5 Reasons Marketing Is Hard for Writers

Say the word “marketing” to a group of writers, and you’re likely to elicit a groan. Almost anyone with dreams of seeing a book in print can relate to the deflation experienced when it becomes clear that simply writing an excellent book isn’t enough to sell any notable number of copies. Sooner or later, any writer committed to publishing and selling a book will have to accept that learning how to market the book is just as important, if not more, to the book’s success than the book itself. This is often a frustrating experience since, in general, marketing is hard for writers.

Why is this? After posting last month about how my own approach to marketing has evolved over the last sixteen years, I started thinking about why it is that marketing is almost universally deplored by writers. Although some writers are, of course, exceptions, most writers hate the idea of marketing.

Here you’ve just done this incredibly monumental thing of learning all the complex and high-level skills involved in writing a book, only to be told you’re basically back to ground zero. Now you have to start all over and learn the equally complex and high-level skills of marketing a book. The difference is that most of us learned the art of fiction because we loved the process; few of us are equally attracted to learning the art of marketing.

Now, some writers may be perfectly clear that they are writing for reasons that do not require marketing. Perhaps they are writing a story for their grandchildren or a memoir for purely personal reasons, and it doesn’t matter much if they sell more than ten copies, if any. That approach is 100% legit. I am always a stand for getting clear with yourself about your own motives for writing and your own personal definition of success.

But most writers want to be published. More than that, most writers dream of making good money off their books, maybe even writing full-time. That’s also legit. But the dash of cold water is that this dream will not happen without the ability to market your book. Doesn’t matter if your intention is to publish traditionally or independently. Either way, more than half the job of being a successful writer is marketing.

I’m sometimes asked if I think a writer needs to go to college to get a degree in Literature or an MFA. My response (as someone for whom college wasn’t an option, so take this in light of its obvious bias) has always been, “No, you can learn everything you need to know about writing a book via the multitude of resources that are available online.” However, in recent years, I would amend that answer to suggest that, instead, if a person is serious about a writing career, they would do well to pursue a degree, or at least classes, in marketing or business. If I had it to do over again, that’s what I would do.

I say that to emphasize the sheer importance of marketing and business savvy as the leverage point to transforming writing into a viable and profitable career. If it sounds sobering, that’s because it is. However, it is also important to know that, just as the incredibly complex skill of writing a book can be learned by anyone with the initiative and discipline to study and practice, so too can the equally complex skill of marketing a book or creating a business around your writing be learned by anyone. The resources are literally at our fingertips. All that is required is the willingness to move past the initial (and often substantial) resistance that many of us feel and to begin putting in the work. After a while, marketing can turn out to be just as much a creative pursuit as writing.

5 Reasons Marketing Is Hard for Writers—and How to Change Your Mindset

One of the most effective ways to move past limiting beliefs—such as “marketing is too hard” or “I’m a writer, not a marketer”—is to recognize those beliefs as such. In today’s post, I want to explore some of the reasons I believe marketing is hard for writers (at least in the beginning), and how writers need to flip their mindsets in order to embrace marketing and business as tremendous opportunities.

To my mind, the reasons marketing is hard for writers generally come down to two factors:

1. Writers don’t usually start out with any marketing skills.

The belief that “I’m a writer, not a marketer” is 100% true in the beginning. And in the immortal words of Carmine Falcone, “Ya always fear what ya don’t understand.”

2. Writers fail to recognize that writing full-time is a business and has to be run as such.

The idea that being a writer means you spend the majority of your time writing is a largely antiquated notion. Being a writer these days isn’t so different from being an entrepreneur.

All of this can seem scary and overwhelming to writers who are already nervous about marketing. The first thing to realize is that’s okay. You feel that way because you’re facing a challenge to expand your growth on a number of levels. Feeling this way is a sign you’re on a positive track that will transform your life.

The second thing to realize is you won’t always feel this way. If you’re truly committed to becoming a successful writer, there is no reason you can’t learn everything you need to know about how to market and sell your books. All it takes is the willingness to learn, put in the time and the effort, make mistakes, try again, and nurture your own experience as you go.

