Author marketing Book marketing

Breaking Through The Big Taboo

In the previous post, I discussed the importance of simply telling your story in a compelling way as the best and most effective promotion method. There are many channels you can use to tell your story—traditional print media, press releases, blog posts, social media—the options are really limited to your imagination and your available resources.

Technically, it’s not difficult, but there may well be something standing in your way on a comfort level—a societal taboo you just can’t seem to get past. In fact, in my decades of marketing work, I’ve found this taboo to be one of the most ubiquitous and frustrating obstacles I’ve had to help nearly all my clients overcome. And what it is may surprise you.


In our society and many others, the first thing anyone who wants to tell his/her story must become comfortable with is the idea that it is OKAY to “toot your own horn.” Despite what your mother may have told you, the marketplace understands that if you don’t do it, nobody else will (well, except maybe her). Yes, I know, she probably told you not to brag…and she’s right about that. No one likes an arrogant blowhard. But marketing and self-promotion on a professional level are not “bragging,” which is defined as “talking with excessive pride and self-satisfaction.”

Marketing and promotion, when done properly, is not bragging. It’s simply letting people, who might be interested in what you have to offer, know what they’re getting themselves into before they take a risk. As long as you’re truthful and not overly self-serving, marketing is not only acceptable, it’s the only professionally responsible thing to do. And besides that, it’s critical to your success and that of your books.

So, get over the false modesty. You know your books have value, or you wouldn’t have spent the time and energy and money to create them. If you believe more people should have the ability to enjoy or learn from your books, then commit yourself to making that happen by promoting the heck out of yourself and your work. And if it still makes you really uncomfortable, you don’t have to tell Mom what you’re doing if you think she’d disapprove.

What Mom was probably trying to tell you was more along the lines that you shouldn’t get a big head and let your ego get in the way. On that point, she was absolutely correct. If you do end up creating a very effective media campaign that gets you lots of attention, don’t let it turn your head. There’s a reason the phrase “someone who believes their own PR” has negative connotations. But there are lots of ways to do this book marketing thing very tastefully and very well. You just need to choose what you know will appeal most to your target audience.

Promoting yourself as an author or publisher and your books is not ego-driven. It’s sales-driven, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, without sales, unless you’re independently wealthy and can afford to give your work away, you’re out of business. If you’re out of business, then no one gets to read your books. And if that happens, there’s really no reason for you to be writing or selling them. So instead of being cowed by the feeling that you’re bragging, think about it this way:

Your books are like your kids: You gave birth to their concept, and nurtured the idea over significant time until you molded it into something you’d be proud to send out into the world. Now it’s time to be a good parent and do everything you can to prepare it to go out into the world and do some good. The only way you can do that is to tell people about it! Sure, be wary of becoming that obnoxious parent who whips out the kid’s photo at every opportunity or the “hovermom” who just can’t let go and trust that she’s done a good job.

But by all means, be that parent who prepares the way by introducing your book-child to all the right people who will best care for and most appreciate it. Talk up your book, find ways to insert it into a conversation in ways that aren’t obnoxious among people who are already talking about a similar topic, and celebrate it when it does well. What better way to honor all that hard work you did bringing it into being?

Author marketing Book marketing Indie Publisher marketing

Just Tell Your Story

I’m consistently amazed at how many authors and indie publishers are daunted by the challenge of marketing their books and themselves. Oh, I get it: Marketing professionals like to imply that there’s some kind of magic to it, and that makes it intimidating.

Well, of course, they do — this is their stock in trade! Why not take advantage of the widespread impression that there’s some kind of mystical alchemy that makes it all work, and that only the Grand Poobah Wizards can actually pull it off? And just so no one gets offended: I’m allowed to say this — I AM a marketing professional. It’s what I do for a living when I’m not writing or publishing books. And it’s exactly why I became the Indie Navigator. I just got so tired of seeing so many people who cold be enjoying real success with their books if they weren’t so darned afraid of marketing and promotion.

Fact is, ANYONE can do marketing. Can everyone do it equally well? Of course not. There will always be those who show special gifts in this area, as with any other pursuit. And there are some who just seem to knock it out of the park every time. Those are the superstars everyone wants to work with but whom few can afford. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t do what it takes to market yourself and your books effectively. It’s a great deal of relentless work, but it’s not difficult. And the more you do it, the better you’ll get, just like any other skill.

The best news is that authors are inherently well-equipped to be effective marketers. Regardless which modes you use to reach your prospective customers, in marketing or promoting your author career, books or publishing house brand (or anything else), you have one simple objective: Tell a really good story.

Yes, that’s really all marketing is: figuring out what your story is and the best way to tell it, because people identify with compelling stories and have a tendency to imagine themselves as a part of that story. If you can evoke that imagining on the part of your prospective client, you’ve done a great marketing job. If the stuff I see on social media is any indication, the bigwig ad agencies are finally starting to realize this. HA! I’ve been saying this to my clients forever!

