Revisiting My How to Write a Book Series: New Lessons Learned in Book Marketing

Back in 2014 I wrote a multi-part series of blog posts called How To Write a Book. It was a series designed to be a step-by-step guide based on my experiences writing and self-publishing two (at the time) books. One of the the things I had struggled with back then was with book marketing. As with everything during the entire self-publishing process, the emphasis is on the word self. YOU and you alone are the marketing department for your book and how you approach the entire endeavor can be the difference between success and failure. I made reference to my approach to in the final part of the series but in hindsight, I'd say my results were mixed at best. I sold a fair number of books and both of my titles got excellent reviews, but I was fairly timid and hands-off with the marketing. I posted a link here or there on social media and online forums, but other than fans of Blur (whom the books were about), I didn't cast a very wide net. When I published my newest book A Win For Every Stitch in December 2018, I vowed to take the lessons I learned from my previous failures as well as what I'd learned from some research I'd done and approach book marketing totally differently. So now, four months in I thought it would be beneficial to write this post as both an addendum to my earlier series as well as a stand-alone post on my experiences in marketing a self-published book in 2019. Here goes...

Back in 2014 I wrote the following:

"This is where your skills as a writer will not matter as much, while your skills as someone who can connect with your audience and create interest and excitement for your book are of paramount importance.  The hard part of creating and executing your book are finished, and now you've got boxes (or access to boxes) of copies and copies of your book. But you didn't put in all of that work just to sit on copies of your own book; you did it because you had something that was important to you that you thought would also be important to a lot of other people which you want to share with them. Well, the only way that's going to happen is if you put in the work to get those copies into the hands of your future readers!

Right off the bat, I want to emphasize the point that there is a fine line between being a good salesman and promoter, and coming across like a huckster. Your target audience and any potential fans will be instantly (and 99% of the time, irreversibly) turned off by an approach that makes it obvious that you're simply trying to get them to buy your book. Even worse is if you make it obvious that you're only interested in their money. Honestly, and this is speaking from personal experience, that's not why we write books and are so eager to get them into the hands of our readers. While it is, of course, nice to be rewarded for your hard work and dedication, it shouldn't be (and hopefully isn't) the only motivation for doing it." 

So what have I learned since 2014? I've learned that in order to be a better marketer, you not only need to cast a wider net but also engage MORE. I'm still coming to terms with it because as I said five years ago there's a fine line between being a good, engaging salesman and a huckster. I used to lean more toward the engagement and I still do, but I've found that in order to be more effective I've had to also be a little bit of a huckster as well. And you know what? I hate it. Being a huckster of any kind goes completely against my personality and what I'm usually comfortable with, but I've found that by incorporating a little more of it, my marketing has been much more effective. Let me clarify what I mean by the term "huckster," too. What I don't mean is to be sleazy, obnoxious, or dishonest. Instead, I mean that I've...

- ...been more aggressive in my efforts. Aggressive doesn't mean obnoxious and in everyone's face, but it does mean to be more persistent and engaged. I post about my new book more frequently than I ever did my previous books, I've broadened my net in terms of where I market it, and I try to engage with potential readers and customers much more than I ever have in the past. For the most part this has worked really well and I've attracted a lot of readers and customers. I've enjoyed engaging with them all and most rewarding of all, I've loved the unsolicited positive feedback I've gotten from fans regarding the book. What's even nicer is that many of my satisfied readers recommend my book to other fans which has created a positive feedback loop of good reviews and interest. The one downside to my more aggressive marketing approach? I've been kicked out of a few of the Red Sox/baseball Facebook groups I post in, some because they have strict no-advertising policies that I didn't know about and some because I guess I just irritated the administrators! It goes completely against my nature as a person to self-promote and draw attention to myself, so I've had to really step out of my comfort zone to market this way, but the results have been undeniable and I continue to refine my approach.

- ...been more creative in how I market. Rather than sticking solely to Facebook groups in my niche (which is all I did for my first two books), I've been branching out into other ways of marketing. I still predominantly use Facebook, but I've upped my efforts on Twitter and (especially) Instagram. I've also looked to not only promote in the obvious baseball and Red Sox fan communities, but in independent author and self-publishing communities as well. These are huge groups of like-minded people all trying to do the same thing and supporting other independent writers in the efforts to spread the word about their books. I've found that while I haven't necessarily seen a spike in sales, the networking aspect has proven invaluable in connecting me with other writers of similar interests. I've also tried to think outside the box a bit, reaching out to my university's alumni association as well as local newspapers and websites. I've had varying degrees of success, but it's been fun and different and I've learned a lot about what works, what doesn't, and why.

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Those are the two biggest things I've learned about book marketing this time around although there are always little lessons picked up along the way. Your mileage may vary with these, but at the very least between my original article and this update, you should have some starting points for how to effectively promote your book. A Win For Every Stitch has been by far my most successful book in terms of popularity and sales. I won't divulge exact numbers but just since its release in December I've sold hundreds of copies, both through Amazon and directly (I offer signed copies directly at no additional charge). I've found that some people prefer the convenience and speed of Amazon while some prefer the personal touch of a signed copy and dealing directly with me. Both have been great for me and I will continue to use both approaches.

As I learn more (and I'm sure I will), I'll continue to update this series. I'd also love to hear from all of you out there who have gone through the same thing: what's worked for you? What hasn't? And what advice do you have for effectively marketing your books? Please let me know so we can help each other out!