Are You Marketing Your First Book? If Not~Why Not?

Written By: Jackie Weger - Jul• 13•18

Well, by golly, the Gurus have Spoken…

Telling you up front I like The Digital Reader. But a recent blog 8 Ways For Authors to Waste Their Their Money leads with the advice that an author should not start marketing until that author has published three books.  Now all of this advice is from the big guys. You know ’em…David Gaughran, Joel Friedlander, Victoria Strauss,  Jane Friedman, Hugh Howey and a couple of others. Most of their suggestions are sound. I subscribe to a couple of their blogs and newsletters.

My first indie published book. Named by Caleb Pirtle III one of the five books to read before you die. Otherwise just fun book filled with wit, grit and humor. Love in a Junk Yard. Who knew?

Here’s where I think the arrogance comes in: Just because one observes a particular behavior of one person in a narrow hallway–or one author’s experience does not make it a universal truth.  The second tidbit of arrogance is believing any author can publish enough books to satisfy every reader and book buyer out there in any particular genre. Whether it’s one book, three or ten.

I’m a little  guy and most indie authors are paddling in the same canoe I am. So are some contracted authors.  I would never suggest an indie author publish a book and let it sit idle on a virtual shelf until one had three books or more. This supposes a writer is prolific. Some writers produce a book a year, some every two or three years, some authors like Margaret Mitchell only produced one book.  I only recall two books by Wilson Rawls, the most famous, Where The Red Fern Grows.  Then there’s Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, The Yearling and the spate of books about Cross Creek.  Next come the contemporary authors I love, like Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen and Fannie Flagg…I’ll wait months and years between these author’s books…love ’em, but meanwhile, I’m reading other books. Don’t you? I also reread my favorites, like The African Queen–which I consider the best romantic adventure ever published in my lifetime.  I paid 35 cents for my print edition back in the day. Still have it.

I recall contracted authors being told by their publishers, the Big Five and others, they would not publish more than one book a year or every two years, so as not to saturate the market.  First came the hardback, next the Trade paperback, then the print edition…honey, those publishers milked that first book for every dollar they could get out of the reading public before a second book was a thought in the author’s brain.

Thus, telling an indie author to wait until he or she has three books before marketing goes against my common sense.

Here’s the way I think: If I write it, I publish it, I’m gonna sell it. For damned sure I’m gonna sell enough copies to pay for my investment in the book. Then I’m gonna keep marketing the thing until I’ve earned enough to pay my investment in a second book. BECAUSE, we indie authors must pay for every darn bit of production, to include our equipment, programs like MS Word, hiring editors, proof readers, cover artists and formatting services. Then there’s Web pages and domain names. One person’s observation does not an expert make. Nor is it scientific. One person’s observation “that readers don’t just buy a book by an author they like, they buy as many of that author’s books as they can afford. If an author only [has] a single book out, they can only make one sale per reader, which is why they should wait until they have several books to sell.”  So after the reader buys those three books, what’re they gonna do? Sit around on their thumbs?  Mercy me. There are millions of books on Amazon. They’ll find a book to read.

Let me just show you a FACT.

Here’s the $$$ I earned on my first book, a little on my second and a bit on my third…Those are 100 and 50 dollar bills. 

What’s so wrong about saying: Author choice and your mileage may vary? 

Get this: I am so not interested in hearing how a best selling author got to the top.  Here’s why: I can’t mimic that author’s success.  Those authors started at a different time or perhaps write in a different genre or connected with an audience hungry for something new. Or were smarter than the rest of us.  All of which is honorable. For certain many Indies made best seller status and $$$ before Amazon changed algorithms that a free unit no longer counted as whole sale when returned to priced. Now it’s one-tenth.

Don’t miss this little tidbit: All had Day jobs or somebody in their family did, until that author wrote a book, spent years badgering agents and publishers until finally getting a contract OR giving up and publishing indie–discovering they’ve written a book that resonated with readers and found an audience. Kudos to every one. I say Author Choice if you want to promote your first book or wait until you have a whole list.

Here’s something I seldom share. I sat at my kitchen table and wrote a book. Finished it on a Sunday and was offered a contract with a sizable advance the following Friday.  You can’t do that today, nor can I.  Wholly useless to run off at the mouth about that. Except I own the rights to all of my books and I’m publishing them indie.

Yep. The author needs to learn the ropes of indie authorship.  One needs  to master marketing and keep up with changes.  I’m not ashamed to admit when I started on the path to indie publishing I was Eating Stupid for Breakfast. You bet I got scammed. Part of my learning experience.  I connected with other authors and promoters. I asked questions. I still ask questions.  I’m up to Frosted Flakes these days.

I don’t miss this: Some of the gurus earn every dime writing non-fiction books telling fiction authors ehow to publish and market while their own fiction books lie fallow.  I don’t know if you own a telephone book these days, but if you do, look in the Yellow Pages…Not a single heading: Guru or Expert.

