Books, writing, reading and words. I love them; do you?

Why I’m Pretty Crap at Marketing.

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On Wednesday, I normally post a piece about progress on the current WIP. But we’re in a col there; War Over Dust is undergoing physical production to prepare for launch on 2nd September at the inimical Fantasticon 2017 in Hull, UK City of Culture.

So, to fill the gap, I’m posting about my personal relationship with marketing, promotion and sales.

Perhaps I should start by stating I’m motivated to write to express my opinions and because it’s a compulsion. Maturity caught up with me relatively late to persuade me that proselytising isn’t attractive to readers. Since my burning wish is for people to actually read my words, I now do what writers have done ever since fictional pen was first put to paper: I wrap my opinions, ideas and thoughts in layers of story. That engages readers. Unfortunately, it also sometimes obscures some of the ideas presented. But, hey, the world’s an imperfect place.

In short, I write to entertain, educate and inform. With entertainment foremost. My main ambition is to reach as many people as possible. I’ve never written fiction for money. I tried it once; hated the result (a 76,000 word unfinished thriller written by hand and tossed in a bin in disgust) and haven’t considered it since.

That’s not to say I don’t want money for my work. It just isn’t the driving force. However, in common with all but those born with the proverbial silver spoon, I need to support my family.

So, to marketing.

I’ve spent my employment (43 years in many different jobs) mostly in some form of public service, since that played to my wish to help people. However, circumstances sometimes meant I had to take whatever job was available at the time. As a result, I’ve worked as a shop manager, sales representative, call centre operator and call centre team leader. In the shop I was required to persuade customers, who came in to buy loss leaders, to shell out more cash for products actually worth having. As a sales rep, I was expected to lie to persuade businessmen and shop managers to take on a dodgy service that rarely fulfilled its promises. As a call centre operator working in the UK self-catering holiday sector, the joy of finding folk the perfect holiday was spoilt by the MD’s insistence on the sale of overpriced holiday insurance. And, in my final brief foray into the commercial world of sales, I had to cold call customers to sell them goods they invariably didn’t want.

The picture I’m painting here, I hope obviously, is that every aspect of sales work I was involved with required dishonesty for perceived success. Since integrity is a driver of my adult life, those jobs were intolerable. I’m not, by the way, suggesting all sales work is dishonest, only that my personal experience was of imposed duplicity.

That experience tainted my whole attitude to sales, of course, and makes the selling of my own books something I approach with caution and some distaste.

Are my books worth the price on their covers? I can’t judge that. Fortunately, I now have a publisher who sets these, using experience and knowledge of comparable items.

Are my books worth reading? Here I’m less ambivalent. I write the best book I can before I toss it into the overcrowded market place. So, yes, my books are worth reading. They’re not easy reads, since I’m reluctant to pander to the lowest common denominator and my writing’s as truthful as I can make it. Almost without exception, the reviews (those written by total strangers) are complimentary and show readers have appreciated and enjoyed the read, which is my aim.

So, I should, logically, have no qualms about selling them. They’re worthwhile products. But the taint of past sales experience lingers and makes it tough for me to engage in marketing and promotion. I do a certain amount, out of loyalty to my publisher, but I admit it’s not enough to get the recognition my work probably deserves. In the end, I rely largely on word of mouth, a slow sort of progress for a book.

So, if you’re a reader of any of my books, and have enjoyed them, please let people know. A review’s the most public way of expressing pleasure. Failing that, personal recommendation goes a long way. I review almost every book I read, as I know this helps with exposure of those works and gives potential readers an idea of one person’s experience.

For those who believe I should create a proper platform as an author, let me explain:

This website currently attracts 20,786 followers, with 32,218 hits to date (my previous blog on Blogger had 310,000 hits before I closed it to start this new one). I’ve 19,500 followers on Twitter, 2,085 on Facebook, with 860 likes and 782 followers of my FB Author Page, 970 followers on Google Plus, 3,837 friends on Goodreads, and 3,791 connections on LinkedIn. I think that makes a reasonable ‘platform’, when compared with many of my peers. Does it sell my books? Apparently not in any great number. But it allows me to interact, help other writers and readers, and learn new things, so it’s worth the time and effort. Perhaps, in some small way, it also exposes my name to all those people. Writing is, after all, a hugely overcrowded field.

Figures for the numbers of books published are notoriously unreliable due the methods of data collection. However, to give an example of the oversaturated market, let me to give you estimated figures from 2016. In the US, approximately 1,000,000 books were published; titles, that is. 700,000 of those were self-published. This equates to 2,740 new books every DAY! That’s just the USA. Multiply that by the other countries in the world and I think you’ll understand just how hard it is for writers to even get their voices heard. (The population of the USA was 323,100,000 in 2016; the world population is currently 7,520,981,000 as I write this. Click on the link for the startling contemporary count! (it went up another 893 as I was writing the last bit)) That means, using these very, very rough figures, something like 886,600 books may be published daily worldwide! Best get reading if you’re to complete that TBR list! My own numbers 170 titles at present, so I’d best stop writing this post and get some more reading done.

Thanks for your attention. Please do comment. I’m always interested in others’ opinions.

9 Responses to “Why I’m Pretty Crap at Marketing.”

  1. Stuart Aken on Blood Red Dust and the double-edged sword of superlative science fiction | Joan Barbara Simon Author

    […] Secondly, until I retired from employment a few years ago, I worked in a number of different areas, some of them involving selling and marketing. Almost without exception, I found these jobs required dishonesty and sometimes downright lies if the individual was to succeed in the way the managers/owners of the companies required. I built up a deep dislike and distrust of all sales work as a result, but was obliged to do the work in most cases simply to support my family. I wrote a short post on that aspect recently, which you can find here, should you want to know more: https://stuartaken.net/2017/07/26/why-im-pretty-crap-at-marketing/ […]

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  2. D. Wallace Peach

    I think writers, for the most part, are terrible marketers, Stuart. The type of people who can spend hundreds of hours alone in their heads, perfectly happy, aren’t the same as those who can go out and push products. Imagine asking a sales go-getter to sit at home for six months, alone, writing stories in a silent room. It probably wouldn’t happen. But marketing is something we have to do to the best of our abilities. I pay attention and try to learn from those who do a better job than I do, but it’s a slow go.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Mick Canning

    Yet you’re probably a dab hand marketer compared to me, Stuart. I literally freeze up at the thought of self-promotion, and find it impossible to persuade myself to do even the bare minimum to promote my writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • stuartaken

      It’s not an enticing aspect for most writers, Mick. Sometimes, I simply force myself to bite that distasteful bullet. But most of what I do in ‘marketing’ is really no more than a side effect of interacting with other writers and with readers. You have a good following and many comments on your blog, so, if you make it easy for visitors to actually see your books, you may benefit from their curiosity.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • Mick Canning

        That is where a good proportion of my sales have come from, Stuart. I’m in the process of preparing a collection of short stories, so soon there’ll be another little burst of activity on that front, and I’ll be able to revamp the sidebar with two (yes, two!) books displayed on it.

        Liked by 1 person

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