I’ll readily admit that book marketing is not my expertise, but some commonly accepted maxims really chafe for me. Indeed, my gut tells me I should do the opposite. So here they are, for better or perverse.
Rebellion 1: Social media – use pictures and videos for greater engagement
We all know the equation. A picture is worth a thousand words. Facebook certainly thinks so, and constantly reminds me with helpful messages. ‘Increase reader engagement with pictures! And videos!’
This is because most of my posts – on my page and my personal space – are text.
I love pictures and I’m not shy to use them, but my medium is words, not images.
As a user of Facebook, the people I cleave to most are those who write thoughtfully, beguilingly, provokingly. Though pictures might attract my eye, I take more notice of the accompanying caption or story. I tune out most of the videos because they are not made by the user. I have never made or posted a gif.
This probably makes me an unsporting FB citizen, but for me the joy of the platform is people’s voices, preoccupations, the way they speak their minds or sing their souls and the conversations that follow. Words. Because I want to meet people who like reading.
More successful with whom? (Here’s my page, BTW.)
Rebellion 2: Newsletters – keep readers keen with special offers and deals
I was a late starter with newsletters because I didn’t know what I’d put in them. I don’t produce books fast so I don’t have many new launches to write about. I have a small catalogue and can’t keep up a pace of constant special offers.
This sale-sale-sale mentality suits some writers, but it’s unsustainable for people like me. Besides, I would never subscribe to a newsletter with bargain mentality, so how would I write one?
It’s taken me a while to realise I could do something else. Although the books take shape slowly and there might be little progress from issue to issue, I am a full time wordperson.
I write about other work I’m doing. Adventures that arise from books past, present and future. I wrote about a highway that had been returned to nature – continuing the spirit of my travel memoir Not Quite Lost. I wrote about meeting a friend from my teen years and discovering how we had both turned into professional creators. I write a diary of what’s mattered to me in a month, as a human whose main delight is storytelling (and, yes, taking pictures).
Rebellion 3: Find out what your readers want
This is excellent advice in most types of commercial life. If you make running shoes, coffee, pens. It’s good for writers of how-to books – and yes, I have a list of Nail Your Novel book requests that I’ve not yet tackled because I don’t have a clone.
Researching reader preferences might be good for certain kinds of fiction writers. To find out which series characters to write about next; or which locations or historical situations might be popular. There are plenty of writers for whom this advice makes good sense.
But not for writers like me. You can’t tell me what you want to read from me. It’s my job to invent a book that only I could think of. Here’s Husband Dave, dreaming up his next one.
So this is the Roz manifesto for book marketing
1 Social media – to find people who enjoy reading … try text-only posts
2 Newsletters – invite readers into your creative life and share its milestones
3 Don’t ask others what you should write; follow your own star
But does it work, Roz?
Good question. I can’t produce evidence that this marvellously maverick approach is helping people discover my work. And without such evidence, articles like this can sound smug and insubstantial. Here are a few observations:
Facebook regularly hints that I should post more pictures, but the stats tell a different story. Posts that are pure text actually get better engagement.
My newsletter is not to everyone’s taste, but whose is? Some of the new subscribers fall away, but my list is slowly growing and some of the recipients reply to me by email or Twitter, continuing the conversation or just saying hello. (PS You can try them here.)
Most of all, I don’t find any of this to be a chore. It feels honest and genuine. As a sustainable policy, that seems like a good one.
Do you have any quiet rebellions, either in the writing/publishing life or elsewhere? Let’s discuss!