In the immediate world of the internet, it seems that many writers are getting disheartened when their works fail to go instantly viral. Sure, when a book with as few redeeming features as 50 Shades explodes the way it has, it’s a little galling but is ‘overnight success’ the be all and end all? Be honest with yourself, would you want that pressure? Well actually, if I was EL I’d never bother to write commercialy again but you get my drift, I’m sure.
For those of us who are normal and who have to balance their book marketing time with actual writing time and Real Life there’s no shame in building an audience slowly. Surely, if you get to the point where you’re selling truckloads of books, it doesn’t matter whether it’s taken you two days or ten years. After all, the end result is the same. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
Relentless marketing is all very well – if you have the time and the inclination – but then, while a bit of dynamism is commendable, pushiness and aggression will just turn off your audience. Surely you want readers, right? People who will buy all your books and stick with you through thick and thin. That takes time.
So. I have accepted that success will not come to me overnight and I thought I’d share my er… strategy with you.
It’s difficult to say how it’s panning out because I’m a stay at home Mum and it takes me 18 months (at least) to write each book. However there are 6 things I’ve noticed.
1. Being unashamed to mention your books – where relevant – works well but being aggressive and over saturating your audience with the same or similar plugs does not. Sure, you need to be organised, methodical and forward but most important of all you need to be charming. If your policy is the on-line equivilent of shouting your message in somebody’s face, the chances are they’ll endure the noise and ignore you. If they like you already and you mention your book in passing they might read it. Pushiness and aggression to people you don’t know just alienates them.
2. Soft on-line selling works. For me, participating in threads where I get to give feedback to other authors, or just passing the time of day with readers and authors, alike, makes sales. I enjoy it and there’s no awkward ‘buy my book’ type schpeil involved; win-win.
3. Be sure to remember the Real World. Never leave home without a copy of your book. You never know who you’ll run into. If people ask me, ‘what do you do?’ I tend to produce my book with a flourish and say, ‘I write these.’ Believe it or not, I sell more books doing that than anything else.
4. Social networking is not the golden bullet. If you do it, use it to actually interact. Use your imagination; share ideas, news, articles, your blog posts (and other people’s) or just chat. Posting marketing links; yours or other people’s – is fine every now and again, but your input will become little more than white noise if they are all you post.
5. Aim – or at least, hope – for fans rather than readers. Yeh, you want them to buy one of your books but what you really want is for them to buy all your books and everything you write the minute it comes out. A nice big sales spike at the start is what kicks off a bestseller. Somehow, you need to forge relationships with your readers. I don’t pretend to know how to do this, I just do the best I can. This means being courteous and charming when they contact you, even if it’s a bad time or they’re saying something you’d rather not hear.
Last week I tweeted that I’d finished a book and gave it 5 stars. The author is famous, his book was voted best travel book (or something like that) on Radio 4. It’s a best seller, he has 24,000 followers on Twitter. And he thanked me. And we had a chat. And I will definitely be buying his next book, and recommending the current one. That’s what I mean.
6. Write the best books you can. A quality product always sells in the end. Churning out hundreds of mediocre novels and selling them to people is not my goal. Writing a story that sells because it moves people, makes them laugh and makes them think is.
7. Hang in there. What really works is when your readers enjoy your books enough to sell them for you. Achieving book sales by word of mouth is the most effective but slowest moving form of marketing… It would be nice if my books went viral but in all likelihood, until I’ve finished the trilogy (I’m working on book 3 now) – or ever – the chances are they won’t.
In conclusion, a successful hard sell doesn’t always make for a fan base. A charm offensive is less aggressive but may well be more effective long term. And it’s worth remembering that ‘overnight success’ is usually founded on many years of hard work.