Thursday, September 11

8 Marketing Don'ts: Get Real or Get Lost!

By S.R. Johannes, @srjohannes 

Part of the Indie Authors Series

Whether you are traditionally pubbed or indie pubbed. Marketing is a huge component of getting your books out there. Some of us are lucky to get tons of marketing from publishers. Most of us aren't. Most of you will do it alone with very little support. So you might as well except it and do it.

It's a matter of changing your mindset.

Here are some of the DONTs of Marketing - in my opinion. These are mindsets that I still see and they make me smack my forehead!

1. My web site is longer than Santa's naughty list

Don't make us page down through pages and pages of text. The standard web rule is the user should not have to page down on a page more than 2 times.Your web site is an executive summary and TOC of you - not a book on your life. You need something short and sweet that grabs people. Keep it simple, professional, and short.

2. I don't know marketing but I like to do it myself.

Please don't put out crap. Nowadays you can get inexpensive, solid quality marketing swag from various web sites. You really don't want a plain white business card with your face on it. You really don't need a bookmark that is so flimsy it can be used as origami. Do yourself and your image a favor, invest in high quality pieces or don't do them at all. It is better to invest in a few key pieces than to do a bunch of bad pieces. Take pride in your materials as you would take pride in your writing or work. It is a reflection of you.

3. My book is for everyone or my readers are children between ages of 0-18.

Yeah, good luck on reaching 76 million people. Everyone has more than one target audience. You need to break them down into smaller segments. Trust me, age is not the only way to segment your audience. There are tons of others such as by topic, by region, by type of reader (library, bookstore, book club etc). Take some time to think through all of your target audiences and all the ways you can possibly reach them - you should be able to come up with at least 3 audiences and 3 mediums for each. Your marketing should have different messages for every group. Write down three things your book covers - those are probably your segments.

4. I'm just gonna wing it.

Everyone needs a business plan and marketing. Whether traditional of indie pubbed. Just like you need a plot for your book before you write, or plan a trip before you leave - you need a marketing plan before you can market. Some people think that winging marketing is effective. Nope! It's a shot in the dark and you spin your wheels for a while lot of nothing. I'm not talking about creating a 100-page word document here. I am talking about a process where you - as the writer - identify your target audiences, key mediums, key timelines, key events - and set up key contacts in advance. Your materials, plans, and contacts should be in place AT LEAST 6 months before your book comes out. Don't wait until your book is out before you think about it. It will be too late. Start now.

5. I don't know computers so I can't do marketing.

Um it's time to learn unless you are a time traveler. If you are selling books to kids, you need to learn computers. Nowadays at least 50% of marketing (and I am being generous, I think its more like 60-70%) is online. You need to know how to blog, how to do a basic web site, and what social media is best for you. These all are set up pretty easily to figure out, you just have to take some time to play and learn. Some even have tutorials. "I don't know how" is not an excuse anymore - unless you don't want to sell anything.

6. I don't believe in that branding stuff.

It drives me nuts to see authors not being consistent in their brand. They have one web site with gophers (which screams nonfiction), then a plain white biz card that screams (boring!) and a twitter background of lollipops. (You know who you are ;) You can easily find backgrounds for twitter and blog that look the same. You can even use the same colors. But I should be able to recognize you online. What kind of writer are you? What kind of books do you sell? What do you want to be known for? Pulling this all together gives the impression you have it all together - (hey fake it 'til you make it! :)

7. I just want to write.

Yeah? Well don't we all! I won't get into this too much. It's simple. Here's what I tell my kids when they ask if they have to brush their teeth. I say: "Only brush the ones you want to keep." That's what I say to authors. "Only market the books you want to sell." Yes that takes time away from writing but so does life. End of story.

8. I don't know how to do marketing.

Nope not an excuse. You didn't know how to walk either but you learned. You didn't know how to drive and you learned (well some of us!) Same with marketing, it can be learned. There are tons of resources, classes, books, etc. You can even pay for consulting to help you. Follow blogs, find webinars etc.

So if you find yourself saying these things, change your mindset. Get out there, play around online, and market yourself. Try things out and have fun.

Publishing is a business. It's not enough just to write anymore.


S.R. Johannes is the award-winning author of the Amazon bestselling thriller series, the Nature of Grace (Untraceable , Uncontrollable and Unstoppable). She is currently repped by Lara Perkins at ABLA, and is the YA advisor of ALLi. She is also a winner of the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Awards (Young Adult category) as well as a Silver medalist (2nd place) in the IPPY awards for YA Fiction, nominated for 2012 Georgia Author of the Year (Young Adult category), a Finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s Best Young Adult of 2012, and a YA Finalist in the US Book News Best Book of 2012.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


  1. Love it! Love it! Love it!

    I would add: be realistic about your expectations. You will be amazed at the amount of response you can garner with just a little effort - as long as you don't expect to be Stephen King.

    Also, the fun and fantasy that is writing isn't lost to you just because you're marketing and learning icky stuff - it will still be there for you.

    Jump into forums and blogs, comment intelligently, enjoy yourself, learn about your audience and go where they go, talk to them, ask them questions - it's like this enormous first date - be polite, engaging, fun and listen to what your readers say.

    Make your website easy to navigate, link from internal page to internal page - meaning, don't make visitors 'go back'. If they are on a page about character A and you reference character B, make character B's name an internal link to their page. People love to click back and forth, without having to throw it in reverse and back out of and through past pages.

    Mizz SR - this was just a blast - thanks so much for the honest, straightforward, fun post!

  2. I think having fun is the key. If we aren't enjoying it, then what's the point? I recently redesigned my website by myself. It was super fun. There are great tools out there now that make it easy for the Everyman to do their own designs. And today I took a class on designing your own book covers. Totally fun. So yes, we must get out there and learn new stuff. And enjoy it.

  3. Great article! I am always talking about marketing with other writers. Think about this ... if you write a great book, but no one publishes it for you, and you do not start marketing before the book is done ,how many follows will you have on day one - zero!

  4. I started off in the midset of #7 when I first started writing. But after self-publishing, I find I'm learning more and more, getting a bit more comfortable with each passing day.

    And it doesn't matter if you self-publish, published through a small press, or one of the Big 5. You got to engage readers.