I appreciate wisdom, smart advice and suggestions.  IMO, there isn’t another author who explains how Amazon works better than David Gaughran in Let’s Get Visible. That book smartened me up. But he’s moved all of the info into Let’s Get Digital. My suggestion for newbies is start there. Above all, Think for yourself.  I know this much for a fact. If I do right by my book, it will do right by me.  So far, that’s working out.

One hot topic among indies is reviews. I don’t have an ARC Team or a Street Team. How I gather organic reviews is by putting this small gentle gem at the end of my books.  One of our eNovel members, Alexa Dare suggests using a swisher or text separator instead of text: The End. So my next book will have this swisher before the review plea:

Thank you for taking time to read [title]. If you enjoyed it, please consider telling your friends or posting a short review.  Word of mouth is an author’s best friend and much appreciated.  Thank you again, (author name).

Dare suggests the Swisher keeps Amazon bots from grabbing your reader before she’s read your back-of-book matter and shunting readers onto sponsored books.  That’s about it.  I blogged on marketing your first book because I have a dog in this hunt. And I don’t like folks in this business or on the periphery of it making pronouncements without facts and stats to back ’em up that could easily confuse or lead astray a new indie author.  We have enough to cope with without being told how we should NOT make money.

Keep up with the good stuff. Friend me on FaceBook.

Thanks for visiting. I’m @Jackie Weger, Founder of eNovel Authors at Work~ A Resource for Indie Authors.  We’re a group of like-minded writers who pay it forward, share our learning experiences and supporting one another. You can find all of our authors HERE. They are an amazing group from all Continents on our Good Earth.

Comments Welcome. Be Nice. If you can’t be nice be articulate. Love for you to add to the discussion. And we’re always glad to answer your questions.

 

 

 

 

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28 Comments

  1. flaxroots says:

    Good for you, Jackie!

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Thank you for commenting flaxroots. I don’t feel like “Good For me.” But these folks who run off at the mouth don’t put their money where their mouth is–so I did. Nobody can make one bad book or three, a best selling author. Indie authors need that first book as a learning experience. It needs to be used to start building a readership, networking with other authors and learning marketing skills.

  2. Yes. What’s the use of publishing a book if you’re not going to promote it?

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Aurora, Exactly! We need hard truths in our industry. Guess what wasn’t mentioned in the article–a well-written book that resonates with readers. I can tell you this much…the author mentioned in the article is not a household name. At least not in my household. LOL.

  3. Traci Hall says:

    There is a no perfect right way and that is one of the things that I love about your blog–you share your way and make sure to say that it is author choice. I am going to try that swisher thing too…have a great weekend!

  4. Glad to read this level-headed perspective, Jackie.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Hey, Suzanne. I don’t know if it was level-headed because I was so annoyed. The thing that got to me was “do no marketing until one has three books.” A writer cannot get that waiting time back. So you publish three books. Sit on ’em and drop dead. Then what?

      Common sense tells me while those three books sit unmarketed on a virtual book shelf, readers are buying up millions of other books to read. Amazon sells a million books every day/365 days a year.

      Geez. You don’t even have to think outside-the-box to figure this one out. Thanks for commenting and sharing.

  5. Alexa Dare says:

    Than you for sharing, Jackie! Great info.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Thank you, Alexa, I appreciate that Swifer you introduced us to. I was reminded a few minutes ago about a colleague of years ago. She wrote travel pieces, published in local Texas newspapers. Next thing, she was invited by Mexico Ministry of Tourism to write about a train trip across Northern Mexico–all expenses paid. It syndicated and next she was invited to write travel bits for airline mags-which got her an invite by the German Tourist Minister to write about a luxurious boat trip, I forget the river–all expenses paid. All free-lance which now we’d name indie authorship. 30 years later some fashion of those articles show up again. I’m prolly the only person now who recognizes her byline. We never know who we’ll touch with our books, however few or many we sell. Fine writing lives on–if promoted. That’s my point. Jackie.

  6. Great post, Jackie! You give me hope!

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Thank you for commenting, Melinda. Every writer won’t become a best selling author. We don’t have to shoot the moon to make a living writing. I count it a success if I make enough $$$ to pay for groceries or save for a vacation or donate a few dollars to a favorite cause.

  7. Emily Kaplan says:

    Sometimes it feels like trying to take advice from lottery winners on how to make a living listening to the Big Guys. Nothing like a little level-headed advice to reset the common sense bar.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      HI, Emily. Love your mention of Lottery. When it first started in Florida and Texas, all I heard was: “When I win the lottery, I’m gonna ______.” Fill in the blank. So. My hub was spending $10 a week/52 weeks x 12 years. Never won a dime. I said: I’m saving ten bucks a week/52 weeks x 12 years. Yep, went to London/Paris/Costa Rica x 3 and NYC for theater openings, a wedding in Cancun and took in a Ghost Tour in Savannah. Didn’t take along the guy with empty pockets.

      In eNovel we have writers putting out stories that are as well-written and entertaining as many Big 5 contracted authors. We don’t have to yearn for that Best Seller tag to earn a few dollars as an Indie. I love our indie universe.

