Today's writer is both creator of a product and a marketer. I do not like to think of my books as "product" any more than I would think of my children as items for consumption. The angst, love, hope, and insight I put into books and with my kids demand another category. Something personal.
That said, the practical side of me says I need to market. My sometimes-obsession of checking out my books' rankings on Amazon isn't about the level of art. It's about sales. When The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea briefly made it into the top twenty of short story collections there, I punched the air like Rocky Balboa.
MFA creative writing programs around the country teach the art and craft side plenty, but the marketing side is usually left for writers to discover on their own. It's sink or swim.
In the last few months, I've joined a few like-minded literary writers to help form a consortium called Backword Books. We didn't put up any money. We simply use each other's marketing talents, such as creating a website, writing press releases, and more. We know that seven of us pushing related products together is more effective than one person pushing one book alone.
Another Red Room author, Bob Levin, wrote me that he and a few authors have also gathered together as a unit, but in a much more formal way with contracts. In essence, they are creating their own publishing company with its own ISBN designation. Each author pays his or her book's start-up costs, and also contributes so many hours a month to the company's cause. Their company will take 10 to 20% of each book's profit.
Backword Books has existed only a few months, but the things we have done for marketing include the following:
- Two initial press releases, using PRWeb and, once, with the expensive but powerful PR Newswire service. You can see our first release by clicking here.
- After Publisher's Weekly wrote about us (see here), we created a press release for that event, too (see here). Our goal will be to trumpet our successes when they happen.
- One of our members, R.J. Keller, created a video for our group. Click here to view it. It came out just yesterday, so please tell me what you think of it.
- We each blog about publishing and writing. You can read our thoughts and how-to advice on the homepage at www.backwordbooks.com.
- Soon we will be offering a contest and giving books away.
So far, that's all we've thought up. It's not a lot, yet I'm sensing the power of the union. We're presently brainstorming for more inexpensive marketing ideas. There's always a good source to go to, too, The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson.
On September 11, several Backword Books members (including yours truly) were guests on Stacey Cochran's BookChatter, a free-form video show on the Internet. An archive on that show can be seen by clicking here.
If you're a writer, you need to wear two hats: creator and marketer. Whether you publish traditionally through an established publisher or whether you self-publish using such services at Lulu, iUniverse, and others, you will need to market. If you're thinking that it's so hard to get published traditionally and so much easier to self-publish, think again. With self-publishing, you come up against many barriers--plenty of people to say "no." Book reviewers say no. Bookstores say no.
Then again, Amazon.com says yes. People with shows like Stacey Cochran say yes. You just have to be a hustler. It's often hard to wear the hat of a marketer.
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