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Why Is Book Marketing Important

by Alison on September 7, 2012

When I first began to envision this blog, I quickly realized that I wanted my primary focus to be marketing. Obviously that’s my area of expertise at my day job but that’s not exactly why I was inspired to take this focus. The reason was that after book quality, I think marketing is the second biggest factor in having a book break out and get into the hands of readers.

This week The Atlantic published an article entitled “The Cruel Paradox of Self-Publishing,” by Peter Osnos that summed up the importance of book marketing perfectly. Here are two key data points that stuck out for me:

  • 211,000 self-published titles were released in 2011 in print or e-books, an increase of almost 60 percent over 2010.
  • Most self-published books sell 100-150 copies.

(Image source)

The “cruel paradox” is that even though self-publishing makes it easier than ever to publish a book, this new boon also makes it harder than ever to sell books. How can you as an author (either self-published or traditionally published) combat this trend? Osnos weighed in on what he thought the answer is:

“As for authors in the burgeoning self-publishing field, they need to be as determined to find an audience for their books as they are in writing them. I liked the advice offered by David Carnoy of CNET.com (as paraphrased by Finder): “Devise a creative marketing plan,” he said, “try one new tactic every day and study the strategies used by successful self-publishers and imitate them.” Easier said, of course, than done; nonetheless, for an ambitious author in this crowded universe, getting noticed is the indispensable requirement.”

Yesterday, Penny C. Sansevieri writing for the Huffington Post put it another way in her article “7 Signs You’re Not Ready to Publish.” #5 is “You haven’t started marketing your book,” and #7 is “You have no marketing plan.” Marketing is so important, it made the relatively short list twice. (It’s a great piece, by the way. Definitely worth a quick read.)

And yet again and again I hear my author friends moan some version of, “But if I really do all this Tweeting, Tumbling, and Facebooking that people suggeset, then I won’t have time to write!” I always bite my tongue but the truth is there will be no need to keep writing if they DON’T do all that Tweeting and Tumbling and Facebooking.

I don’t want to downplay the importance of actually writing a great book. It’s important. Definitely. Chicken and the egg, of course. There’s no need to have a digital marketing strategy if there’s no book and making time to write said book is hard enough.

Just check out this tag search from Tumblr for “You should be writing.” (A tag search is just a collection of posts on Tumblr  labeled by users with the same tag.)

So I really do believe writing is important. But after the blood, sweat, and tears of writing and editing a novel come to a close, I’m afraid your journey is far from over. That’s when you must put into place the marketing plan you’ve crafted for your book.

What kind of marketing plan? Well, that’s what this blog hopes to address, especially with the Book Campaigns I Love posts. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula that will work. A marketing plan that might work for a YA novel published by one of the Big Six could look pretty different than a self-published romance novel with a popular band’s song lyrics sprinkled throughout.

Study what’s working for other authors. Figure out what kind of reader would like your book. And then, get their attention somehow. And yes that will involve Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook. Or maybe no Twitter but Pinterest and Instagram. Or maybe mostly Tumblr with a dash of Reddit. No matter what social networks you harness, your digital marketing plan will involve a lot of ingenuity and time from you.

But this too is a part of the job and the most successful authors embrace that. It’s tempting to believe that if you publish with one of the Big Six you won’t have to worry about marketing, but I was published by a division of Random House and a division of Hachette and both publishers looked to me and my cowriter to lead our marketing efforts.

As the author, you are the expert on your genre, your audience, and how to reach them. And a smart digital marketing plan with a sustained outreach strategy can make the difference between your book selling just to friends and family–and it breaking out and being read widely.

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