Saturday, October 27, 2012

Marketing mania

This week has been exciting for me with the launch of the new edition of Watery Ways (Boathooks Books by Sunpenny Publishing). I am very pleased with the new version, especially as it has Koos's photos in it to add to the interest. It has also been professionally edited and with its new cover, it feels as if it has finally come to maturity.

That being said, there is a side to publishing that I'm finding quite difficult to deal with, and that is the marketing. I come from a marketing background and spent several years as the marketing manager for a medical insurance company in South Africa. It's a world I know about and understand, and when it's for somebody else, it's a world I enjoy, but it's not really what I want to do now.

My problem is that I'm now a full-time teacher by day and a writer by whatever time I can scratch that's left. And that's not much. I always have huge amounts of marking to do (I teach academic writing, so that does not involve multiple choice testing...oh no!), and equally huge amounts of preparation for new courses (I'm freelance, so hardly ever do the same course twice). However, now I've managed - thanks to Sunpenny Publishing - to get published, the time that's left is being severely curtailed by the extent to which I have to try and promote the said published books. In itself, I don't mind doing it and as an exercise, I find it quite a challenge, but it's not really what I want to be doing with whatever time I can scratch etc. I want to be writing new stuff. I have a work in progress on the go, a series of children's stories to finish, plus a whole heap of short stories I want to write not to mention the sequel to Watery Ways. But when am I going to find the time to write them if I have to spend half the whatever time I can scratch tweeting myself silly?

It's a toss up in the end, isn't it? If I don't invest the time Tweeting, Facebooking and Blogging, I'll never sell enough books to have the independence to spend the time I want on writing. On the other hand, if I keep writing without doing all the marketing, I'll probably be a lot happier, but with no prospect of independence, so what's it to be?

What I do like on Twitter in particular is the contact with other writers. Through Twitter, I've made contact with Jo Carroll (see previous post), Carol Hedges (future post to be), Michelle Wheatley and Rosalind Adam (also bookmarked for future posts). This has been great as I'd been feeling a bit despondent about the demise of the blogging community and now I have some new contacts with the same interest and passion - writing.

What I like on Facebook is the contact with my dispersed family as well as old friends from former blogging circles and from my former lives (if that's what I can call the different phases of my life). I appreciate all the support and encouragement they give me immensely. But I lack the drive and compulsion to be a real social media success, so this will always be a bit of a struggle.

In the end, I suppose I shall have to try and find the balance between the writing and the marketing. I haven't found it yet, but I do know that above all, I have to keep on writing. That is what I do, what I want to do and what keeps me going. Without the creative output, none of the rest of it makes any sense at all. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way, though, and wonder how many other writers have the same dilemma....


  1. In terms of having the time for both writing and marketing, I suppose cutting on the teaching is not a viable alternative in that you need it full time to have sufficient income?

    Without knowing anything about book marketing, I would guess that few authors are natural at marketing their own work. Related to the fact that few people are comfortable with promoting themselves in any context, I think. Perhaps one gets used to it in time though?

  2. I'll chime in or wade into these waters, as I am in the same boat as Val is, with the exception that I have no publishing company behind me. Val, is Sunpenny not investing a bit of time marketing for you? I always fancied that one of the perks of having an actual publisher would be that they would be doing a bit of that.

    As for using social media, I think FB is a bit less of an attraction at the moment because of their sponsored pages. I'm sure that all the people who clicked the "like" button on my book pages don't see my posts there, and there is this new thing that you need to pay FB to get all your fans to actually see your page. What rubbish.

    What I have found really helpful in terms of marketing is to join a couple of artists' group on FB, which have link to Twitter. We tweet for each other, and have helped expand our base that way. There is power in numbers, for sure. Twitter is an interesting beast, but I've also learned to use my hashtags properly to get focussed interest in my books. If you have questions about setting things up, feel free to email me. I'd be more than happy to help in any way I can. xx

  3. Maria, you're so right. I think that's a problem for anyone in the creative arts. Self-promotion also goes against the grain culturally. Getting used to it? I suppose so, but the time it takes from what I really want to do might always be tough.

