`how to market your book if you hate marketing

How to Market Your Book–When You Hate Marketing

How to Market Your Book When You Hate Marketing PinterestWriters these days don’t get to think about just writing. If you want to learn how to sell your books, you must also think about marketing. And yet, most writers hate marketing.

Popular marketing wisdom, particularly within the last decade, says newbie authors should start building marketing platforms before they’re ever published. Start a blog, start a podcast, start a YouTube channel. Get active on Twitter. Build an email list.

This is something I’m frequently asked about. I get emails from authors saying,

I’m just starting to write my first book. What can I do to market it?

The sense from most of these authors is a little confused, sometimes even a little desperate. “Do I really have to do this?”

Writers know marketing is inevitable if they want to sell any copies and make any money. And yet, I daresay for almost all of us, there is this intuition that marketing isn’t just hard, it’s sometimes downright… icky.

Instead of trying to fully overcome that disconnect, I think it’s important to really look at it, to understand the nuances of the competing demands upon you, and to use them to refine a vision for how to sell your books without selling out.

3 Disconnects Between Writing and Marketing

These days, a writer is expected to be a marketer. This is absolutely true if you’re publishing independently, and only slightly less true if you’re publishing traditionally. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, baby. Millions of books are published every year. If your book is ever going to bob close enough to the surface to be fished out by readers, you must be prepared to equip it with some orange floaties.

Writers, like all artists, have long bemoaned the necessity of selling their work, in the active sense. We love to have our work validated by sales. But only the happy unicorns among us enjoy getting out there in the world with our sandwich boards to convince people our words merit a couple of their hard-earned dollars and a couple more of their precious leisure hours. Indeed, a profitable sub-industry exists within the writing world, designed to help frustrated and hapless writers find the techniques (and sometimes hacks) that will guide their books into Amazon’s Top 100.

It’s just one of the uncomfortable paradoxes of being a modern writer: writing and marketing go together about as well as oil and water—and yet go together they must. There are a couple reasons why this balance is so difficult.

1. Writing Is an Introverted Task; Marketing Is an Extroverted Task

Why’d you become a writer in the first place? Likely, it was because you had something to express and found the comforting solitude of expressing it within the metaphor of story to be the most natural mode. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are an introvert (although, odds are), but it does mean you’ve chosen to apply yourself to an introverted task. You’re good at it, and you’re doing everything you can to get better at it.

Marketing, however, is not introverted. Marketing demands you get out there, shake hands, kiss babies, and generally flaunt whatever you’ve got and sometimes even what you don’t got. This is where the major disconnect comes in for most artists. And with good reason. We’re basically being told that to be successful in our chosen field, we must go through a major personality transplant with every new book launch.

2. Art Is Genuine and Vulnerable; Marketing Is Not

Another disconnect is that, at least on a surface level, art and marketing seem to be polar opposites. Art is an expression of one’s genuine and vulnerable self. It says, “Here I am. Take me as I am or leave me as I am.”

Marketing, even at its most low-key, is about putting on a glitzy outfit and jumping up and down in the crowd to make sure you are the one noticed. Marketing is about making campaign promises that swear readers are going to love this book even before they’ve opened the front cover.

This “promise” is obviously problematic even when what the marketing is intended to sell is a BMW. But when you’re pitching something as undeniably subjective as art? That’s a false promise—and no one knows it better than the honest artist.

3. Art Is a Gift; Marketing Is a Sales Pitch

Those artists who make enough money off their art to allow them to create full-time are blessed. But I daresay few of us really write for the money. (If it was all about money, we’d ditch the writing and become full-time marketers, right?) We write because the writing is a gift to ourselves and, we hope, eventually a gift to others.

Marketing, however, is not about giving gifts. Under the guise of giving someone something they really want (and which, indeed, we hope they do), what we’re really trying to do is get something in return, whether it’s royalties or just the gratification of gaining a reader.

How to Reframe Ideas of How to Sell Your Books

Maybe you’re nodding your head, saying, “Yes! That’s exactly how I feel! Down with marketing!” And yet… the disconnect is still unresolved. It’s still there, for all of us, itching away with its dichotomous but undeniable necessity.

I believe that’s a good thing.

The disconnect’s not going away for any of us, and while that may not be particularly comfortable, I believe it’s an excellent sign. This deep-seated disconnect the artist feels with marketing keeps us honest. It keeps us focused on our true motives, reminds us of our priorities, and, I believe, makes us both better writers and better marketers.

That brings me back to our initial question: When and how should you think about how to sell your books?