To get you started, here are five mindsets to balance out the fear that marketing is hard for writers. Just being able to recognize and acknowledge underlying reasons for those fears can help you move through them to the tremendous opportunities and rewards available on the other side.

1. Realize Writing and Marketing Are Different Areas of Expertise

Marketing is a field all its own. One of the reasons writers initially struggle with marketing is simply that writing and marketing are entirely different experiences. Being a writer is an entirely different identity from being a marketer. In many ways, the two can seem completely opposite. If nothing else, writing is a personal and introverted task, while marketing is a public and extroverted task.

Completing the feat of learning how to write a book is a mountaintop experience that can often lead writers to exhale in relief. You’ve done it! You’ve reached completion. But the journey isn’t over. No one will ever read a book unless they know about it. The simple fact that a great book exists will not draw readers. The only way to attract readers (and sales) is to embrace the next mountain. Beliefs that you shouldn’t have to learn both skills or that simply writing a book should be “enough” are counter-productive and will only hold you back.

All of that said, it’s also useful to recognize that despite all their differences, writing and marketing also share common ground. Both are, in fact, deeply creative and inventive acts, requiring keen awareness of self and others and an instinctive sensitivity and intuition about what works. Viewing marketing as an expression of creativity can help bridge what sometimes seems an insurmountable wall between marketing and writing.

2. Embrace Marketing as a High-Level Set of Skills

Marketing is an art form. It’s not just the fries added on to your burger combo meal. Just like writing, marketing is a full ten-course meal all unto itself. To truly thrive at marketing—and to truly appreciate the experience of marketing—writers must recognize that marketing represents a high-level skillset. Successful marketing requires respect for those skills.

It’s no different from writing a book: although formulae can be followed (and often are in the beginning when the person is still learning), the true magic doesn’t happen until the person grasps the deeper theory and applies those principles in a way that arises from their own unique creativity and intuition.

By all means, learn the marketing formulae. Pay attention when marketing gurus tell you to start a mailing list, run promos, buy ads, etc. But don’t treat it as a checklist. Like writing itself, marketing requires more respect and love than that. It requires not just a commitment to learning what to do but also to understanding why.

It’s true marketing is not easy. This is often what trips writers up. But just remember this: writing isn’t easy either. If one is worth mastering, so is the other.

3. Commit to Gaining the Three E’s: Education, Experience, and Expertise

Marketing is a commitment. It is a commitment to yourself, to the book you have so proudly created, to your belief in the importance of putting that book out into the world where it can be read, and to your own continuing growth. If you have written a book that is ready to be published, then it is not “unfair” that you now have to market it. Marketing is the natural next step on your adventure. It is an inherent part of the experience. To spend years on your literary masterpiece only to expect to knock out the necessary marketing in a weekend is not only unrealistic, it is also disrespectful to your larger dream for that book.

The only way to become a successful marketer is to commit to putting in the time and the work. This requires the cultivation of the “three e’s”: education, experience, and expertise.

Educate yourself about marketing. And I mean go deep. Sign up for e-letters and blogs written by fellow authors who offer marketing advice (such as The Creative Penn, David Gaughran, and Kindlepreneur), but don’t stop there. Studying marketing itself. Study copywriting. Study advertising. Study social media. Study web design. Study graphic design. You don’t have to study all of these right away or to the same depth. But go beyond the advice of the writing world to study marketing from within its own field. Just as writing is a life-long study and practice, so is marketing.

Learn from your own experiences. The most valuable lessons I have gleaned about marketing have been through my own trial and error. Take what you’re learning and apply it. See what results you get. See how people respond. See how you respond. Find out what approaches light up your creativity versus those that make you feel icky or dead inside. Marketing techniques evolve more quickly than ever these days, so it’s important not to get stuck in ruts. Stay curious. You may even find that marketing becomes as enjoyable a creative pursuit as writing itself.

Finally, cultivate expertise. Take pride in your marketing, just as you do your writing. You are a marketer now, so you might as well be the best you can possibly be.

4. Start Thinking of Yourself as a Businessperson as Well as a Writer

Marketing is a business. If you’re now a marketer, then you’re also a businessperson. If you’re writing for money and particularly if it is your career or you want it to be, then writing is your business. This means moving beyond the starving artist trope to learn the technicalities and legalities of setting yourself up for financial success.