    Anne Marie, I think I will take you up on that! I'll email you because I don't even know what hashtags are let alone how to get focussed attention! I miss the fact that I live outside my own market very much as well. Trying to get talks, signings and reviews here in NL is quite difficult, especially as I have to work so much of the time, and my books are in English, not Dutch, which doesn't help. Added to that, they are not available here anymore. For some reason, they cannot be bought through, the Dutch version of Amazon. My self published books were available here, so go figure that one! The publishers do of course do their own marketing push, but you may have noticed even Pete Townshend has been required to promote his own books, so who am I to complain :) However, in some ways, there's more pressure on you when you have a publisher because they are relying on your efforts as well and they have a staff to pay. As a self publisher, the onus is on you and you alone.

  4. You're not the only one, Val - I hate marketing. I enjoy dabbling with twitter occasionally, and drop by Facebook to see what's going on, and love blogging - but the hard sell, the please-buy-my-book-you-know-you-want-to stuff - it's such hard work, all for the sake of a sale or two.

    I'm lucky - I don't need to sell books to put food on the table, and so pay much less attention to marketing than many. I just do what I enjoy, and then get on with the writing (and travelling, of course!).

  5. I can see the dilema, Val. It's a true Catch 22 ...
    There seems to be a similar pattern in life and I think it all boils down to time (or lack of it). I assume it is not financially viable for you to hire a marketer to help promote your work?
    However, I think you are doing a great thing here. Keep on doing what you are doing, Val, and trust that it will all fall into place.
    First and foremost, do what you love!

  6. Interesting that you brought up the fact that Pete is out there promoting his own book. I was thinking the exact same thing as I read your post.

  7. I don't think Pete promoting his book is quite the same thing, it's available everywhere over here, even in Tesco and he is someone that many media outlets would like to have as a speaker he has a high profile!

    Many artists do PR - it's part of being in contact with fans and having new fans; however, I imagine most high profile artists have marketing departments behind them. What you write about is the problem with the solo promotion business - pretty soon all anyone's FB or Twitter becomes is a promo stage and less interaction of a personal type occurs. It IS a problem because it's a turn off to a lot of people who are not just interacting to promote themselves! At the same time one has to get the word out! A conundrum!

  8. Jo, Dale and String, thanks for your thoughts and sympathy here.

    Jo, I guess I don't need to sell books to put food on the table because I have my job for that, but I'd much rather be writing..and travelling too! I am still hoping to gain some kind of independence from the daily grind through my books but this conundrum of getting it out there as String rightly puts it is my biggest difficulty. And Maria and Dale, you are right, I can't afford to have someone do it for me. If I could, I wouldn't be working as much as I do already.

    Dale, thank you for your very kind words. I'm glad you can bear with the marketing stuff as well. I sometimes cringe on Facebook when I keep pushing my writing and do so little socially, but I simply don't have time for it all and so I end up just focusing on the writing because it's what is expected of me now. This is why I mostly keep special pages for that and try not to put too much of it on my personal page, although that rattles around like an empty space a lot of the time as a result.

    String, good point about Pete. I apparently misunderstood that he'd been asked to go out and promote his books by his publishers. I've now been told this is not the case, but yes, he will always be much in demand because of his status. It helps.

    I do think that these days, the written word is difficult to promote because life has become so image oriented. In the end, I can only do my best, and if it goes nowhere, so be it. At least I'll know I've done my best within the limits of the time I have. But I will keep writing whatever happens!

  9. Hi Val, I don't know if Pete was told that or not, so I hope you didn't misunderstand me, it was not the point I was making...he just isn't in the same league. I imagine that most people with deals are expected to be part of promotion (from what I can tell), and besides media needs input and he is good media. Not only that the release of the book dovetails with the Quad tour so it is good PR for everyone concerned.

    My point is that there is more 'promo' money behind those that are well known and thus, unlike the indie's they don't have to spend so much time on FB and Twitter constantly marketing themselves...and in fact may have someone who does it for them, either label, manager, PA, publisher etc....

    The other point I would like to make is that Pete makes his living out of being an artist/musician/author so his methods are going to be different than those who make their living in other ways but write lovely books etc. ;-) He has The Who machine behind him.

    I liked your referral to the homeopathy book on your FB page, which I bought as a gift for someone, but have so many writers on twitter now plugging each other, and themselves, that I don't read the tweets anymore. It is overwhelming, the constant stream. I may just be an exception to the rule though!

