I’m thrilled to have bestselling author, marketing coach, and entrepreneur Melissa Foster with me today, to talk about this crazy thing called marketing. Melissa has a program called Fostering Success that I’d highly recommend – it was one of the first things I did as an indie, and the Facebook group is awesome.
As you know, a writer’s life is rarely really just a writing life. The typical writer might also have a full-time job, a family, volunteer efforts—a plethora of other activities other than writing. My life is a little like a constant tornado whirling around me—and I’m the eye of the storm.
I’m asked quite often what it really takes to sell books. I’d like to not only cover what it takes to sell books, but also what it takes to maintain your sales—and your writing.
The most important thing that one can do is to start with a good product—a well written, professionally edited, and professionally covered book (or ebook). Once you’ve achieved that, then you are standing in the middle of a crowd of over 1.5 million other writers. Get your marketing hat on, because the next leg of your journey is an uphill one, and you’ll need the strength of many people behind you.
Next on your agenda is a marketing plan. A marketing plan is your plan of attack to get your books noticed, and it must be ever-present. Think of McDonald’s versus Arby’s—which fast food restaurant comes to mind when you’re hungry and need a drive-thru? Of course it’s McDonalds, they’re everywhere; billboards, print media, radio, television. Everyone my age (ahem) probably remembers this—take a deep breath— twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun. One long word, and if you said it fast enough, you won a Big Mac. Yup, I won, even had a t-shirt with the very long word on it.
Where should you market? Social media, print ads, online ads, and blog tours. If you can think of a place where you might be found, you should be there, and there are many ways to get noticed that cost almost nothing, but they do take hard work. Magazines and blogs, for example, accept short stories and articles, but they must be well thought out and well written.
How else can you get that presence? Give back, give often, and give genuinely.
I preach, and I live by, the premise of giving back and cross-promoting. If you’re on Twitter, then you’ve probably seen the #WLC tweets. World Literary Cafe (previously WoMEN’s Literary Café–hosting both men and women) is a literary community that I developed to bring readers and authors together, to teach authors how to succeed, to bring exposure to their books in a manner that is beneficial and long-term attainable (a week long promotion averages $35, and we have many free programs as well). We are building a community based on paying-it-forward and giving back more than we receive. We strive to bridge the gap between readers, authors and author services (bloggers, reviewers, cover artists, editors, etc), and do it in a way that is beneficial for everyone.
The beauty of cross promotion is that the venues for this are endless. Avid readers read many books each month, some, each week. What better way to help a friend than to refer their books? When you shout, “Read my book!” many turn a deaf ear, but everyone loves to hear, “I recently read….” or “My friend wrote a book. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds great. It’s called…” Readers will respect you for not being self-serving, your friend will benefit, and even though you didn’t sell your book, what goes around comes around. Karma is a great equalizer (yes, I say this often, and I believe in it).
Never worry about competition, or being the one who sells the most. As for competition, writing is not a competitive sport. Others will try to copy your means—heck people take my exact tweets and duplicate them. That’s cool—someone said to me recently that copycats are the greatest form of flattery. It’s true, I just never understand the desire to strike away from the crowd instead of joining them. I find joy from seeing others succeed, and even greater joy from watching them pay-it-forward. I invite the literary community to join us under our community umbrella.
Marketing is a full-time job, and there’s no magic bullet. You could sell 5000 books this month and two books the next. Remember this on your climb up the ladder: Fame is short lived, friendship is eternal. I strive for the friendships. When I’m old and (even more) gray, any modicum of fame will be long forgotten, but friends will be by my side, telling me it’s okay to move toward that big computer keyboard in the sky.
So, how can you sell your books? What will it take, and how hard is it to get there? Establish a presence. Join a community that will help you reach your potential, and plan on working hard. We all have the opportunity to learn and grow on a daily basis. This marketing life, this writing life, can be a lonely path. It doesn’t have to be. WLC is here for you.
Melissa Foster is the award-winning author of three International bestselling novels, Megan’s Way, Chasing Amanda, and Come Back to Me. She has also been published in Indie Chicks, an anthology. She is the founder of the Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, and the World Literary Cafe, a cross-promotional site for authors, reviewers, bloggers, and readers. Melissa is currently collaborating in the film production of Megan’s Way.
Melissa hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, she’s written for Calgary’s Child Magazine and Women Business Owners Magazine, and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa lives in Maryland with her family. Melissa’s interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping women see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod.