News, commentary, and fiction by Barb Hendee, co-author of the Noble Dead saga (; author of the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and more.

Myth Busters: Marketing

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Myth Busters:  Anyone Can Market a Self-published E-Novel with Wild Success

 There are actually two myths I want to cover in this post, but the first one is short.  Here is one of the most common questions that hopeful new writers ask of the loudly vocal gurus touting the miracle of self-publishing: 

“If I am a totally unknown writer, how do I market my self-published e-novel?”

The answer these poor folks receive from the vocal gurus always makes me bang my head slowly on the desk. Here is the very helpful answer that is always given:

“Marketing?  You don’t need to worry about marketing.  Just write the best, most fabulous novel you can and put it out there. It will find an audience.”

Ugh. Horse poop.  Piles and piles of horse poop.

This answer is so absurd that it barely warrants a response.  If you are a completely unknown writer, no matter how fabulous your novel might be, how is anyone going to know it exists?  Any writer with two brain cells that can actually fire at the same time should be able to reason that much.

Moving on to the topic of marketing . . . There are a number of online sources that claim anyone can market a self-published e-novel with great success.  JC and I are in a “better than most” position as we have a pretty well established readership built up over the last decade plus. Our official website had 10,500 hits in the past thirty days and has been climbing steadily over the last 5 years.

JC markets the pants off of our “Tales from the World of the Noble Dead” over there, and he has built us an automated social networking system; everything we post on that site goes out to some twelve different social system satellite pages/sites that he has set up. This of course includes Facebook (#TheNobleDeadSaga) and Twitter (#NobleDeadOrg), as well as Google+, Squidoo, Pinterest, Delicious, and more. And all of those satellites are linked on our site along with automated share systems for visitors to help us out.

However . . . our entire marketing base consists of built-in Noble Dead fans. This has created both a driving force and some limitations on what we write for our indie titles.  We would LOVE to find a way to break out of marketing to only our built in-fans (even though we are extremely thankful to them).  So, lately, we’ve been doing a lot of research in this regard, but I’ve seen the same advice everywhere . . . and much of it offers a total avoidance of reality.

From this point on, I’m going to switch gears and approach this from the viewpoint of a brand new novelist with no fan base at all.  Here is the advice given over and over and over in every book and every online site I’ve read:

Anyone Can Market a Self-Published E-book with Wild Success!  Here’s How . . .

1) Create your own blog and begin building an email list from that blog.

2) Write "guest posts" on other people’s related blogs to tap into their existing audiences.  This will allow you to rapidly build a fan base.

3) Use the email list you’re constructing to begin marketing your book before it is even published.

4) Use social media like Facebook and Twitter to let everyone know about your self-published, e-book.

By following these steps, your book will have a built-in audience before it is even released!

Okay . . . this is Barb chatting again.  Can anyone point out a few problems with this glistening advice? 

Regarding #1:  First, if you are a complete unknown, how do you get people to visit your blog and express interest in signing up for your email list? 

Regarding #2: If you are a complete unknown (novelist), how do you convince others to let you write a guest post on their blog?

Now . . . I can see this working if you have knowledge or a skill that is a strong running thread in your novel.  For example, if you’re well versed in martial arts, and your novel contains a good deal of martial arts, you might know some folks running blogs on various martial art practices who would allow you to come in and talk about the novel (fiction) that you’ve written.  I don’t know if this will get you any sales, but you can see what I mean.  If you’ve included any skill (or knowledge) that you possess in your novel, you might be able to tap into #2 above.

But what if you’ve just written a basic dynamite fantasy novel—and you’re otherwise unpublished?  How do you convince people running blogs to let you be a guest?  I’m not sure.  I think it’s certainly possible (if you can come up with an angle), but it’s not as easy as these “how to” people seem to suggest.

#3 can be somewhat perilous, so do be careful.  At first, that list is probably going to consist of your Grandma Bea, your brother, Henry, three of your first cousins, and a few friends from high school.  

Most people don’t like spam.  It takes ten times as much work in the long run (according to J.C.) versus building a functional, automated social connections system off of that same blog. Any blog worth its weight should have an RSS feed that your readers can subscribe to, so they don’t need you loading up their inbox.

#4 though makes a good deal of sense, and it probably should be the first thing you do.  Work smarter, not harder, especially if your work isn’t quite yet making you enough money to pay for all that extra time in which you should be writing your next great novel.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  With this post, I am NOT discouraging anyone from self-publishing.  I’m rapidly becoming a huge fan of self-publishing.  I’m just asserting that marketing may be a tad more complicated and elusive than what you might be told going in . . . and please ignore any hogwash from the gurus telling you that you don’t need to worry about marketing at all.  Again . . . ugh.

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