Marketing Your Novel: Where to Begin?

Disclosure: I work for a marketing firm. While I have no formal education in marketing or business and would never claim to be an “expert”, working in online marketing for two companies over the last  four years has taught me a lot. This series will explore the marketing strategies I will use to promote my upcoming novel. Also, I know free stock photos are lame. I’ll get my own legit photo for this series at some point, I promise.

Telling people that I work in online marketing typically induces one of two reactions in people. Either, “holy crap, how could you work in such a scummy, manipulative industry,” or “wow, marketing my work is so intimidating, where do I begin?”

If your first impression leans towards the former, then this series might not be for you. However, if you are a writer trying to become a published author, then you need to learn at least a little about how to market and promote your book. Even if you are fortunate enough to attract an agency or publisher, they will expect you to do most of the promotional legwork for your novel.

You can certainly rely solely on word-of-mouth to disseminate your work, and more power to you. But if you’re looking to turn your writing habit into any form of supplemental income, then marketing your novel is a must. Now then…

Where to Begin with Marketing a Novel?

That’s a great question, and the answer really depends on your needs and means as a marketer. The important thing to remember is that using only one channel to promote your work will likely not be very successful. A solid marketing strategy includes several different types of marketing through several different channels, such as:

  • press releases
  • email newsletters to subscribers
  • paid ads
  • content marketing
  • search engine optimization
  • blogging
  • events/conventions
  • public videos
  • social media posts
  • social media direct messages

You will note that all of the above except one (events/conventions) are a form of digital or online marketing. As writers, it’s not likely that we will go door-to-door across our hometowns trying to sell copies of our books (although that’s not unheard of). Most of our promotion and selling will occur online. I will provide basic explanations of each of these forms of marketing as this series moves along, but let’s start at the first important distinction.

Direct versus Indirect Marketing

Despite the jargon, the weird brand names, and the vast library of articles, blogs and newsletters about it, online marketing really boils down to two main avenues: Direct Marketing and Indirect Marketing.

Traditional marketing principles will insist that “direct marketing is an advertising strategy that physically deals and communicates with the consumer” with marketing methods including “telemarketing, subscriptions and fliers.” (Reference.com)

With the advent of the Information Age, however, this definition has expanded and become much more fluid.

Direct Marketing is any form of communication in which you are addressing a specific person or group of people. It also implies that you are enticing these people to take a specific action. Sending an email newsletter to a small list of subscribers is direct marketing, because you know exactly who is receiving your communication.

The goal of direct marketing should be to encourage an ongoing dialogue with your most loyal customers or readers — the people who are most likely to actually pay for your work. The main benefit of this strategy is its specificity. You can foster a personal relationship with a specific person (or group of people) through consistent, personal messages and discussions.

Indirect Marketing, by contrast, is aimed at a broad, often undefined audience. A paid advertisement on Google, for instance, can be seen by anyone. Even if you are targeting people who search for “fantasy novels”, you still have little to no control over who actually sees that ad. Indirect marketing aims to encourage engagement with your content or brand, such as social media shares, follows, or product reviews.

The main benefit with this type of marketing is that it helps you attract a much wider audience than you could otherwise reach through your direct marketing channels. If my email newsletter only has 20 subscribers, then that limits the numbers of books I can sell, even if I am more likely to sell books to people with whom I am actively and directly communicating. A paid ad on Google, however, could potentially reach millions of users, the hope being that even a fraction  of that vast audience is interested enough to visit your website, share your content on social media, and just maybe, eventually, buy a copy of your book.

Action vs. Engagement

Red String PaperCuts (and all blogs and websites, by the way) is a form of indirect marketing. By posting articles every week, I am dipping my toe into the vast sea of the internet hoping for someone to bite — to be interested, to engage with my content by following my blog or leaving a comment.

In terms of selling a book, calling Jessie up and talking to her for 10 minutes about why she should totally buy my book is direct marketing — I know exactly who my audience is, and I am trying to convince her to take a specific action — Buy My Book.

On the flip side, sending a direct message to another WordPress user about my website or my book is direct marketing. But posting a link to my book’s Amazon product page on Facebook hoping for someone to share it is indirect marketing.

The difference is in asking a specific person to take a specific action (direct marketing), rather than hoping a broad range of people will engage with my content in some meaningful way (indirect marketing).