At the least, this might mean creating a professional website and mailing list. It might also mean hiring an accountant or incorporating as an LLC. It means budgeting and setting up retirement funds and paying for your own insurance and learning how to file taxes on royalties or as a self-employed entity.

As a writer, your top priority is your art. But as a businessperson, the bottom line is money. If you’re writing full-time, this means all your resources are dependent on your writing, which means practical concerns must enter in to your decisions, both about what you write and also about how you market and sell your creations.

I’ll be straight with you: marketing gets a whole lot more appealing right about the time you realize it’s what puts bread on your table.

5. Accept That Running a Business Requires As Much or More Time and Commitment Than Writing a Book

Marketing is a job. “Full-time writer” evokes idyllic images of spending one’s days scribbling away in a book-lined study, only occasionally emerging for crumpets and tea. Perhaps this was true enough a century or two ago, but for the vast majority of modern midlist or indie authors this is not the whole picture. If you’re a full-time writer, then the act of writing is only a small part of your professional responsibilities.

Last year when I talked about what my daily schedule looks like, quite a few people were surprised at how little time I spent writing. And it’s true. Half or more of my time is spent on tasks other than actively writing. I might be answering emails, maintaining or updating my website, or posting to social media. Or I might be working on other aspects of content creation necessary to get the writing out there—editing a blog post, recording a podcast, typesetting a book, researching, working with a cover designer, negotiating for foreign rights, doing monthly accounting, planning new projects, writing up a weekly schedule, etc.

Being a full-time writer can be idyllic. To the degree you are successful, you have the opportunity to set your own schedule, work from home, and control all the most important decisions about your work and your life. But as any entrepreneur or self-employed person can tell you, the idea that you will end up working fewer hours than someone in a corporate job (especially when you’re starting out) is laughable. There are so many other tasks involved with the business of writing than just the writing, some of which are mind-numbing, but many of which are great fun in their own right.

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Ultimately, I think the main reason marketing is hard for writers is simply the result of their either not understanding the big picture of what it takes to live successfully as a full-time author or a “magical thinking” that is in resistance to those facts. There is no magic carpet that will take even the best-written book to bestseller status. There is only the opportunity, available to all of us, to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Making the business of writing your career is a grand way to spend your life. I have no regrets or complaints. Indeed, I feel incredibly blessed and lucky. But it’s not a fairy tale. It’s a job, and just like any job, the best way to get ahead is simply to put your head down and do the work.

If you ever feel resistant to the idea of marketing, see if you can go a little deeper and examine your own reasons behind this resistance. What you find may simply be a general sense of bewilderment at not knowing how to market. The good news is that’s where everyone starts. From there, the possibilities of what you may learn and where you may go are limitless.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Why do you think marketing is hard for writers? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in Apple Podcast or Amazon Music).

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. The best part of this is where you mention all the things you do that aren’t writing.
    I agonise over the fact that I’m not getting on with book 4 of my fantasy series, or book 3 of my historical novel series. Readers are waiting (I kid myself) for the next book and I’ve not yet got past chapter 3! Will the *few* readers I have give up on it because of this?
    To read your list makes me feel better if I don’t write more than 100 words today. Thank you.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hah! It’s taken me all of the sixteen years I’ve been doing this to rewire my brain into realizing that it still counts as “work” if I’m doing something that’s not writing.

  2. All good advice. I think the reason why writing is hard for writers is because as a group, they tend to be introverts and tend to be an anxious lot. You mention marketing, but it has an inescapable brother – salesmanship. Salesmanship and marketing are related in the way that story structure is related to grammar, and both are needed to create a successful product. I know myself to be a hideous salesman, but that’s a long, old story. There are new approaches to salesmanship, but it always involves putting yourself out there and offering to trade your product for a customers money. This can be a terrifying thing, and I sense you may be the best person to talk writers through this.
    I’d also say that writers should learn about marketing and business, but don’t fall into the trap of constantly chasing knowledge if you want to build a business. I’ve seen far too many fantasy writers spend years in world building, and never get around to writing a story. If that’s your hobby – cool, but if your goal is to be a money making writer, all things must be in balance.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Part of being successful at selling is the mindset shift into realizing the inherent value in what you are offering. Instead of looking at selling as an “ask,” the shift is into realizing that we’re actually offering something that is valuable and important to the world. The question shifts from, “How can I convince you to give me money for this?” to “How can I offer the most value?”

