Few words evoke the sheer terror in struggling indie authors that marketing can. There’s a vague sense that it means getting people to buy your book, but the concept is so vast that people who’ve never swam in the great marketing ocean are terrified of the monsters they’ll find there.
This post attempts to clear some of the silt from those waters, so new authors can see all the way to the bottom. Marketing is, at it’s heart, not that difficult if you understand how it works.
So if you’re interested in improving your marketing, or just in learning what it all means then this post is for you. If you are already a marketing master this post is also for you, because I’m hoping you’ll shred it so it can be improved for everyone. Don’t accept anything I say here at face value. Question. Evaluate. Test.
I’ve made this first post relatively short compared to the others. It has three easy to understand steps, and once you grasp them you’ll understand more about marketing than most people outside the profession. If people find them useful i’ll be happy to make more such posts.
Step 1- User Profiles
Before you can successfully market a product you have to understand who might want to buy it. In marketing this is accomplished by creating a user profile. It’s your target audience wrapped into one fictional everywoman. It is not meant to limit your audience, but instead to offer you a starting point.
If your user is a 40 year old soccer mom that doesn’t mean twenty-something professionals won’t read your book. It only means that your primary marketing will be aimed at 40 year old soccer moms.
My books have intricate plots. They have a fair amount of violence, and a lot of science and history. I use a lot of geeky pop culture references to movies like Stargate or The Fifth Element, and of course Star Wars.
I considered all this when crafting my user profile. I decided that Bob, my user, is 35 years old and works in IT. He grew up in the 80s devouring fantasy novels and playing Dungeons & Dragons. In the 90s he graduated to Playstation and Xbox, and later MMOs.
Bob likes to read fiction, but as other forms of entertainment increasingly eat at his precious time he only reads maybe 10 books a year. For a book to grab Bob’s attention it has to explore some awesome new concept.
It can’t be the same old stuff. It can’t be more generic fantasy, urban or epic. It can’t have some chosen hero fighting the dark one. Bob is only going to buy a book that intrigues him. It isn’t really about the money to Bob. He’ll pay $4.99 without batting an eye if the book catches his eye.
Bob has a dozen or so friends that share his hobbies. This is often where he learns about the books that he reads, and in turn Bob will tell his friends about the ones he finds.
Step 2- Tracking Your Quarry
Put on your camouflage and grab your rifle, because we’re about to go hunting. Now that we’ve fleshed Bob out we need to go find him.
According to my profile he’s passionate about MMOs, Star Wars and probably played role-playing games like Shadowrun and the World of Darkness (Vampire, Werewolf and Mage).
He spends quite a bit of time on Reddit clicking endlessly on links. The last great book he read was ether The Name of the Wind or Words of Radiance.
Armed with this knowledge Bob isn’t all that hard to find. All I have to do is think like him. If I were Bob, where would I spend my time? On forums devoted to the things I love. I wouldn’t spend my Saturdays hiking. I’d be far more likely to binge watch a Stargate Universe marathon.
When it was over I’d probably log into World of Warcraft, since an expansion was recently released.
A fifteen minute search for World of Warcraft, Stargate, Werewolf, Shadowrun and Star Wars yields over a dozen large internet forums devoted to those topics. To confirm this all I have to do is browse a few of them. If I’m right I’ll find Bob’s tracks everywhere.
Step 3- Join The Herd
Now I know where Bob is, so how do I get him interested in my product? Certainly there is some slimy marketing technique I can employ to trick him into buying my book, right?
If I go to Bob’s favorite forum and yell BUY MY BOOK!!!!!!!11!!!!one!!! then Bob and his friends will quite rightfully crucify me. Why shouldn’t they? I’ve invaded their home for the sole intent of fleecing them out of their money. It’s clear I don’t care about Bob, his friends or most importantly the topic he is so passionate about. This is why authors who tweet or spam Facebook constantly about their own books will see almost no sales from doing so.
So how do we get Bob interested? By being genuine. Every person reading this post knows exactly how that’s done, because you are already doing it. You participate in this forum out of a genuine desire to both learn and share what you’ve learned. If you have books in your sig I bet you’ve seen at least a few sales as a result of your participation here, too.
Ask yourself what you’re writing and who you’re writing it for. Do you write epic Fantasy? Then go find a Wheel of Time board and actively participate there. Put an innocuous little link in your signature to one of your books. Over time people will find it, especially if you are an active member of that community.
Notice that this costs you exactly zero dollars, only your time. Ideally you share Bob’s passion for the forum you’re frequenting, so posting there should actually be fun. Do this and Bob will sense your enthusiasm.
He will welcome you into the herd, and because you are part of the herd he will not only happily buy your book. He will tell all his friends about it too.
It’s really that simple. Know your reader. Go find them. Tell them about your book. Sure, there are a lot of other things you can do like advertise about your book on Bob’s favorite forums, but the first step is always knowing who Bob is and finding where he lives.