Storytelling around a campfire

Story holds a venerable place in every civilization. It’s the oldest form of communication and of entertainment. It’s also how we know ourselves and each other. From the time we are very young, our views and perceptions of the world around us are shaped by the stories we are told.

As we grow, we learn to exert influence over the perceptions of others by telling our own stories. We also learn that how we tell those stories really matters.

Think about it: As a child, didn’t you learn that adding select details to your story of how the mean bully pushed you down on the playground evoked the sympathy you were looking for from everyone you told about it? And how leaving out other select details got you off the hook for having maybe said a few unnecessary things yourself that may have provoked the pushing? Believe it or not, you were marketing. You were selling an idea, and you were deeply invested in influencing the way the story was perceived.

Now, most marketing isn’t as blatantly manipulative (though some truly is), but that is the basis on which it works. Marketing simply codifies the way we approach such storytelling, based on what has worked in the past in a given set of circumstances.

But one thing never changes: The person who tells the best story in the most engaging way will always be the most successful at motivating people to do what they want them to do. In this case, it’s getting them to trust your brand, be interested in your authors, and purchase your books.

TAKEAWAY: So if you don’t remember anything else about successful marketing, remember this: Whoever tells the best story wins.

ACTION ITEM: So right now, figure out what your story is, and the best way to tell it to elicit the type of response you’d like from your audience. Then start building your marketing campaign around that messaging. Here’s a great short article on how to get started.

NEXT TIME: Getting Over The Big Taboo


Author marketing Tools for Success

Book Promo Tips From An Industry Treasure – Sandra Beckwith

This post is an update of one I posted on my author site blog, First Draft, last year. I’m revisiting it here because some of the information has changed since then, but also because I want to introduce my new followers to someone I greatly admire and respect for her savvy and experience in public relations and how she shares so much of it so generously with us in the book publishing industry.

PR Expert Sandra BeckwithI’ve been following her so long, I don’t even remember how I first learned about Sandra Beckwith of Build Book Buzz, a fantastic website where this former national award-winning publicist now teaches authors how to be their own book publicists. It was probably in someone else’s newsletter or blog, or maybe I even met her through ASJA, a professional writers’ organization we both belong to. It really doesn’t matter, because there hasn’t been a point along the way that I haven’t just really thought the world of this public relations expert and genuinely nice human being. Since I view part of my responsibility as The Indie Navigator to share valuable resources with my friends, followers and clients, I would be completely remiss if one of the first of those weren’t Sandy. She is kind, generous and genuinely an expert in her topic. It doesn’t hurt that she’s also got a great sense of humor!

But what really makes Sandy special is that she understands that authors are people who fall all along the continuum from longtime-published with a good grasp of the power and value of public relations and how to use it, to still-struggling-to-get-published writers who nevertheless understand that they need to get up to speed on this important promotional tool. And she caters to us all with patience and understanding, talking us all up, and talking down to none. If you’ve been in this business a while, you know that particular blend of attributes is kind of hard to come by.

What’s fantastic is that you can avail yourself of Sandy’s expertise through a free subscription to her Build Book Buzz newsletter, which will be emailed directly to your inbox, and she even gives you some freebies just for signing up. I’ve been getting her newsletter for years now, and one thing I can tell you is she never sends junk. Even when she sends the occasional post promoting an upcoming event or new product, I’m always glad to get it, because I know it’s an opportunity for me to learn something really valuable to my career as an author, at a reasonable price. You can sign up by simply typing your email address into the field in the middle of her home page.

Just FYI, I don’t have any affiliate relationship with Sandy and I won’t get any kickbacks from this post. In fact, she doesn’t even know I’m writing it. I just really believe in the value of her knowledge and know how much it’s helped me through the years, and I want to share it with you. Below, I’ve listed five tips from Sandy in helping to promote yourself and your books, including links I added. I’ve updated them a bit to allow for changes since she first shared them, but the substance is the same. Enjoy!

  1. Use Google and Twitter alerts to monitor conversations about your area of expertise. (Remember, you don’t have to write nonfiction to have topic expertise.) When you learn about a development that you can comment on, contact the media outlets in that community by telephone or e-mail. UPDATE: It appears Google has dropped support for its Alerts tool and those in the know expect that this longtime favorite resource will soon disappear. I suggest you check out alternatives
  2. Use those same alerts to learn which reporters are covering your topic. Send an e-mail introducing yourself and offering to become a resource as needed. Follow them on social mediare-tweet some of their content so that they see it and begin to recognize and remember your name.
  3. Use your website to showcase your topic expertiseUpdate your bioadd relevant content so that you get found in online searches.
  4. Once you’ve done even one interview on the topic, add a link to the interview to your website, preferably in a dedicated newsroom area. As you do more, add those links whenever possible. Reporters are more likely to contact you for an interview when they see that you’re familiar with the process and that you’re quotable. 
  5. Be pro-active. Look for those opportunities to contribute to the media conversations on your topic.

I’m going to add a bonus tip: Make sure to avail yourself of the plethora of great information on Sandy’s Resources page! Just another example of her true generosity in helping us all be better promoters of our books and our author careers, so don’t miss them!