      • I’ve been through hundreds of hours of sales training. I’ve heard all that in hundreds of different ways. I’ve made thousands of sales calls, working with a number of trainers. When I say I cannot sell, it’s been thoroughly tested. Not everyone is made to do everything.

  3. Gary Lee Webb says

    Looking forward to your follow-up article, “Acquiring an Agent” (assuming you have not already written it). Correct me if I am wrong, but the easiest way to market is to find someone with the skills.

    • Agents will not market for you. Publishers do almost no marketing either. Getting a traditional publishing deal will take care of supply chain management, and that’s it. They expect and favor authors who are motivated to push their books.

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        Yes, I will echo this. Agents will not directly help you market your book. However, if you’re wanting to take a traditional route with your stories, there are many wonderful resources about finding and querying agents.

    • Laura is correct. Even 15 – 20 years ago editors / agents were demanding a writer query with a marketing plan to go with the book submission. They wanted you to have done your market research. In other words, they wanted you to do their job for them.

      You would be better off on your own. At least learn about licensing — where you allow the right to publish your work in whatever form, but for a limited time or a certain amount of money — and copyright. Writing is a business, after all.

  4. I think half of my issue with marketing (and I do this for a living for an engineering company) is trying to fight the online social media bots that insist on hiding your feed once you stop paying them. I was doing okay with reach on my own. Then I purchased an ad. Once I stopped running that ad, my account has been buried and I am no where NEAR the reach I had prior to the ad. I’ve been struggling for the last six months to get it back to what I had prior to the ad purchase but I don’t think it’ll ever happen at this rate. They want the money to show the accounts.

    I get that you need to buy ads/spend money on occasion, but not everyone has an unlimited budget to keep funneling their money to the online ads. And yes, you need a mailing list, but 99% of the time, that mailing list starts where: online where you’re buried unless you pay to play.

    Social Media has made the ‘marketing’ aspect for indie authors virtually impossible and I feel like I’m constantly hitting my head against their newest and latest and greatest brick wall of algorithms and set-backs.

    So, while I do know that writing is a business, and I have a subset of that business, marketing as an indie author has been nothing short but a money drain and a nightmare with very little to show for it. It’s not that I’m not willing to do the work. I am doing the work. I just can’t afford to KEEP doing it, which is a shame. I feel like I’d have done better having never bought the ad in the first place. At least then my accounts were seen. Now? I might as well start from scratch.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s an interesting moment in time in which to be involved in online business (and who isn’t to one degree or another?). On the one hand, we have access to so many incredible technologies that allow us opportunities previous generations of writers could only dream of. On the other, those technologies are always evolving, shifting, and sometimes obfuscating. For what it’s worth, I will say that I have yet to use ads. I have relied almost entirely on content marketing and have found it successful enough that I haven’t needed to mess with ads. That may change at some point, of course.

      • You say you don’t use ads, but you do. You may not need to buy them like others, but you use them. This article I am reading now is chuck full of adds for fiction and nonfiction books you have written. Few of us have that option and yes, I understand the difference. Richard Weter, Springfield, MO.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          I’m sure you do understand the difference, but those who might not, I will clarify that “advertising” on my own site by linking to my books is content marketing. This means I create free content that brings people in, which then allows me to show them other items that are for sale. Advertising, strictly speaking, is when you pay for your product to be linked or shown on someone else’s site (most commonly Google, Facebook, or Amazon).

  5. Thea T. Kelley says

    I appreciate “Find out what approaches light up your creativity versus those that make you feel icky or dead inside.” Yes, and working on my head so that more and more of marketing begins to land in the “light up” category and less in the “icky/dead” place!

