The Art of Marketing Fine Writing

Most every fine writer (fiction, essays...etc.) I know has a 'real' job, the one that pays the rent, the bills, puts the kids through college. Even most 'bestselling' authors rarely make enough to support a family. Sorry for the bad news, but it's a fact. If an author writes full time (and lives a middle-class family lifestyle), they are either financially supported by their 'real' job, a partner/spouse, a trust fund or inheritance. Very few [and mostly single] authors are self-supporting through their fine writing alone.

List ten popular authors off the top of your head, and they are probably making enough money to put their kids through college. With the tens of thousands of authors out there, good authors, writing great reads, why is that?


I kept thinking, 'If I can just get a good agent, that's when I'll have made it. Or, 'If I can just get in with Random House or a known publisher, then that's when I'll be able to quit my day job and write for a living.' But I know many authors who have an agent, and are publishing with major houses, yet most of us don't know their names, and even these authors can't afford to quit their day jobs.

So what is an emerging author to do to get noticed?

Market themselves.

When do you get to stop marketing? Never. Sadly. Even if you are James Patterson, you still need to promote your work. James does. Look at the NY Times Book Review section and you'll see ads for his books there. Watch TV? I see commercials for his books consistently. He is on talk shows, and interviews with Charlie Rose and PBS. James Tweets. He's marketing all the time in one form or another. And just like Patterson, as an author you are the CEO of you— a company of one writer. And if you want to sell your work, especially with so many writers out there competing for market share, i.e. readers, you are going to have to market— you.

One of the few remaining reasons to go with publishing pros these days is ego. Getting accepted by an agent and/or publisher is a rush. It feels good! Yea, someone liked your work enough to rep or publish you. The only other reason to go with a publisher is 'reach.' A major publisher can increase your reach—extend your marketing beyond Facebook or your friends and family.

Truth is, most agents take emerging writer's profits without offering much benefit. They may get your book placed with a known publisher, but most publishers (large or indie-pubs) do very little to promote or market new author's work. They don't want the risk. If they market their authors at all (most indie-pubs don't), they put their advertising dollars behind authors that have proven they can make the publisher money. Lots of money.

New authors can extend their own reach these days, too:
● Social network your work through groups and sites relevant to your genre.
● Soliciting reviews from popular authors, book bloggers, online magazines and newspapers are great ways to get noticed outside your circle.
● Use special features and giveaways on Amazon and Goodreads.
● Put your work on LibraryThing, Wattpad and any related writing site.
● Review other authors work, and discuss in groups and forums often.
● Do guest blogs and interviews on popular book blogging sites.
Talk about your book. The number one job of any CEO is to sell their company. As an author, you are your company. So talk about writing, the process, your genre, your novels whenever you can.

So when do you get to actually write? About half the time. The other half you're marketing if you want to be a selling author.

Sucks, right?

Yeah. OK. I hate it, too. All I want to do is write. I LOVE WRITING! It's fully engaging, exciting, totally captivating making up stories so real the characters take over and play the scenes. But about the only way an emerging author is going to get to write most all the time is when you are selling so much that Random House comes to you with an offer, because at that point there is no risk to them to put advertising dollars behind you.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, though I've not heard of any. No unknown, new author I know of has ever gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars put into ad campaigns for their first novel out of the gate. Only after the book has sold a lot (which the author generally made happen with their own marketing) does the publishing house pay attention and open their wallets. If you are one of those 'exceptions to every rule' authors, I'm sure readers of this blog would love your comments and insight how this happened for you. And no fair if your uncle or brother is an executive at Viking or Penguin.

I publish this blog to market myself, J. Cafesin, as a writer. I choose this particular subject today, not only to help emerging, and even known authors (who want to stay known), but to remind myself what it really takes to fulfill my dream of quitting my 'real' job to become, and to stay a full time fiction author.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The ideal would be to love writing and marketing :)