Marketing: It’s All About Attitude

This is a Guest Contribution by Emily Mah Tippetts, from EMTippetts.com

When I got started in professional writing, it was still an era when writers did not self promote. It was uncouth to pull out a copy of your book and ask people to buy it.

At science fiction conventions (this is the genre where I began), organizers would shake their heads in dismay if an author on a panel even so much as put copies of their books out on the table in front of them. A real author waited for people to ask about their books, always.

Not waiting for an invitation was to broadcast yourself to the world as a hack. A wannabe. Someone who clearly couldn’t write well enough to sell books, so they had to resort to carnival barking and other gimmicks.

At first glance, it would appear that the world has changed entirely.

With the rise of indie writing, authors are having to act as their own publicists, and even publishers expect authors to do a certain amount of their own publicity. In fact, a lot of traditionally published authors have to do all their own publicity over and above sending out ARCs to reviewers.

It would appear that to be an author now, you also have to be a salesman (or woman), willing to talk up your book any and every chance you get.

I decided to go indie with one of my pen names (E.M. Tippetts) specifically to see how much difference I could make to my career if I did my own publicity. I released two books, publicized one and not the other, and the results were staggering.

The one I publicized has been in the Kindle Top 100 twice. The other limps along and has just barely covered the costs of its own cover design. I say that without bitterness. It was a valuable lesson to learn.

But perhaps the most surprising lesson of all is that even in this era of writer as publicist, my mentors from back in the day have it right and a lot of people I see out there have it dead wrong.

Sound paradoxical?

Well, there’s a lot about marketing that isn’t straightforward, and as an ebook formatter who helps indie authors with launches multiple times a week these days, I see a lot of marketing styles and I see what succeeds and what fails.

In short, it’s all about attitude. Specifically, here are three of the wrong attitudes to have:

1. Selling books requires talking about your book to anyone who will listen

This attitude assumes that your goal when you wake up in the morning is to talk about your book as much as possible to as many people as possible. Your work is a product that you have to push relentlessly. But think about this. Would that work on you?

Would you buy a book from someone rambling on and on and on about it? No. You’d think that person can’t be a very good writer because… well, cross reference the end my first paragraph. They have to resort to carnival barking and other gimmicks.

2. You have to be on every kind of social media all the time

Now, there are a ton of social media success stories. John Scalzi runs a very effective blog. John Locke, despite his detractors’ allegations to the contrary, sold a lot of books via Twitter.

I can vouch for his techniques because these are the ones I used at the outset, and while they didn’t get me onto the New York Times Bestseller List, they did get me on the Amazon Children’s top 100 for over a month, before the climate on Twitter changed.

If you look on social media, you will find, unsurprisingly, a lot of people who are good at marketing on it. That’s because… well, they’re good at marketing on it, and hence are the ones who get seen. That doesn’t mean you will be one of them if you copy them verbatim, and you most certainly won’t be if you copy them all verbatim.

There are only so many hours in the day, and you can’t be everywhere at once, no matter how much technology you use. Spread your efforts too far, and you won’t be effective anywhere.

3. Forget marketing and just write, write, write!

This worked for Amanda Hocking, right? And Jasinda Wilder. And Russell Blake. And Abbi Glines. The most competitive writers out there are the ones with the biggest shelves, right?

I doubt I need to spend too much time on this point. Quality does matter. If you write constantly and just break your manuscripts off in novel size chunks and put them up on Amazon, no one will buy them. There are plenty of people you’ve never heard of with huge shelves.

Indie publishing is about four years old, so of course a lot of top sellers are very prolific. Few people have had the time to build out a shelf more then ten books long. However, that will start to matter less and less as the market ages.

Some of the people with big shelves had a huge backlist that they took decades to build. Others have a freakish talent for writing fast. This kind of writer isn’t new. They’re old as writing itself.

People who write fewer books can and do keep up in the sales charts. So don’t fall into the trap of trying to write fast enough to keep up, and don’t believe the hype that says these authors do nothing to market themselves. They aren’t obsessed with marketing and they devote most of their time to writing, but their books didn’t just luck into finding the right readers.

Marketing can be very subtle, but there is a difference between putting a book out there and moving on, and putting a book out there with a little support, then moving on. All of these writers do the latter at the very least.

Okay, so that’s a list of the wrong attitudes to have. What are the right ones?

I won’t pretend to be an expert here, but let me put forward three that have worked for me:

1) Market YOURSELF

A deceptively short sentence that encompasses a huge range of strategies you should employ. Don’t be on every type of social media. Find one you like and just stick to that.