  6. Here’s the other problem with marketing–it’s a completely different skill set and one that many of us are probably not interested in or gifted in. I know there are certain aspects of any job or hobby or career that a person doesn’t like, but those aspects should require a minority of their time, otherwise they would choose a different job/hobby/career. This article, however, suggests we become experts in a field I don’t like–at all. So, I suppose the only option left for me is to hire someone or some company to do the marketing for me. Which requires money. Thus, it makes sense economically to do it myself, yet again, that means I’m spending my time and brain power on something that drains me in so many ways and makes my eyes glaze over. I don’t want to purposely limit myself, yet there is so much about marketing and social media that I abhor. I realize much of my “success” as an author hinges on figuring out this area, but it really has become a catch-22 for me.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This is one of the reasons I believe it is so important for each person to be realistic about their own definitions of success and what level of effort is a worthy exchange for that success. We don’t live in an ideal world, and there will be always be compromises and sacrifices. The trick is finding the balance where we can be at peace with our decisions.

  7. I’m an outlier here. I’m allergic to marketing and I get panic attacks when faced with selling. Those are like dirty words in my lexicon. My dream is to outsource those tasks. I will have to direct my people, but I’m still hoping I don’t have to sell my soul. I’m a right-brainer and I’m psychologically incapable of marketing and selling.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Marketing is a growth edge for almost everyone, particularly those of us who come to as a secondary pursuit. If you want it to be, it can certainly offer the opportunity to grow in strength and courage. Next week, I’ll be talking a bit more about this and some of the techniques I’ve used to help me stretch my own comfort zone.

  8. Reason #6 is the one that I struggle with: the time. I have a day job that doesn’t leave much free time or energy, so the time I have available to work on my writing projects is limited. When I’m in the writing phase, I’m super reluctant to set aside the draft and lose momentum in the story to do the hard(er for me) work of marketing. After some early success with book 1, it is now invisible because I am not actively marketing. I want to get the next book done and released so I have something to promote… so book 1 languishes because I’m working on book 2. Since reasons 1-5 also apply to me, this is where I am stuck.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Time is an issue for almost everyone. One thing I’ve discovered over the years is that the more books I write, products I create, or the bigger the website gets, the more time is required simply for maintenance. I can’t be creative at the level I was ten years ago, because I simply don’t have the time. And the more new I create, the greater the paradox becomes. Prioritizing and being pragmatic is the best (only) approach I know. I’ll be posting about time strategies a bit later on this year.

  9. You have nailed it here, marketing is a huge part of being a writer. I have been a full time journalist for 30 years. In about 2010 I started blogging to get my name out there, and that became as much of a writing task as my actual feature writing. Then in 2016 I started another website and that swallowed up more time, but it was the constant marketing that was the big drain. We all expect to be continuously and constantly entertained or notified about things, and that means that we must be working at marketing much of the time. I also was quite amazed to see how little time you spent writing, and how much time you spent promoting and marketing yourself. Heather (above) is absolutely correct when she says that the biggest part of the social media maze is how it is constantly changing, and you are having to keep up to date with ever-more ‘new’ platforms and methods of communicating. Unfortunately it is true that publishers don’t do more for their authors, and the burden of marketing yourself as an author, falls on you. The world has changed so much in the last two decades with the internet, emails and social media, that it can be overwhelming. But you have to do it, so the sooner you get your marketing hat on the better. Keep up the good work Katie!!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Haha, I know, right? I started this site sixteen years ago as a way to help me sell my fiction. Now, it is where the majority of my time and effort goes. Not complaining, because I fell in love with it (and I think that’s the key to any long-lasting marketing strategy), but you never know where your marketing ideas are going to take you!

  10. Needed to read this today. Thanks. My struggle is with the imposter syndrome. But, darn it, I’m done with self-sabotage. It’s not about me, it’s about my stories!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hear, hear! I’ll be posting next week about how the mind games we play with ourselves can inhibit our marketing efforts.

  11. Once you get past the social dread of shilling your work, the biggest barrier to marketing is technical.

    Websites require coding. Ad campaigns are technically complex to set up and run. Managing a CRM system is both expensive and has a huge learning curve, which makes it difficult to extract value from crm management before it drains you dry.

    Leaning to speak up and sell your work is what separates hobby authors from professionals.

    Acquiring those technical skills (or getting lucky enough to find someone competent to outsource the work to) makes the difference between pros who suffer and pros who thrive.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      When I started out, I did all of those things and more for myself. I learned a ton in doing so. There are still certain things I prefer to do myself. But hiring professionals, particularly for skills you don’t have (i.e., cover design) can often be well worth the investment.