Let’s have another look at that list I provided earlier and divide it into direct and indirect marketing avenues:

Direct Marketing – communicating directly with specific people Indirect Marketing – putting out ads or content to a broad, often unknown audience
  • Email newsletters to subscribers
  • Events/conventions
  • Social media direct messages
  • Press releases
  • Paid ads
  • Content marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Blogging
  • Public videos (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.)
  • Social media posts

Make sense? My list is by no means exhaustive, and in fact, Marketergizmo provides a great chart here comparing the most common forms of direct and indirect marketing.

This post is just the tip of the iceberg, but later on we’ll look at what the most common channels of marketing offer. As I said before, a solid marketing strategy should include at least three or four of these channels, with a mix of both direct and indirect methods. I will eventually dive into what specifically I am doing to promote my own book and demonstrate the successes/failures of that strategy (with hopefully more of the former than the latter).

Sources Used and Other Resources

Reference.com – https://www.reference.com/business-finance/difference-between-direct-indirect-marketing-5934449e99b1ca9d – Concise, traditional definition of direct marketing.

Marketergizmo – http://www.marketergizmo.com/direct-marketing-redefined/ – A more fluid explanation of the differences between direct and indirect marketing.

Brandastic – https://brandastic.com/direct-vs-indirect-marketing/ – An in-depth discussion of the major advantages/disadvantages of direct and indirect marketing.

Mojn – http://blog.mojn.com/direct-v-indirect-marketing-qanda-with-a-marketing-strategist/ – A good interview with a marketing specialist about digital marketing in general.

Steve D

14 thoughts on “Marketing Your Novel: Where to Begin?”

  1. I’m absolutely going to reblog this. It’s great information. If I may, what I’m always curious about it expectations. For example, I target every camping. “What do I want people to do?”. If I want someone to follow my blog, I target my campaign around that, then measure success by the number of new followers. What bothers me is I don’t know how successful these are in reality. I only know how successful they are in comparison to my other attempts. I hope your series addresses that. Thanks for the information.

    1. Thanks Matt! (You were the one who encouraged me to start writing about marketing practices.)

      Engagement is difficult to track, especially when you start asking why someone engages in a particular way. As I’ve written in my Numberbrag posts, my Hozier review still gets hits, and I know from the stats page that search engine results for his songs or lyrics brings up my article. I did not intend for this to happen when I first wrote the piece, but now I know that users are searching for those kinds of results in Google, so I can use search engine optimization principles to target that audience. SEO is its own animal, and I’ll cover it in more depth.

      One tool I will also discuss as I explore it is Google Analytics. With the right set-up Google Analytics can tell you how someone found a particular post, how they engaged with that post, and what they did after they visited. Did they click on one of your books? Did they explore your blog archive? GA is also its own animal, and I’ll be exploring it in real-time as I write about it.

  2. This is an awesome post, Steve. I know I don’t get to make rounds as often as I would like anymore, but I’m very glad I managed to get over here today. Like Matt said, I’m also going to reblog this if you are okay with that. (I’ll feature you as one of my bloggers for Feature Friday.)

    I know some of this is fairly basic, but it’s such an amazing (and essential) building block for you to work from. Plus all these extra resources are perfect. I’ll start pouring through them to glean what I can. I know, for me, I’m always trying to hunt down more material on marketing. What I’ve been failing to find are marketing materials that are specific to independent authors. The more I diversify my products (book, novella, graphic novel), the more I think about how I would need to market them as a package, but also target certain audiences for those sales.

    My blog, in many ways, is an experimental test bed to research what works and what doesn’t. I also am trying to be as transparent as I can be with what I’m doing to market my brand and product.

    I would be very interested in understanding SEO more as well. I’ve spent a fair amount of time researching this and try to do basic things to increase my site traffic. I know researching relevant tags, and writing headlines that would be likely replicated in search engines have increased my site traffic in a big way. I’ve also noticed that by creating reusable, non-copyrighted imagery and bouncing it through Tumblr, Flickr, Twitter, and Pinterest it pulls more traffic onto my blog as well. In this way, I’m not just creating “shadow versions” of my blog, but something that is of specific interest to those communities (meme-like images that focus on writing).

    Well I’ve written a ginormous comment here. You’ve got me excited with this post and I absolutely will keep my eyes peeled for more marketing tips from you. I think you are in a position to offer some very unique insights given your expertise in this field.