But I don’t want to answer that question. I could say the usual bit about not getting your wires crossed too soon, about focusing on finishing the book first, on first having something to share with readers so they’ll have a reason to listen when you start talking on social media and your blog.

That’s old news. Honestly, that’s all pretty intuitive and obvious.

I also don’t want to talk about specific marketing techniques. I could say you need a blog you update regularly, you need a social media presence, you need Amazon and Facebook and Google ads, you need great cover art and flashy launch parties.

But that’s old news too. Maybe you need all that and maybe you don’t. Some authors have succeeded with these techniques, some have succeeded without them, some have succeeded in spite of them.

Here’s what I am going to say: If you don’t enjoy marketing, then stop thinking of it as marketing.

Listen to Sage Cohen’s advice in Fierce on the Page:

Instead of thinking of your writing as a product you are selling, think of it as an offering you are making…. What do you hope to contribute?

Because that’s really what you’re doing, right? I mean, really? Maybe you have to think about it for a bit, because, yeah, of course you also want to be famous and make a million dollars. But if I told you straight up that was never gonna happen, you’d keep writing, right? You’d probably even keep trying to get your books out there where others could read them, wouldn’t you?

That is the artist’s soul in you. It’s also, I sincerely believe, your greatest key to finding your audience and marketing your books.

The Slippery Slope of Sell-Sell-Selling

Ironically, the mindset of embracing the art above all else also presents its own disconnect. As much as we may not want to market our work, we absolutely do want to be paid—preferably, as much as possible. We get huffy when we realize readers are willing to pay twice as much for their daily latte as one of our amazing e-books. And buying used books instead of the new ones that give authors their royalties? Anathema!

I’ve chased this rabbit down its hole. I evolved from inveterate-introverted-writer-who-despised-marketing into someone who reluctantly embraced the necessity of the sales pitch, to someone who became pretty good at it, to someone who was beginning to slide down the slippery slope of valuing commercialism over art.

For me, this eventually led to a period of burnout and soul-searching, which in turn led me to axe a couple techniques that were profitable but that didn’t completely align with who I wanted to be as an artist or a person. Actually, I still feel a little twitchy even writing this post. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve definitely had moments where I (unintentionally) treated my readers with disrespect, where I saw them as buyers instead of fellow travelers. I have occasionally (and certainly not for the last time, I’m sure) failed to recognize and act on my own disconnects between commercial opportunities and artistic values.

But along the way, I have learned (and continue to learn) how to maintain the delicate balance of earning a living as an artist.

Selling is just part of our world. It’s a part of being a writer—whether you’re pitching your book to agents, brainstorming scintillating back-cover copy, researching keywords on Amazon, meeting-and-greeting at conferences, chatting it up on social media, or sharing pix of your cat or kids on your blog. It’s all marketing, and it’s all unavoidable.

What is avoidable is the disconnect between marketing your work and feeling like you either have to sell off a piece of your soul to do it or, at the least, assume a falsely extroverted and pushy persona.

Stop Selling, Start Contributing

Instead, view marketing as Cohen suggests. You’re not trying to cram your book down an unwilling reader’s throat. (Who wants that reader anyway?) You’re not jumping up and down in the crowd and shouting, “Lookatme, lookatme!”

What you’re trying to do is contribute something of value to the world. You’re a writer. You’re an artist. You’re one of those lucky people who gets to mainline themselves as their contribution to the world. Your authentic self is the most important thing you bring. So bring it.

If your stories aren’t connecting with readers, if they’re not selling yet, take a step back and figure out why your fiction isn’t filling a need readers have. This doesn’t mean your stories or your marketing platform should be “message” based. Stripped down to simplicity, we know what people need are good stories. This is why the art form, and thus the market, exists at all.

So if your marketing efforts aren’t bearing fruit, look first to the product itself. Is it filling the need for good stories? Or does it maybe need a little more work?

Then look at the packaging. Is your book cover, your back cover copy, even your website giving readers reliable clues that this is that good story they need?

Consider your interaction with readers. This is most obvious on the level of personal interaction: your blog, your social media presence. Perhaps your platform is message-based, and people are coming to you for specific advice or information (e.g., technically, my platform and this blog are “message”-based). Or perhaps they’re just coming to you because they connected with either your fiction or you yourself. Connect back. Don’t sell to them. Serve them.

Then look beyond direct personal interactions. The way you present yourself even in ads represents an interaction with your readers. The ads are there to offer what you have to give.

And don’t forget humility. I believe wholeheartedly that each person has something of value to bring to the world. But just because you’ve built it doesn’t mean people will automatically find it worthy. Hold out your gifts, but realize no one is obligated to take them. Sometimes what we have to give isn’t necessarily ready to be given. Or we’re trying to give it to the wrong people. Or we’re giving it in the wrong way.