  8. Great points. Luck, timing, genre, and even who you know can make a huge difference. Times and the world have changed. How one became a top-seller is irrelevant to me. Sound marketing points are not. I can see not spending huge $$$ on ads for your first book, but there are ways to promote and market that will at least get your name out there until the royalties (or sales) start coming in. Thanks for bringing some common sense to light.

  9. susan3607 says:

    I can’t imagine not marketing every book I put out there. You make some excellent points, Jackie. You go girl.

  10. Sadly, books don’t sell themselves – don’t we authors wish they did. We want to write more, not get involved in business, but market we must if we want anyone to read the work we have sweated blood over. Bronwyn Elsmore, author of books including Every Five Minutes http://hyperurl.co/t31r4n

  11. As always, Jackie, I appreciate your “who says we have to do it this way attitude?” I wish I liked the marketing of books as much as I like writing, but that’s like saying I wish my trees in the backyard rained down $$$. Tx for sharing Alexa Dare’s comment about the swisher. I’d always, intuitively, thought we need a transition; but I’ve use your gentle reminder w/o one. Now, I’ll start using the swisher!

  12. Very good post. Helpful, expertise wise and emotionally!Whenever I get down about having to market, I tell myself that at least I’m using my brain! Thanks, Jackie.😀😀

  13. Now I’ve heard it all. What a defeatist attitude to promoting your work! 🙂

    • Jackie Weger says:

      You nailed it, Frossie. I’m still royally pissed when I consider that advice. Think! Perhaps a single Mom with kids to feed who writes a book and publishes it indie. That Mom needs to get busy promoting and earn some money. I don’t get people who never think outside their own narrow lives. We don’t have to be best-selling authors, we just have to be selling or promoting our books on whatever schedule works for each of us.

  14. Mary Smith says:

    Good post, Jackie. If I had to wait until the third novel was written I’d still be waiting and no one would have heard of or bought No More Mulberries.

  15. In support of your wisdom, Jackie, I published my first book in Nov 2013. In the week between Christmas and New Year 2013, I put it on countdown at 99p/99c. I sold over 500 books in that week – which was a shed-load more than I’d sold in the weeks prior to that.

    Why wouldn’t you promote something you want to sell?

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Rosie Dean! I’m laffin’. You did a sh*t load of good. That was a great KCD. Love you for sharing that. We need these stories to put paid to awful advice poured in concrete.

  16. Always on top of things, you are, Jackie!

    Heck…thank goodness I didn’t read that article before I published my first book!!! I started marketing nearly a year before my first book was released. And because of that…three months after it released, it hit a “paid” bestseller list right next to Nicholas Sparks…while the movie adaptation was in theaters.

    I’d also like to point out that a VERY famous book, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was marketed without Harper Lee having other books out there…for years!!! Hmmm…imagine that! Also, “Twilight” was Stephenie Meyers first book. I sure didn’t see Little Brown waiting to promote it until she had another book published.

    Yes, you can definitely promote a first book. In fact, by doing so, you are gaining followers for future books, if you choose to write a future book. Or heck, what’s wrong with making a lot of money on one book and retiring?

    Thanks, as always, for keeping readers motivated and on the right track!

    Carmen DeSousa, author of #1 bestseller in Romantic Suspense, She Belongs to Me, when it was my first book and #1 in Paranormal Romance, Creatus, when there was only one in the series

  17. Robyn M Ryan says:

    Really good post, Jackie! Your blogs have taught me more than any the marketing “experts” who fill my inbox.

    There are very few people whose opinions I trust after three years of testing …. I may have reached the grits level—Frosted Flakes is quite a distance above!!

    ~Robyn

    PS I’m glad I didn’t know not to publish my first book. It hit #5 in its genre with DIY marketing. Dumb luck…

  18. An interesting article, Jackie, and one many authors would do well to read. For the record, I’ve never suggested authors wait until they have 3 books before marketing. In fact, I’ve often suggested authors (particularly nonfiction authors) start marketing 3 years before publishing, even though I’m quite aware most will not be able to follow this advice.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Joel, of http://www.thebookdesigner.com/ I know very well you did not make the suggestion that got my hackles up, but the author of the article was buried among a whole host of folks I respect and follow. Sneaky. Though I know that person is making the rounds with speaking engagements and fielding that advice, because new indie authors land on my doorstep [email] asking what to do for those three years. I had one today, as a matter of fact. I said: send me a link to your book. The darling sent me an url about 50 characters long. Ouch. But I did look at the book and told the author, I can promote it for you. She declined because she’s ‘branding’ her platform–what ever that means. Here’s that child’s ebook rank: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,531,301 Paid in Kindle Store. Impossible to help an author with a closed mind or one listening to an ‘expert’ ~ which I ain’t. Doing what I do–just basics is so not glamorous. I learn some tibit I can use or try every darn day.

      There’s this. I write nice books and know very well I could shoot for the moon. I have the $$$ to do it and know who to hire to get me there. Here’s the ‘But’: I like where I am and like what I do and I’d rather spend the $$$ on a trip to Greece or my little hideaway off-island. That part is called living.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I always check the books with your cover cover designs. Best of the Summer to you. Jackie

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