The Thrills and Spills of Book Marketing

Here’s the scoop. I self-published a book before I ever considered marketing. The fact that I’d even written a book that could be published was beyond my comprehension. Who thinks of marketing before the book is even a real thing? Well, as it turns out (as many of you likely know from personal experience) any self-published author who wants their book to be read has to think about the whole ball of sticky, gooey marketing wax. It’s the same in any artistic endeavor – the artist must ask, “how am I going to get this art out to people who may be interested in it, who may benefit from it, who may love it?”

I’m a social media light-weight dummy (slowly losing my fear), but – I created a website including this blog, made a Facebook page (Joy Ride – Rolling Around in Life), had a book launch, and some spotty opportunities to share the book at a few minimally-attended events. I approached the local papers and venue newsletters and scored a couple of small mentions. Next – I decided to pay the bucks for a Kirkus review, secretly hoping, (honestly, more like believing) it would solve all my marketing woes. If it was good, I imagined Kirkus would roll out their plan (free, of course) and that would be all I needed. The book would be snatched up by everyone in every country in a matter of days.

Ha! What am I? Dumb, naive, a wishful thinker? Obviously, all three and just a tad out of touch!

Here’s what’s happened. I got a nice Kirkus review and an immediate offer of a phone meeting with one of their marketing folks. Great! I thought. The woman I spoke with was a dear – she hadn’t read my book, but said she’d known of others like it that had benefitted from Kirkus’s marketing “packages”, and proceeded to outline individual and bundled options ranging from $500 to $5000. She sent me the descriptions earlier in the morning the day of the call. They looked good – lots of ads, maybe a book giveaway, arranged by Kirkus – likely 300,000 print views of my book in three weeks. I was almost sold – how else would I get that much press? I have no access to any of the stuff she was talking about, and isn’t Kirkus supposed to be the best?

Thankfully, I’ve grown up enough to know it’s best not to sign on in the moment of excitement, when praise and adulation is being heaped on me by someone who knows nothing about me, or my book (since she hadn’t read it). Granted someone had, but…so what?

I emailed my editor, the woman who helped me finish and publish the said book, the one person I can confide in about all things book-related knowing she has my back. I told her I was considering the $5000 Great Book Package. Really – I was, even though that small voice deep in my wise-woman gut was shaking her head, mumbling, “yes, you have the money, but what’s the guarantee?” Here’s what my editor wrote back:

“I’m nervous about you spending $5,000 on ads that don’t include widening your social media presence. It’s a lot of money being spent in only one direction. I don’t doubt Kirkus will do all they say they’ll do, but it’s book marketing—a highly ephemeral ratio between effort/cost: results…I know you’re flying high from that great Kirkus review and Kirkus is your new BFF and you’re excited about what they’re offering, but I feel that you’ll be disappointed with the results from Kirkus’s narrow campaign track…”

A wise woman! How many books would I have to sell to net $5000? At ~$9.00 profit per book, more than 500. That’s a ton of books. What if I sold just 20? Would I feel the investment was worth it? Would I say it doesn’t matter – I tried, wanting to justify my desire to see results without having to do much work? I’m sure I’d secretly regret it – another episode of impulsive, wishful thinking/acting that I’d get to add to my list of similar experiences. When. Will. I. Learn?

I have another phone meeting with the same Kirkus rep in early July. I’m still tempted to go for the Great Book Package. Like most authors, I want my book to be considered great, though I don’t want you to know that I want that. I want you to think it’s not important to me. Truth is, I know from experience that feigning indifference rids my soul of all it’s passion and joy – so best put the truth out there and hold onto the live-giving soul juice.

Meanwhile, I’ve contacted Smith Publicity. Maybe they have something to offer that’s more suited to my book and my marketing needs. I’ll still need Eva, my life-saving editor, to catch me as I’m falling under the spell of their pie-in-the-sky offers. And, I’ll watch out for the BFF phenomenon, and do my best to remember that nothing comes without some measure of work.

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