  12. Felicity Seeley says

    Thank you! I was actually trying to find an article laying this out a couple of weeks ago. My dad is in his second round of reasonably successful entrepreneurial enterprises, and I’m nearing the end of my first writing project. The similarities of our emotional ups-and-downs struck me. I think there’s a way that, when a writer really gives him- or herself to writing, it’s the same leap of faith that an entrepreneur makes to start a business.

    We have the courage, but to learn the skills is intimidating. Thank you for your help!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally. The term “authorpreneur” is kind of a cliche these days, but I still think it rings with a lot of truth. In fact, the more I have identified myself as an entrepreneur, the more in alignment I have felt with all of the many hats I have to wear in order to get my writing into the world.

  13. As someone with a business degree (which included taking a marketing class), I don’t recommend it to writers unless there’s some other reason they want it (such as getting a job which will financially support them while they write in their spare time). Many of the things you learn in a college marketing class won’t really apply to being an author, and the stuff that does can be learned more quickly and directly from marketing resources directed at authors specifically (such as some of the sources you mention). That is even more true about other business classes, which are typically oriented towards how to manage large enterprises, not solo entrepreneurship.

    Actually, I think the most useful part of my business education with regards to writing is the analytical mindset, but that applies as much to the act of writing itself as running a writing business.

  14. Thank you for this article. So needed. Two of my historical trilogy have been published, just because a small publisher approached me. I even had a movie company write a script for my first book. Those two companies went bankrupt during the COVID era. Now I’m nearing the end of my third volume. I have someone to publish it, but I know I will have to do my own marketing. I’ve had a web presence for many years, but there is much more to do. So your advice is very timely.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Oh, wow. Highs and lows! The good (and bad?) thing about marketing is that there is always more to do. The options are never exhausted.

  15. So I was a web producer for a daily newspaper several years ago. I did email campaigns, social media, all that stuff. I will tell you a few practical things:

    1) If you do newsletters, find out what’s standard for “open rates” and the other related metrics. For us we learned that if 30-40% of your readers are opening your email, you’re doing good. I don’t know what metrics are good for a novelist, but I’d imagine it’s similar. Your newsletter provider will help you figure that out, because educating their customer is part of their customer service … and marketing.

    If you wonder why wouldn’t someone *open* the email? For me personally, I sign up for newsletters sometimes just because someone is new to me, and the email serves the purpose of reminding me of their existence. I may not open it; I may simply go to Amazon / your website when I see your email in my inbox, because I know you have something new to offer.

    1a) If you want someone to *open* the email, make sure to have a subject line that offers a clue: “free giveaway, contest, pre-order, etc.” something where I *have* to interact with the contents of the email.

    2) If you have a website, you are marketing simply by doing basic things like: 1) telling me the series order of the books in your series 2) If you have a universe, organizing the listings by the series / trilogies / standalones for given sectors of your universe.

    Note: you would do the same thing in your ebook / dead tree book simply by including a “book card” in your front matter. And a book card is what they call the page where an author lists the other books he or she wrote.

    3) Do you have an Amazon page? Have you made sure your ebook and print book are linked together? If you haven’t, make sure to do that.

    4) Practice writing “loglines.” For screenplays, a logline is either a 30 – 50 word / 300-character summary of a story; it would appear on the spine of the screenplay. For a novelist, it’s the “blurb” you’d use for BookBub or eBookSoda. If you aren’t subscribed to those, then compare it to a Netflix synopsis for a movie or a TV episode. Facebook, Google, and X (née Twitter) will also make use of those, if that’s the description in the meta tags of your website dedicated to that book / series.

    Novelist Graeme Shimmin has a “Killogator” formula for writing loglines that will serve you well. In the Killogator formula, your logline will mention the setting, protagonist, problem, antagonist, conflict, and goal. If you’re writing a fantasy, use the setting. If your story is a mundane place in modern times, skip it.

    5) Practice writing your back-of-the-book summary, which is an expanded version of the logline, but details the plot up to the Inciting Incident, and may includes the story’s theme.