Don’t script your posts and try to cultivate a certain “look.” Just be you, because that’s far less exhausting. Put yourself into situations where you’re likely to find readers. You only have so many hours in a day to socialize, so go do it in a Goodreads group of people who read what you write.

Not that you’ll go there to blab about your book, but if you’re going to strike up conversations with people, focus on people who might be readers, and then just socialize normally.

Forget about your books and your upcoming launch. Joke. Respond. Post your reviews of other people’s books. Put in your profile that you’re a writer and that’s how you get that “people coming to you without you selling yourself” phenomenon to start.

Think about it!

If you’re at a party and meet a very interesting person who was great to talk to, then find out they are a writer, you might very well pick up one of their books. If someone at that same party talked about their books all the time, forget about it. You’ll likely avoid those books even if other people recommend them to you.

2) Be accessible

It floors me how many people trawl Twitter for new followers but don’t check the “Other” box in their Facebook messages. You know who might be in that box, among the usual spammers? Fans.

People who have no social connection to you at all who love your books. Always respond. Always check your email, your Goodreads inbox, your Wattpad comments, your guest blogpost comments on other people’s blogs, etc. Don’t miss the low hanging fruit while in search of some grand marketing scheme that will make you famous.

You know who I found in my email inbox one day? Caisey Quinn. She now outsells me on Amazon by a lot (I helped her launch her first indie book after we got talking via email). Go on Caisey’s site or her Twitter and you’ll see she endorses me, personally, to her hordes of loyal readers.

Connections like that are worth a million pointless tweets about your $.99 sale and the reason Caisey’s helping market me isn’t because I targeted her with some strategy. It’s because she was already my fan when she contacted me (and I didn’t blow it by being a jerk to her – I don’t need to write a section on that, do I?)

Caisey’s just one example. Most of my indie writing network was formed online, and it isn’t the result of some devious scheme to make the perfect indie writing network. It’s the result of answering my email, Tweets, Facebook messages, and so on.

People who already like me act like they like me in public. It’s genius. Needless to say, it’s also important to do the same in return for the authors we love.

3) Focus on gratitude

Too many people focus on their goals or aspirations when they market. They think, “I want to sell ten thousand copies,” or, “I want to be on this bestseller list.”Market with that attitude and you’ll sound needy or arrogant or both, I guarantee it. You’ll seem like a carnival barker begging for sales.

I suggest you count your blessings instead. It’s much more appealing to hear someone thank their fans for their support rather than brag about how many books they sold. “Can you believe my readers got me on the New York Times Bestseller list? Aren’t they awesome?” conveys that sales information in one of the least obnoxious ways possible.

And when your career isn’t going gangbusters, cultivate enthusiasm for others. Don’t be the whiner who doesn’t like how so-and-so outsold them. Take other people’s success as a sign that it really is possible.

You may celebrate a lot of other people’s bestsellers before you celebrate your own, but if you don’t learn how to do this, odds are high you’ll never celebrate a bestseller, ever. Don’t feel that you failed if you aren’t the guest of honor at the party.

Be the kind of person everyone wants to invite to their celebration bash. Because nothing dispels an aura of neediness like generosity and kindness. Shrug and smile when people ask what your sales are and move on to talk about your friends whom you’re excited for. That will sell your books much more effectively than acting bitter, I guarantee it!

As I said, I don’t have all the answers, but those are six tips that have helped me. Please feel free to share yours in the comments. I’d love to hear them!

Emily Mah Tippetts writes romance as E.M. Tippetts and science fiction and fantasy as Emily Mah. She is a former attorney with degrees in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University and business law from UCLA. For more information or to sign up for updates on future book releases, visit her website at EMTippetts.com. You can connect with Emily on Twitter.

Comments

  1. says

    I’ll confess to being one of those freakishly prolific writers. Not a very fast one, as I only get out about 700 words an hour, if having a great day, but I do write for about 12 hours per day when I’m in a novel, so the hours add up pretty quickly.

    I counsel my fellow authors to write 75% of the time, and market 25%. To allocate time to do so, and be regimented about it. That means turning off the internet while writing, and shutting down the WIP when it’s time to market. That ratio works for me. It also establishes a sense of sanity to an otherwise chaotic market.

    When I say market, I’m talking about everything non-WIP related. Emails. Interviews. Covers, twitter, Facebook, blogging, chat rooms, etc. I do practically no “marketing” in the sense the word’s used by many, which is crassly hawking one’s wares in the hopes that overt anonymous sales pitches issued into the void will result in sales. It does not, as far as I can tell. Interacting with fans does. Being interesting does. Having opinions does. Writing well, or trying to, does. Taking stands on difficult or controversial issues does. In other words, I agree with you – the best way to get people interested in reading your books is to be interesting. Not a marketing or self-promotion engine. But reasoned in your allocation of time, and savvy about what works, and what doesn’t. I stopped tweeting review highlights about my books on Twitter about a year ago to see if any of that did any good, and only really post announcements when I put out a new blog. Since then, sales have tripled. Guess what? I was wasting my time.

