadays for the vast majority of books intended for public consumption is that you—the author, personally—need to be visible on social media. If that phrase sends shivers down your spine and you’re unwilling to find a platform you can get comfortable with, you’re going to have a hard time selling books.

Every year, thousands of excellent books are written that never sell more than ten copies, let alone a hundred or a thousand. The authors of those books didn’t think they needed to market them. They were wrong.

For older posts, please visit the archived words / myth / ampers & virgule blog.

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