    Note, if you use Scrivener, you might create a “back matter” folder where you keep your logline / summary so you can copy and paste it wherever you need it.

    6) Speaking of BookBub they have a BookBub Partners email list for learning about book marketing. They analyze ads, give marketing tips, offer resources, and so on. Take advantage of it; it’s free.

    Even if you’re shy about marketing, and can’t stand the idea of it, points 2-5 are the bare minimum you should do. They call upon your skills as a writer. Back in the day an agent at Writer’s House (they rep Nora Roberts and Sarah J. Maas, for instance) once explained that the point of a query was to see: 1) How well a writer strings words together, with wit and verve and proper grammar, and also 2) to see how well a writer plots. That is, does the plot unfold in your synopsis in a logical way, or does it seem as if the plot is haphazard and nonsensical?

    Writers who fail at tasks 4 and 5 save me a lot of money when I see their loglines / summaries on BookBub and Amazon, because they *don’t* convince me to their your story, and my to-read list is *long* 🙂 But of course, you’re here because you want to succeed, and I wish you all the best of luck 🙂

  16. Katie, you are so on-point with this post. And it starts with the title and the very first words in it. Specifically the word(s): “writer” and “writing.” I’m always amazed when people who want to be professional about this writing thing think that that’s all they have to do. I mean, come on! Have you—readers of this post—ever met a professional photographer who doesn’t understand the importance of marketing or business? Or a successful painter? Of course not. Yet, writers—who aren’t doing it as a hobby, which is perfectly fine—seem to think they only have to write. Ah, no. It would be like trying to create a book but never getting around to creating the cover for it. (FYI: when I start a new book, I design a draft cover before I write a single word!)

    As Katie perfectly says, marketing is a skill and an art form in its own right. Embrace it. Be creative with it. It’s really not that hard.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I think some of this mindset arises from old stereotypes and lot of it out of the simple fear that many of us feel around marketing when starting out. It can seem so foreign and out of our wheelhouse. But just like with writing a book, if we eat the elephant one bite at a time, it becomes less and less formidable. After a certain point, you may even begin to find it enjoyable.

    • Perhaps not, if you have some idea how to get started. Maybe I am just a hobbyist, as I am retired and don’t have to buy groceries with my writing. I would like for people to read it, however.

  17. Everything I read about how to get started marketing asks me questions about my audience that not only can I not answer, but I am only directed to some expensive software that will tell me what’s hot on the market, not who is reading what I write. I have a good many tech skills, am good at photoshop and some AI, have managed web sites and social media for a small college, and do have a small mailing list and Yadda Yadda Yadda. I do NOT KNOW how to figure out what to do, when to do it, what to say, and being told “Everyone does it their own way” sucks as advice. I do not like much of the marketing that targets me (old, fat, woman). I know this sounds like whining, and maybe it is, but I am so frustrated that I cannot seem to find information that I can use and apply. If you have some resources that you recommend, I’d love to hear about them.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I have always appreciated Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn. Particularly if you go back in the archives, she shares specifically what works for her and what her results have been. Speaking out of my own personal experience, my way through the maze of confusion was the simple and un-sexy trial and error. I did everything that was recommended, threw everything I could think of at the wall, and waited to see what stuck.

    • ::Applauding:: You’re not alone! LOL I’m in the same boat. I’ve got my audience, though. But getting engagement? Nope. Impossible. Nothing I’ve tried gets any real traction. But, I go back to having made the mistake of buying an ad. I had SOME until I stopped paying for it. Then they buried my accounts. So, what I’m saying is, sometimes, it’s NOT you. It’s them and you’re fighting a HUGE-@$$ machine that’s only logic makes sense to other computers.

  18. Katie, this is one post I will read multiple times. It’s made me wonder whether I have a realistic understanding of my role and responsibilities as a writer. I enjoy writing, delight in creating stories, but the business aspects of getting readers connected to what I write is daunting. I loved your answer to Charlotte, that you just did it and learned through trial and error. I see myself doing this as well. I think a good place to start is to develop my contact list, get on a mail server, write a monthly newsletter, and bring my contacts along with me as I seek an (new) agent and beyond to publication. The road has been rocky (my debut stalled and fell out of contract with a faithless publisher) and perhaps sharing this journey with my readers will morph into a loyal following. Thanks so much for your honest words, even if they leave me winded!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It can all seem overwhelming in the beginning. My top recommendation would be to get clear on your own definition of success and your own specific goals for what you want to achieve. Maybe you don’t want to make writing your full-time gig right away. Maybe you just want to sell a certain number of books or get a certain number of hits to your website. Starting with smaller goals makes things more manageable. Once you feel you’ve achieved one goal, then you can look up to see what might be the next reasonable challenge.