    I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Everyone’s path is different. But when I try new books by authors I haven’t heard of, it’s because I found them interesting in some way, not because I was hawked their book in a tweet or on FB.

    For whatever that’s worth.
    Russell Blake recently posted..Giving

  2. says

    Hi Emily,

    Well I’m not a writer and have never published anything but I am a blogger and a business developer so trust me, we all have to pretty much do the same to put ourselves out there in front of enough people.

    Sure, it can’t all be about us but we have to be interesting enough that people are curious to learn more. That’s our jobs then to keep them interested and coming back so that’s where the good marketing comes into play.

    I’ve heard a lot about self publishing and man that just sounds like so much work but in all honesty, I think I’d want more control over my own work. I can say that because I’m not doing it and it’s a heck of a lot of work and money up front but still, we care more about the outcome right!

    Thanks for sharing this and great stuff.

    ~Adrienne
    Adrienne recently posted..DoFollow Or NoFollow: That Is the Question

  3. says

    I am a business woman so writing and publishing something is not on the horizons for me. I just started blogging in April to boost my main website. The blogging has been letting people see who is behind the business.

    Having control and doing self publishing I think it is a great idea. When you release that control you have to rely on others and that gets expensive

    • says

      Hi Arleen,

      I think everyone of us can be found in Emily’s post, despite what we do. Whether it’s blogging, writing, business development…

      Maybe this will sound a little weird but focusing on gratitude turned to be very powerful strategy, as far as I’m concerned. I helped my readers with their site’s problem and I wasn’t expecting anything in return. Someone would say I was a fool BUT it turned those readers recommended me to their friends with similar problems. All of the sudden I was asked to give my (paid!) services to the people I actually didn’t know. How great is that!

      If you offer your services or products you can’t avoid marketing. After all you have to sell that product and see what’s working and what’s not.

      Thank you Arleen for sharing this with us and I appreciate your comment today. Have a great weekend.

      ~Dragan

  4. says

    Hi Emily and Dragan,

    I think the title of this piece really sums it all up by stressing the importance of “attitude” because, as human beings, that’s what we relate to – how people treat us, and how they make us feel. I haven’t published a book yet, but hope to in future, and can see the value of the advice you’ve encapsulated in these tips.

    I was recently tweeted by an author, who’d only just connected with me on Twitter, and it was basically just a brazen personal request for me to buy his book, with a link to the sales page on Amazon. I found this rather aggressive, in-your-face marketing very objectionable and a bit intimidating and I think this is a good example of the way in which the wrong sort of attitude can be counter-productive – I sent him a non-committal response, but he’d irritated me so much it was highly unlikely I was ever going to buy his book.

    I love the points you make about being yourself, being accessible and being grateful, because this is exactly the kind of approach that’s going to endear you to your readers. It’s all about remembering that your potential customers are human beings, not just walking credit cards.

    Many thanks for a great article.
    Susan Neal recently posted..A Simple but Powerful Writing Tip From Ricky Gervais

    • says

      Hi Susan,

      You’re good example how wrong attitude can be counter-productive. This happened to all of us and I also find it very repulsive.

      Couldn’t agree more with you how right approach is treating our customers as human beings first place, rather than credit cards. I really like this ;).

      Thanks Susan for sharing this with us and try to enjoy what’s left of this weekend.

      ~Dragan

  5. says

    Hi Emily and Dragan,

    It IS all about attitude – just as you mentioned. :)

    Although I haven’t written any book as yet, though I intend to one day, but being a writer whose main job is to write all day long, whether for clients or my own blog, most of what you mentioned is so true.

    Just like many of us might have undergone, some writers just connect to sell their stuff or would prefer in self-promotion and reach out so that you would review their book on the blog etc…such things happen all the time and it does get tough to connect with such people.

    If you know someone personally or have interacted with them in the social media or emails, it’s a very different story. But if you haven’t, it kind of sounds rude and out of the way to approach anyone and everyone asking them to promote you. I get a few clients who want me to write their reviews and they ask for such self-promos, which I just cannot do as I find it kind of forcing the other person to buy your stuff. Yes, if your work is good, you will get people buying your book without any kind of marketing required.

    However, perhaps for the most of us, we do need to market in our own ways, though as you mentioned – be on those social media platforms that you can handle – one at a time. You possibly cannot be all over, yet at times it’s essential to make your reach wider, so one shouldn’t miss out any place, but do it in a proper way.

