One thing I hear people saying scare them off of indie publishing is the need to do marketing. Indie publishers do need to do marketing, and it is scary.
But unless you are Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, or a similar consistent best-seller, traditional publishers are not going to do the marketing. Reading forums where traditional authors talk, you’ll see plenty of discussion of authors being told they needed to their own marketing. Agents will tell you that if you haven’t already built a platform, you’re not ready to submit books to traditional publishers.
Marketing is a vital part of the life of any writer trying to become an author. You need to start it now, even if your goal is traditional publishing.
Marketing and author platforms can mean many things, but people discussing it will start with an email mailing list more than anything. In fact, the first iteration of this post was “M is for Mailing Lists.” This blog is also part of my author platform, although that’s a relatively recent development. I have blogged on and off for over a decade, two if you consider LiveJournal a form of blogging.
In terms of marketing, the blog’s primary function is to act as a funnel to my mailing list. You can find the sign-up at the bottom of any post.
Going back to the mailing list, there are two principal purposes. The most obvious one is to inform people of new books or sales on existing volumes. If that is all you use it for, it will be ineffective. It will be spam in a very real sense. You are only offering people an endless stream of ads. It will be junk mail, in other words.
You need to do regular contact that does not have a call to action in sales terms. While what regular means, the most common answer seems to be about a month. Monthly or more frequent contact is generally handled via a newsletter. The key to the newsletter is though it is a marketing tool, the content is now about marketing.
We’re going to talk more about newsletters tomorrow.
Historically, going to conventions has been an important form of marketing, but I think that was more marketing to agents and editors than end readers. Even before the age of Covid killed conventions for two seasons straight, I heard plenty of authors saying the conventions need them more than they need conventions. The shift to indie has made meeting agents and editors less important. Making contact and relationships with end readers is much easier and effective on the web. I’m a devoted fan of Sarah Hoyt despite never meeting her at a convention. I do interact with her regularly on her blog. At this point, I’m one of the Huns, engaged by other regulars and our Hostess.
One day I plan to engage my legions of fans (well, centuries of fans…would you believe contuberniums?) here. That’s why I write about what interests me instead of always writing about what is hot in the news, general or fannish. If people are coming to have a relationship with an author they like, they should be who they are than presenting a perfect marketing image.
Authors may have to market, but that doesn’t mean they need to be like Coke A Cola.