  19. Katie,
    This might be one of the most challenging and best posts you’ve ever written, and I think you’ve written some absolutely brilliant posts. I’ve been at it (banging my head against the marketing grindstone), for a long time and never really grasped these concepts. I believe I realized that marketing is a highly skilled artform all its own. I watched my own mother, who was something of a marketer/PR person, do this well. But I dismissed my ability to learn it and attain any level of expertise. And, because it never appealed to me, I believed someone with my personality/demeanor would never be able to do it well, nor, to my own detriment, did I want to. But you have made me think (as usual) and realize I have some bad thinking towards marketing that I need to address. Truly eye opening! Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I have a quote framed on my nightstand that says, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” I think much of the resistance writers feel to marketing simply comes down to this. We fear we can’t do it. We fear we won’t understand it. We fear we’ll have to spend time on things we hate. Some of these fears may legitimately represent authentic truths for us (i.e., we *don’t* want to spend our time doing this), but often getting very clear on what we’re actually feeling can a) help us move through misconceptions that have overblown either the impregnability of marketing or our own inability in its face and b) help us work through the limitations in our own minds and nervous systems that are holding us back from what we are truly capable of achieving.

  20. The “magical thinking” comment really struck a chord with me. I sometimes daydream of my book being “discovered” or winning some kind of award and then the marketing will take care of itself! Lol
    There’s also the time element, as in how publishing has changed over time. I wrote a MG historical in 2010, published by Marshall Cavendish. The book earned very nice reviews, one starred, and it went to a second printing and a few years later, into paperback and then kindle. I did no marketing besides some school visits.
    Now, 14 years later, with my latest book, a YA historical, it’s a whole different world and I’ve been working very hard on the marketing. It’s been scary but I’ve also enjoyed learning very different skill sets. However, I have to fight back feelings of doubt/imposter syndrome telling me this book must not be as good as my last because if it was, I wouldn’t have to do all this work!
    Thank you for all you do and for putting the writing life into perspective. I often feel a day was wasted if I’d spent much of my time on marketing but now I see it’s all part of it.
    Write on!

  21. William (Truesdell) Prenevost says

    After 40 successful years as an arts marketing/communications specialist, I’m now in my Second Act pursuing my passion for writing fiction. When I finished my first novel just over ten years ago, I used a self-publisher and it was a failure. I took a step back and focused on my writing. It got better. I fine tuned my novel, a romantic comedy/satire about a sports talk radio station that tries to do “Arts Talk with attitude!” New title and cover and self-publisher. (Lulu.com under William P. Truesdell.) All much improved from the first round, but still my marketing experience selling professional theatre, symphony orchestras and even an opera company, and learning the newest techniques for selling books online hasn’t worked. Sometimes you need luck. (Yes, it could be I’m a lousy writer!)

    I’m pitching agents for my second work, a 64,000-word adult mix-genre novel, leaning towards mystery/suspence. I’ve studied how to get an agent for two years, written a million drafts of a pitch letter, paid a pro to find agents to target. I’m 2/3 through the list. Back to needing some luck as I finish a historical fiction. (If one genre doesn’t succeed, try another!)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      And I wish you all the luck! 🙂 Good for you for putting in the work. Now is probably a good time to throw in the oft-cited reminder of how many rejections famous writers often have to go through. It can be grounding and inspiring to remember that many of the authors we now look up to were in exactly the same boat–sometimes for decades.

  22. Hi, KM! Wow, this was a great post. As an unpublished writer, marketing is what I fear most, more than rejection in the published world, because I know without marketing, I won’t have the chance to be accepted or rejected. This is a scary topic for a lot of us, so thanks for making it sound more do-able!

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