  10. It's okay. String, I don't think I misunderstood you, but I do know I misunderstood the message about why Pete is out on the road promoting, so it wasn't you, truly. I mentioned him in a very tongue in cheek way way anyway as I realise we (Pete and I) are worlds apart when it comes to whole context of what we do :)

    Still, I do know what you mean about the flood of promo tweets and messages. There's a fine line to be drawn but it's hard to know where to draw it. I've actually blocked a few people who just seem to spend the whole day tweeting about their books, and I mean the whole day! The thing is, they appear to get results! Maybe it's a kind of subliminal conditioning, I don't know, but it makes you wonder. For me, it's a turn off, and I hate doing it myself, but I thought I should maybe try it and see :-p

    As you know, I've always loved blogging, so for me, Twitter is more of a way to connect with other bloggers than with confirmed tweeters.

    On another note, I'm very glad you liked the referral to the homeopathy book. I'm still reading mine, and what I've learnt from it has helped someone dear to me already. Very enlightening.

  11. You know Val, it's really hard to tell how much result some people get...because of this blog convo I have just stopped following e-book tweeters - it's really NOT how I discover books, via twitter to be frank - and until they get the whole ownership thing down (wich I tweeted) I am not going to buy many.

    I am on twitter for different reasons. For example, I looked at the lovely pic you tweeted of your daughters - and some other news articles but as far as books go, I tend to rely on friends, blogs or written recommendations (reviews), and finding them in obscure book stores. If someone tweets a link to one of these I will visit, but if they are tweeting everyone's books in order to help promote others and thus promote themselves I don't go. Not because it isn't a valid way to market, but because I only have so much time in the day to follow links and will rely on those I trust and have history with (like you and AM) - but also mostly due to what they write on a blog, not what they retweet.

  12. Thank you so much for these comments and thoughts, String. I really appreciate the views you bring to the conversation.

    In fact, I am like you, and I don't buy books on the basis of tweets at all - I don't have an e-reader and still look at books on the net, but prefer to buy my personal reading from a real shop. I buy a lot of work books on the net, but they are also real books. Still, the marketing people at the publishers seem to think it's important to tweet and FB. I know they judge the success of a book on how many e-books have been sold (not quite sure how the free offers work with that, I must say), and I've read quite a number of blogs on book marketing extolling the benefits and thus rewards of Twitter as a marketing tool, but no, it doesn't do it for me either. In fact, the more things are pushed down my throat, the more resistance I put up...perhaps it's partly the bull in me (and in you too :)).

    That being said, I have to do what I can to support the publishers' efforts, but I will never have the time or energy to spend on the whole social media push, so in the end, it's unlikely to be how people find or buy my books either. I also hope they will achieve whatever they do on their own merits and not on the basis of tweets and re-tweets!

    Lastly, I love that I have this blog to share these thoughts on, Thanks to you and everyone for their contributions.

  13. PS By real books, I mean paperbacks. Pfff e-books are real books too. I always realise I've used the wrong word too late :) Val

  14. I am probably one of those who over-tweets, although I do try to limit myself and only tweet once of twice a day. A lot of indie artists are using tweet services that schedule their tweets for them to spread them out over the day, which is how you get all that repetition.

    For me, I find I only read the tweets that are in my feed when I come on and can only take so much before I stop, and if others are like that, I can understand why people tweet repeatedly over the day to catch all the time zones, etc...

    I totally get what you're saying, String, but it does appear to work for authors if you manage the right amount of exposure. My podcast appearance with BlueBonnets, Bagpipes and Books, for example, which was tweeted into the ground, has been listening to or downloaded close to 400 times. That's pretty impressive for a little indie podcast. I decided, in the end, to create two accounts- BadmanSadman for the commercial, book side, and my other one for friends and non-book things. Feel free to follow me there instead if the traffic on my book account (over 1000 followers now, although so many are just there to promote themselves) is too nuts for you.


  15. Thanks again Anne Marie. The pundits and experts support what you have experienced, so I think that despite the people like String and myself too, twitter does give writers exposure and even if it doesn't actually sell books, the awareness factor has to come into play. As I said, I don't like it, I more or less endure it! I will get round to emailing you about how you make the most effective use of the hashtags etc, but at the moment, work has had to take priority. I confess I haven't linked up to your personal twitter page yet, mainly because I find it hard to maintain even my FB presence, so I don't think I would be much use personally on Twitter. I really only use these sites to do what I have been asked to do! This blog is where I find it most satisfying to have a cyber social life! xx


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