As I prepare to launch my next novel and first historic fiction in my Man vs. Nature series, I arrive at a faceplant moment: My marketing sucks. To that end, I picked up James Scott Bell’s book, Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing: The No-Stress Way to Sell Books Without Losing Your Mind (Compendium Press 2017). James Scott Bell is a winner of the International Thriller Writers Award (for his novel Romeo’s Way) and the author of many bestselling thrillers. He is a popular writing instructor and conference speaker and served as the fiction columnist for Writer’s Digest magazine. He has authored a selection of how-to-write books including How to Write Pulp Fiction, How to Write Dazzling Dialogue, and How to Write Short Stories.
Happily, the book was excellent. In the spirit of ‘show don’t tell’, I’m going to share his top twenty-five suggestions on how the noble and worthy theory of marketing meets the reality of your life:
- The Single Most Important Marketing Tool is writing a great book. This is where the majority of your time should be spent.
- The more you write, with quality, the more you grow a “long tail” that has renewed life with each new book.
- There are some writers who want to write whatever they want to write, and that’s fine. Other writers try to figure out what sells best, what’s hot, and then write that kind of thing. That’s okay, too. We live in a free enterprise system.
- Kerouac wrote a whole lot of books … which we would call experimental in style. Which meant they did not sell.
- [popular writers] like a King, Grisham, or Patterson … earned the right to try, on occasion, something “off brand.” King might write about a girl lost in the woods. Grisham about a painted house. Patterson about whatever the heck he wants—I have a feeling his parking tickets would sell a million copies.
- To have an optimal plot, death must be on the line. There are three types of death—physical, professional, and psychological.
- If you are writing in a genre, make sure your covers look like books of that genre.
- And if you’re writing a series, brand that series.
- Good copy (for summaries and blurbs) is clear, easy-to-read, persuasive. It uses short sentences and eschews words like eschews. A good rule of thumb is that you want your copy to be understandable to a seventh grader.
- There is a simple formula for writing a fiction blurb that works every time:
- Sentence #1 is a character name, vocation, and opening situation.
- Sentence #2 begins with ‘But when’ and lays out the turning point in the story, the entry into the central conflict.
- Sentence #3 begins with ‘Now’ and lays out what I call the “death stakes.”
- The memorable tagline can be an additional selling point. A tagline is a short, pithy encapsulation of the “feel” of the story. It’s the sort of thing you find on movie posters. One of the most famous taglines was for the 1979 movie Alien: In space, no one can hear you scream.
- The tagline is used at the top of your cover copy.
- One way to make sure you have that sizzle is by referring to this list of terms: How to, Secret, Key, Critical, Big, Strategy, Formula, Mistake
- Author Bio Simple rule: Keep it consistent with your genre. If you’re a thriller writer, no need to go on and on about your flower garden.
- Allow your reader to sign up for your email list and follow-up with contact: Thanks for reading (Title). Please take a moment to sign up for my occasional email updates. You’ll be the first to know about my book releases and special deals. My emails are short and I won’t stuff your mailbox, and you can certainly unsubscribe at any time. Go HERE to sign up. And thanks again!
- Your Website and Amazon Author Page need to be easy-to-navigate, largely uncluttered places for people to quickly find out what you have to offer. You want people looking at your book covers (first impression, remember?) and some sales copy, and then:
- links to the various places where the book can be bought
- an author photo (Hint: don’t let your son take the picture)
- a short bio. More than five hundred words and you’re starting to bore people.
- a page for your books, or individual pages for each book/series. You’ll have covers here, cover copy, and nice review blurbs (if any).
- an email signup form.
- a contact page.
- Feature your latest release on your homepage.
- Readers are not interested in how fancy your website is. They want it to be clear and easy to get around in.
- You need to measure how you spend your time and effort. You especially need to ask if the energy you are expending on marketing and social media is having a negative effect on your creativity and writing output.
- If you do speak (to live audiences), begin each talk by taking out a yellow legal pad (or something like it) and announcing that if anyone would be interested in getting updates on your book deals, please write down legibly an email address. These people are consenting to be put on your email list.
- It’s also true that advertising rarely makes you a profit.
- Some of the better-known deal-alert newsletters: BookBub, BookGorilla, Kindle Nation Daily, The Fussy Librarian, and eBookSoda.
- Today, publishers want authors who are heard and seen. The author needs to be prepared to make a big marketing fuss when her title is released. That’s now an inherent part of a writer’s life.
- Pick one platform to specialize in. One.
- I am usually working on 2–4 fiction projects at a time and something nonfiction. Usually, that means I have one fiction project on my front burner, another on my back burner, and one that I am editing.
And finally, Bell included a hilarious breakdown of what the more prominent social media outlets would be like from the perspective of a wine connoisseur ( Digital Book World, March 7, 2016): Facebook:
Facebook: I like wine
Twitter: I am drinking #wine now
YouTube: Here is my video on how to choose wine
Instagram: Here are pictures of me drinking wine
LinkedIn: Hire me. I am a wine expert
Pinterest: My collection of all things wine
Goodreads: The gang’s all here, drinking lots of wine.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the upcoming Born in a Treacherous Time. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.