    1. Hey Corey, thanks! And of course you can reblog this! I’m glad you’ve found it useful so far, and I will certainly try to provide resources with every marketing post. For marketing resources concerning independent authors, most self-publishing companies and writing associations have useful info on their blogs. The Independent Book Publishers Association (ibpa-online.org) springs to mind.

      SEO has been a huge topic of conversation in the marketing blogosphere for years now, so there is in some ways an overload of information on it. My focus will mostly be in providing the basic principles of such channels and condensing some resources I personally have found valuable. I love the way you’ve used images to enhance your blog, and I just recently started creating “title cards” for my own series because of how I’ve seen you and other authors use them on your own sites.

      With your multiple social media accounts, have you found that the same users follow you from their various accounts, or do you feel that you are reaching different audience segments through each platform? I just recently launched a Facebook page for RSPC, but the majority of my 30-some followers so far are friends and family. I’ve been tossing around ideas for other platforms (Instagram, Twitter, and imgur, notably), and haven’t settled exactly on how I’m going to approach them.

      I’m glad you have found this insightful. in writing, publishing, and promoting my first novel, this is just as much of a learning experience for me. I’m ecstatic to know that I can share my experiences and help other writers in their journeys as well!

      1. “My focus will mostly be in providing the basic principles of such channels and condensing some resources I personally have found valuable.”

        This alone will be enough to keep me reading! I really am excited you are tackling this subject. I know I said it already, but there just aren’t very many writers providing in-depth information on this subject. And given some of the feedback I’ve received on my blog, this is an area a lot of people are thinking about and struggling with. I’ll leave you to it 🙂

        As for social media there is some overlap between WordPress and Twitter. I think it’s because Twitter has become sort of a “given” for most indie authors. However, I have noticed that I am starting to get a large number of referrals from Tumblr, Pinterest, and search engines. I’ve been attempting to use an imagery driven approach to pulling people into my site.

        This is sort of the process.

        Flickr is where I store and farm out the images I create. While I do get a number of views from Flickr, they don’t typically leave the website there. However, I like Flickr because it has streamlined my process for sharing out imagery.

        The process looks like this (1) I create an image, meme, or collage in photoshop, (2) I embed metadata into the image’s file info/this embeds tags and other search engine friendly information (3) after saving, I place the image on Flickr and it automatically turns the file info into tags and pulls the caption I embedded/which also includes a link to my website, (4) using Flickr’s sharing tools I then share that image to Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter, and (5) add the image to the blog with a link back to Flickr so people have access to a higher resolution image.

        While this process seems lengthy, in application it only takes a few minutes (once a template is made), and it’s starting to show its worth. As the image is embedded with metadata, and it’s been spread out over different mediums, it now starts gaining lots of views from different places.

        In application, if you Google, “The Kick-Ass Writer,” or “3 a.m. Epiphany,” and switch to images, the photo collages I have created and shared have now crept up to the very top of those pages. If clicked, the trail of breadcrumbs ends with my website. The same thing happens if you search for silly things like, “writing conflict meme.”

        For me, this has been the single most effective way of getting people into my space from outside of WordPress. In regards to your question specifically, this method has allowed me to pull viewers who are simply searching for images on the internet. For me, this is valuable because it steps completely outside of the realm of social media and targets the world at large.

        The next step was streamlining my website to convince a person who stumbles in to continue looking around. That’s a process I’m still troubleshooting.

        I don’t know if this helps you at all, but I thought it might be worth sharing as you are also looking at using imagery on your page.

      2. That’s definitely helpful. I may at least consider using Flickr for its cloud storage, and so I can access my images anywhere.

        Thanks for your tip about Twitter. While I would likely use Twitter to follow other writers I want to keep up with, it’s good to know that there’s a lot of crossover from WP.

        And it sounds like you’ve already got a solid marketing plan. Sharing images/content across multiple platforms to draw in as wide an audience as possible is the essence of content marketing. Thanks Corey!

  3. Reblogged this on M.L.S. Weech and commented:
    I’d told Steve I intended to reblog this. I wanted to wait until it could get some prime time and real estate on my page. This is fantastic information and a great start to what I hope is a comprehensive series on marketing. I’m still trying to wrap my head around marketing as a whole, and all of this information is incredibly helpful. Give it a look. Take notes. There are a lot of good books out there suffering under bad marketing. This is a step to fixing that.

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