    Oh yes…you need to be accessible so that people can approach you, and always be grateful for all those who help you in your journey…a small thank you or a message etc., costs you nothing, again something most people forget to do.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend, both of you :)
    Harleena Singh recently posted..5 Golden Tips On How To Deal With Anger

    • says

      Hi Harleena,

      I can speak for myself as a blogger in the first place. Sometimes we can try all kind of things just to make that results in sales but if someone isn’t relating to us – it’s a waste of time.

      I’m still under Blake’s comment here who said when he stopped tweeting about his book about a year ago, his sales have tripled! Ok I know, everyone’s path is different.

      I think interacting with our readers/customers/fans where they can “feel” our human side and relate their problems to our posts/products/services is a cornerstone of a successful business.

      Thank you Harleena for your comment, I appreciate it.

  6. says

    Hi Emily and Dragan,

    Gratitude is the KEY. What you said below reminds me of something then…

    “I suggest you count your blessings instead. It’s much more appealing to hear someone thank their fans for their support rather than brag about how many books they sold.”

    In analogy to what you just said now, I remembered a Christian friend said to me once, “Just concentrate on Thanksgiving. Praise God and give Him gratitude. He will be pleased and will grant your wishes. He already knows what you need. Just keep thanking Him.” Wow…I didn’t know that it also work in a secular world.

    You know I’m really not a writer but I always love writing. I started writing poetry when I was 14 and then I started blogging on Livejournal between the year 2000-2008. And now I am blogging my business online, which only started January 2013. Blogging, I’d say, wasn’t one of my plans but as I took the course on social media marketing, it dawn on me that I could actually advertise my business and build trust through blogging & the use of social media.

    Twenty one years ago, if you publish a book on print, it might take as long as 6-months before it gets printed. And now with the advance technology of Kindle via Amazon, you can publish an ebook in 24-hours and start making money. So to me, this is much more fascinating in comparison to yesterday’s technology. Writers & Publishers have a better chance to produce their books with much cheaper overhead expenses.

    When Russell Blake said on his comment, after he stopped tweeting about his book it tripled his sales…reminds me of what Michael Alvear said on his book “Make a KILLING on Kindle.” Alvear blogged for a long time…um, about 3 years and he said that blogging is a waste of time as far as selling his kindle book. He gets like 10,000 unique traffic on his site with only 1 book sale a day. He said that since he stopped blogging and concentrate more on being a Kindle writer, his sales tripled. And he said that your “keyword” on Amazon is very important…Amazon is considered the 3rd largest search engine in the world. I know Google is number one. Dunno the second one. So yeah…guest it makes a difference.

    Anyway…

    Been thinking of publishing my first “How-To” eBook someday and all of these 6 tips certainly enlightened my mind.
    Thank you so much for sharing. And thank you Dragan for visiting my blog. I wouldn’t be here tonight if it wasn’t for that. I look forward to reading more of you. Have a great week!!

    Angela
    Angela McCall recently posted..How To Write Effectively

    • says

      Hi Angela,

      Wow thank you for such a nice and honest comment. Blogging really gets you the chance to meet wonderful people.

      I’m glad you find these 6 tips useful for publishing you future ebook.

      And you have a fantastic week as well. I’ll be sure to do the same.

  7. says

    Hi Emily and Dragan

    A great article. I have never written a book (well not yet) but know a bit about the topic. I was the CEO of the company that promoted Robert Kiyosaki and other writers here in Australia.

    In fact Rich Dad Poor Dad first became a best seller here in Australia.
    No book becomes a best seller without promotion. We had a team of people to do this and a great PR lady. So to me a team is critical.

    As a writer you cannot do it all your self.
    You do have to be willing to do interview and be available to make it happen.

    Yes attitude is so important. It was when Robert got onto Oprah he became a best seller in much of the world and famous. He said from day one in writing the book he would be on her show and persisted.

    Thanks for a great message.

    Sue
    Sue Price recently posted..Advantages of playing Cashflow101 – by Robert Kiyosaki

  8. says

    Fantastic article, Emily! As always, picture me smiling and nodding at your infinite wisdom. I often get asked about what I did, or how I did it, and I always answer, “I did what Emily told me to.”

    I consider myself fortunate that you are always so willing to share your knowledge and experience and blessed to call you a friend. Thanks for not being a jerk to me when I was just an obnoxious fangirl…wait, still am. ;)

    • says

      Hi Sebastian,

      I’m glad you discovered this blog and hope to see you again. O btw, I like your quotes although I would like to see your About page. ;)

      Hope you have a good weekend.

      ~ Dragan

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