Today’s blog is from Cody Wagner, a friend and fellow author. You can read more of his blogging at Wagner-Writer.com or check out his highly-rated debuted novel A Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren at Goodreads or Amazon!
Why Marketing Yourself Sucks
Now that my first novel is out, I’ve been trying to up my marketing efforts. A few years ago, before all this began, I had cat-eye rose-colored glasses on when it came to marketing. I figured, “You just do A, B, and C, and BAM! Best seller, baby!!!”
Oh how naive I was.
Marketing is far, far, far more difficult than I expected. And, over the past couple years, I’ve put together a list of why it sucks. And that list is only two items. But they’re doozies I’m sure we can all identify with, so buckle up!
1. Marketing takes a buttload of time
Back when I was first entering into my “author life,” I thought the writing to marketing ratio would be like 85/15, meaning I’d spend 85% of my time writing and the other 15% marketing. Spending roughly a half hour or so a day didn’t sound too bad at all.
Marketing requires a LOT more time than I expected. I’m still not doing enough of it, but I’d honestly say the ratio is more like 50/50. That sounds insane! But marketing efforts should consist of blog posts, guest blog posts, social media efforts, events, writers’ groups, broadening sales channels, and on and on and on. I now fully understand how some people work full time as book marketers because, man, does it require a billion hours.
2. There’s no perfect marketing formula
This item is the absolute worst. For reals.
Back in the day, I thought “Hey, I’ll establish my platform by Tweeting 5 times a day, posting 1 blog post a week, blah blah blah.” I seriously believed that in 1.384 years, I’d have a reader-base. The problem is, there’s no proven method or timelime to marketing. There are so many factors – your genre, current trends, and even things like time of day or the current month – that you never know what may or may not work. Or how long effective tactics may take to kick in.
Translation: You’re going to spend TONS of time experimenting with marketing strategies that won’t payoff. That sucks. Hard. It’s taking precious time and flushing it down the toilet. And I’m talking about a port-a-potty during Lollapalooza. The thing is, though, you have to do it. You won’t know what works until you find what doesn’t. So you essentially have to plan in “wasted time.” This is one of the biggest turn-offs to being an indie author. And I’m betting it’s why a lot of writers quit. It’s not that they don’t love writing; it’s the fact that reaching readers can be so crappily difficult. Let me tell you, nothing demoralizes you quite like spending several hundred dollars and a couple weeks on a marketing tactic that falls flat on its face. Not only is it a waste of resources, it can also make you question yourself as a writer. I’ve asked myself “Is my book just not good enough?” a hundred times.
So what’s my advice?
Well, wouldn’t it be nice if I could just say, “Ignore what you’ve read and do X, Y, and Z!” Unfortunately, my advice is going to be really vague: You have to keep at it. And you have to be OK with experimenting, knowing that your experiments may fail.
For example, I’m trying to market myself as a personality versus focusing on my books. My hope is that people will like me enough to be curious about my writing. Is that the best idea? Who knows! But I love creating quirky videos and writing wacky blog posts that have nothing to do with my novels. And if I’m going to spend time, it might as well be on something I enjoy.
OK I do have a more solid piece of advice. You need to form a circle of writer friends. And then share, share, share with these friends. I’ve actually met up with the fine founder of this blog a couple times just to talk about marketing. While certain tactics may work for one author that don’t work for another, there are usually central threads or suggestions that can help everyone. And different writers bring different perspectives. While I try to post on Facebook pretty regularly, I hadn’t even thought about trying paid Facebook ads until someone suggested it. It may not work, but at least it’s an unexplored avenue.
Now it’s my turn to take my own advice: That unexplored avenue may be an alley full of muggers that steal my money with no payoff. But I have to take that risk.