In today's guest post, novelist Louise Cole shares some advice about overcoming your fear of book marketing and talks about her participation in the Kindle Scout program.
Whether authors are traditionally published or self-published, they are usually beset with an overwhelming fear of marketing. Of stepping out from behind the page and revealing themselves. Many of us are well suited to a job where we spend most of the day alone, thinking ourselves sociable if we talk to more than our family and the cat. We live in our heads, our imaginations, our creative cave. It can be both daunting and jarring to present yourself alongside your book, to say: ‘Yes, that’s mine. Whether you liked it or hated it, it was my creation.”
Unfortunately for writers, the days when a publisher had a large professional marketing team to introduce your books to readers is long gone. More than 99% of the writers published today end up doing the bulk of their own marketing. And that marketing is more personal, more revealing of who we are than ever before. Why? Because it takes place in the social media arena where people do not just want to buy your book, or ask shyly for an autograph. They want to be your friend, to discuss things with you, to have a relationship based on equality.
Writers therefore need to be prepared to see themselves as a brand but a brand whose values are egalitarian, sociable and welcoming. I had to face up to this myself not so long ago. I decided to put one of my novels on Kindle Scout. I did this for two reasons. One, I actually think Amazon is offering a pretty good deal to writers, if their campaign is successful. And two, I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and be forced to have a marketing strategy. Kindle Scout takes a relentless 30-day campaign, and you need to reach readers in ways you have never tried or thought of before.
Now I’m possibly not your typical Scout candidate in that I have an agent. A good one. However, a curious thing can happen to you when you have an agent. When writers are submitting to agents, we research, we work, we draft endless query letters. Then when you finally win representation you revise your book, hand it over and – absolute passivity sets in. Sure, you can write another – you should. But you are no longer selling yourself. You are no longer in control. You can longer tweet about the process, email likely editors, chat up prospects online. That’s your agent’s domain. And while this can be a huge relief, honestly, it made me lazy and allowed me to retreat back into my cave.
Hence I have challenged myself in 2017 to ‘come out’ as a writer. No more hiding behind my agent, no more not telling the neighbors what I do or being embarrassed when people say; “Novels? Oh yes, I’ll write one, one day,” as though my job is so easy I didn’t need to spend the past 10 years developing my craft. I’m a writer and I’m proud.
I have used the Kindle Scout campaign to push myself well out of my comfort zone. I’ve learned new skills, sure, like how to make social media graphics. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to share my dreams with other people and how to ask them for help. Asking people to support you – even when you are not selling them anything – is hard. Perhaps it taps into our sense of vulnerability, or maybe we don’t like the sense of obligation. But it is a key way to develop relationships.
I have gone way beyond social media. I have printed 500 postcards with my book cover on and a personal message: “Hi, I live locally but I work from home, so you'll probably only see me when I emerge with dogs or nip to the Co-op. I write novels. Would you help my latest book get a publishing deal by voting for it on Amazon? It's quick, free - and if it's selected, you'll get a free digital copy. Thank you! Louise.” These will go through the front doors of all the houses in my neighborhood. I have deliberately left myself nowhere to hide.
My day job is as a business journalist and I have finally confessed to professional contacts that I have this mad secret world where I make up stories. In the past I have always felt that somehow my award-winning non-fiction is ‘legitimate’ and ‘professional’ and that, without a six-figure headline deal, my fiction would always come across as flaky or a vanity project. This is irrational but then when we deal with our dreams we are looking at issues emotionally and not rationally. I’m sure some work colleagues will help me, some won’t. What matters is that I am now in a place where I say my fiction is legitimate because it is my passion and my truth, and that other people’s criteria for success do not necessarily apply.
The new world of business and, of course, marketing is personal. It’s not about broadcasting, it’s about connection. Decide your boundaries in advance – for instance, many writers choose not to talk about their families or their personal situations. That doesn’t mean you can’t share what is meaningful to you. Your experiences writing. What’s worked, what hasn’t, what you’ve learned. Share your knowledge and ask for help. Both of these are acts of generosity and people will respond, whatever media you use.
I would challenge all of you to make this the year you put yourself out there. Whether or not my book is successful on Kindle Scout, I have already benefited enormously.
About Louise Cole
Louise is an award-winning UK journalist, a former business magazine editor and director of a media agency. Her fiction includes short stories, young adult thrillers, and other stuff which is still cooking. Her YA and kids’ fiction is represented by Greenhouse Literary Agency and she is also published on Amazon as one of the Marisa Hayworth triumvirate. Her Kindle Scout campaign can be found at https://bit.ly/devilspoetry