The Chicken or the Egg? Or Writing or Marketing? by Cassiel Knight

This past Saturday, I had lunch with some writer friends and, of course, we talked about writing. Which I love to do. Terrific friends and talking about writing – all in all, a great Saturday.

A part of our discussion prompted this blog post. Specifically, we talked about marketing our work. One of my friends is adamant that the most important thing a writer can do for marketing is to write books. The concept is that with more books out there, she’s giving readers more of a selection and that’s her main focus. A worthwhile enterprise for a writer, I’d think, and it makes a lot of sense. After all, our work is our product and we must have the product to market.

However…

I’ve been thinking about this and have come to a conclusion that, in my opinion, it isn’t just about having lots of product (books) available or throwing yourself into marketing one or a few books. I feel, based on the research I’ve done, that it has to be a balance of both – writing and marketing.

It’s really like asking the age-old question: What comes first? The chicken or the egg? Well, almost like this because in order to market a book, you must have, well, a book. Once you have that first book out there, then it does become a chicken/egg deal (oh and one of the Janes is just going to love all the references to chickens! :-D).

Everyone credits the success of self-published phenoms with having a lot of books (product). Sure, I agree that having lots of product contributed to their success, but if you read their stories, you’ll note they did market – themselves and their stories. If getting success was as simple as writing lots of books, then we’d all be doing it and there wouldn’t be any mid-list authors. It’s not that simple (what in publishing truly is?).

So to just say I’m going to write more books is great. As I said above, you must have the product. That’s not enough. The publishing world doesn’t seem to subscribe to the adage that if you build (write) it, they (readers) will come. Marketing/promotion is a necessary evil for writers. Sorry, deny it all you want, it just is. It took me a long time to reach that conclusion and believe me, I came to it kicking and screaming. Even now, I’m barely scratching the surface of what I should be doing and while I won’t become a marketing genius or spend more than 25% of my time marketing, I know I have to do more than I am. This is a part of my publishing journey. I’m not a salesman but too bad – I have to do it. As much as I love my publishers, they aren’t going to do it for me.

In October, my business manager (aka very generous husband) is going to be watching how a month-long book tour increases my sales. I hired a public relations company to manage the tour for me. They are getting the tour spots and promoting the entire tour. I need content and to show up. Will this increase my sales? Well, I hope so, and I guarantee I’ll find out in November when I get my royalties for October.  I’ll talk about my blog tour in November – why I did it and how it did, I promise.

In the meantime, I will continue to find ways to promote myself and my book. To find that balance between marketing Key of Solomon and my Lyrical Press release, writing Book 2 of Relic Defender, writing another book for a yet-to-be-determined publisher and continuing to submit Blood on the Moon.

The bottom line is, again,  this is just my opinion, no matter how much an author may resist, authors have to market. Find the balance between writing your stories and promoting your stories. It’s so much easier to do this now.And the first place you can start to learn about finding that balance and marketing is a website I’m a staffer with – 1st Turning Point. There is a wealth of articles about all aspects of marketing and promotion.

For writers, what do you think? If you only have product and do just the very basic marketing (website/blog), do you have your sales/readers? For those doing more, any particular thing seem to be more successful? Do you think it makes it easier to market if you have more than one book available?

For readers, what kinds of marketing do you pay attention to? Word-of-mouth, Goodreads, Blog tours, etc.? How do you find the books you want to read?

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Posted on August 15, 2011, in General and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I think that having a website and a very good blog can increase readers/sales because a website offers a frame of reference and a popular blog can spread your name fast. But the key is to have a very well visited blog/website. How do you get one? I don’t know. Become a bestselling author. Have numerous and great reviews. Have a blog/website with a unique slant that generates a lot of interest. Of course, the two feed off of each other so that readers toggle back and forth between blog and website.

    As a reader, I’ll pay attention to word of mouth, author recommendations, sometimes Twitter, RWA loops, and of course, book reviews. I especially rely on Romantic Times to find books that interest me. I also follow favorite authors. When I find an author I like, I tend to read everything she writes. I also keep a vigilant eye out for anything that is light paranormal–my specialty. My problem is keeping up with all the books I want to read.

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    • Yes, Vonnie, very good points. The only caveat I have is that I visit a lot of popular blogs but I’m not buying the author’s books. Why? Because while the blog is terrific, I either don’t read what he/she writes or I’ve read what he/she writes and it’s not to my reader taste. So, I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

      I’ve just started listening to a workshop from Nationals given by Angela James on reviewers. Honestly, and I haven’t even finished yet, I think they have the power. And I’ll find out just how much power they have in October when I do my blog tour. See if my guess is correct. I’ll be sure to come back and share.

      And what you said as a reader you consider? Yes, yes, and more yeses. Thanks for coming by! You are also filled with insightful things to say.

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  2. As one of the Jane’s (the one who loves egg references – let me remind you that I have a sign on my dining room wall – I dream of a world where a chicken can cross the road without having his motives questioned.)

    Since I was at the lunch on Sat, I didn’t think anyone was advocating writing without marketing. But as Maggie said in her comment above – It is difficult to measure the effectiveness of most marketing. But I think everybody was saying 1 or 2 books isn’t good enough. All statistics I’ve read say it takes several books. For most of us that means pushing ourselves to write more and faster. That what NY demands and there is a reason why.

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    • You are correct that it wasn’t writing without marketing – it was mostly writing with little marketing. It prompted me to question this and that’s where I came up with finding a balance. The author chooses that balance. And yes, it may be difficult (and expensive) to measure the effectiveness but that doesn’t absolve an author from attempting something. And I still stick by that no matter how many books you have, if you are not marketing in some fashion, it doesn’t matter. You have three books, right? How’s it going for you?

      How much better would your sales be if you did more marketing (twitter, facebook, etc.)?

      This is not meant to be snarky. I’m truly curious because of where you are with self-publishing.

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  3. Marketing is definitely a tricky thing. You have to do it while not looking like you are doing only that. I decided on my first two books I was going to try lots of different marketing options–ads in a variety of venues, individual blogs, blog tour set up through promotional agency, and lots of giveaways. I’m tracking each one as much as possible to see if there are any obvious sales bumps. Of course, sometimes you can’t attribute it to a single event. For example, a reader may buy my book three months from now simply because she has now seen it in 20 or 30 different places. Who knows what works? I’ll definitely share my spreadsheet at the end of the year with anyone who wants to know. Love this blog!

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    • I don’t know that I agree with marketing “while not looking like you are doing only that” because that’s what I see. Constantly. Every loop I’m on, Twitter, Facebook, I’m flooded with people marketing and looking like they are. However, I think that’s because they’ve chosen to use online as their primary marketing tool. Would you agree? I completely agree with you that trying to point a finger to one particular thing that works is impossible. This still makes me think balance – which applies to what a writer chooses to do with marketing. Thanks for visiting, Maggie. Love to hear your thoughts! Kim

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