Two against the tide

I give you Grace and Fred, both self-published authors here in the YUK. Grace has organised a print run and now has several boxes of books to sell. Fred has taken the POD route, so though he has no boxes he is facing the same task.

If their books had been published by traditional publishers they could easily be ordered in bookshops. The truth is they would have to be ordered, since bookshops are unlikely to be stock them. Grace and Fred can’t even cut a deal with Waterstones, a national bookstore chain, because if a book is self-published it’s up to the manager of each store whether or not he or she decides to take it.

Which means our authors have to sell their books themselves since bookshops won’t do it for them.

But Grace and Fred aren’t too sad. They know that many traditionally published authors find they have to do this too. In fact, they have read somewhere that some publishers now check prospective authors to determine whether or not they have an effective electronic presence. Why? If authors market their own books publishers won’t have to. Saves them time, money and effort.

So if Grace and Fred are going to market their books themselves they may as well aim for the largest possible audience. (We’re talking world-wide sales here: Patagonia, Vanuatu, Greenland, Ecuador.) Which means using those pesky social media because their reach is world-wide too. And if they’re going to use social media they might as well go for it. Why use one platform when ten will do?

Grace and Fred review their positions. They have blogs and websites already, but they’ll have to think bigger than that. And behold, lo, what beckons from the wings? Goodreads, Shelfari, Twitter, Google+ and fifteen other social networks. And most demanding of all, they’ll have to set up a Facebook author page and learn to distinguish between their profile pages and their book pages, and when a LIKE looks like a LIKE but isn’t a LIKE really. (Thanks for that one, Mark!) Confused? If they aren’t now they soon will be.

Yet much though Grace and Fred still have all their own teeth, they are no longer in the first flush of youth. They find all of this daunting, time-consuming and terminally tedious as well. At which point they flirt with temptation: one or more of the several businesses aiming to take the social media business off their hands for a modest fee. They read the ads. They are impressed. No doubt these people at Marketblitz will do exactly what they say they’ll do. They’ll fire off 10,000 press-release emails on their authors’ behalf.

But how many of these will be read, and of that number, how many acted upon? What Grace and Fred want to know is not what these companies say they will do but what are the outcomes they have achieved for their authors after they have done it.

Outcomes, there’s a word! And these should be easily measured in sales. Looking through the company websites, though, Grace and Fred are puzzled to find this information lacking. How can this be?

Not to worry. The testimonials are encouraging. Sydney  Owen Jones is very happy with the publicity given to Breath of Fire, the first of his Dragon’s Lair trilogy, and Julia at Marketblitz couldn’t have been more helpful. And if they go ahead they’ll have their Marketblitz bookmarks just in time for Christmas!

So, dear reader, what should Grace and Fred do? They really want to know.

7 thoughts on “Two against the tide

  1. I’ve never used any of these marketing sites. They’re expensive, and as you point out, I’m not sure of their effectiveness. But yes, marketing can be time-consuming, and if we’re not careful, it will eat into our writing time.

  2. You’re right. And if you’re not so competent at it, as I am not, then it takes away too much time altogether. (I have your book, which is on my ‘to read’ list.)

  3. In what’s left of my mind, this post was the first of two. The second (not yet written except in my head) is a dialogue between Grace and Fred in a coffee shop. But this might be tricky, given who was the model for Grace.

    I followed the link you provided. I agree with all of it, though I have lived out these many years blissfully unaware of any relevant conventions or conferences.

    As for fame, it would contradict my natural state of being.

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