Actually, isn’t that the whole point of this discussion? For the artist who wishes to minimize the disconnect being creating and selling, what should marketing ultimately be if not a pursuit of, first, learning how to create something worth giving and, then, learning how to give it in the best way?

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! How do you balance figuring out how to sell your books with figuring out how to live your best artistic life? Tell me in the comments!

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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.


  1. In Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki told a author that she should take some courses in marketing. She was appalled, saying it was art, not commerce. He made the point that best writing author does not mean best selling author, and vice versa. If you need further proof of this, look at 50 Shades of Grey.

  2. This was exactly what I needed right now. I’m planning to publish my first by the end of this year, and lately have felt kinda lost in the myriad of things to do and know.
    It’s so easy to assume that noise makes up for sincerity, especially watching all these others who make a big splash wherever they go because of their larger-than-life personalities. Cliché as it sounds, ‘be yourself’ really is profound advice. Thank you. This was really encouraging.

  3. So, the best way to market is to keep in mind how awesome the book actually is, and that the right people should be eager to spend time with it?

    Just like it’s the only way–or reason–to write it at all.

  4. After reading this just now it occurred to me that in any story there must be something interesting going on. That is interesting to the reader. So I think that “what’s interesting” is the marketing pitch. And you are making this pitch to the reader who is also interested in what your book is about. NOT to readers who could care less or those who like something different.

    Marketing is not about trying to convert readers of another genre. I like espionage thrillers. So, as a reader, I am always looking for new books about spies, corruption and stuff like that. The thing is that readers are always looking for new books. So my idea is to address yourself to like-minded people and tell them what’s neat about your story. It’s like letting them in on a secret world where they can hang out. It’s like telling them that chocolate is good in a latte. It’s like showing them the entrance into your secret world.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, it’s kind of like when you discover an amazing new brand of coffee–and you just can’t wait to share it with everyone you know.

  5. Sorry K.M., loved your site for ages now but couldn’t disagree more with this post. This must be your weakest blog entry I’ve read, it betrays you succumbing to the terrible cliche of sales and marketing being fake and beneath the grand, beautiful, human pinnacle of art/writing. You would do well to read Larry Correia’s post on the subject so you can be returned to Earth’s atmosphere and possibly even to the ground again from the pedestal you’re standing on way the hell out there.

    Consider how you are actually marketing the act of writing in this very post! Marketing, selling, these are daily, built-in mechanisms our species possesses to convey ideas, nothing more. Writing is marketing– everything is, it’s only a matter of audience and intention. Going out to eat with friends? The best at sales and marketing gets to choose which place you end up eating at. Buying a car? You are selling the salesperson on what YOU want and how much YOU wish to pay, just as they are trying to sell you based on their incentives. Marketing done right and with integrity is just persuading people to get involved in something you believe will benefit them. Scientists sell their ideas and research projects for funding, people market themselves in the dating market to match up with someone, etc. Quite tiring how our society is built on marketing and sales in nearly every sector, yet it’s constantly derided. Sad to say but your post has the vibe of some first-year college lefty screed against The Man who simply doesn’t understand the raw beauty of some poem and how capitalism is evil for *gasp* allowing people to sell their work! Oh noes!

    It’s both sad and laughably transparent when writers push so hard to keep writing in a league of its own, elevated, something blessed from heavens– how dare we sully it by having to persuade people to become interested enough in it to yank out their debit card! Yawn. Let’s be real, we’re not talking about the Bible or Aristotle’s catalogue or whatever, this is 2018 with Amazon, Twitter, the whole deal: it’s not a “craft” or an “art,” it’s a hobby for 90% who try it and it’s a business for the 10% who make it economically viable for themselves. I think that’s great, everyone can enjoy it without deluding themselves about its prestige and status and lame hopes of sitting around with some useless people in an NY bookstore pontificating on the beauty of the “craft” while others make the actual world go round.

    You’re a good writer, a good marketer, and I have enjoyed the fruits of both from you for several years. If marketing is “fake,” it might just be an unconscious confession about your belief in your own work, which would be unfortunate– I think almost all of it has been quite good. Anyhow, we all disagree in some things, part of being an adult and I would never commit the genetic fallacy with you. I’ll be checking your posts until you stop! Take care.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Good counter-post. 🙂 I don’t particularly disagree with anything you’ve said here (I even wondered if maybe I sounded too preachy :p). Do I wish I could be just a writer and not a marketer? Sure. And perhaps that’s what you sense coming across here. But ultimately, I think something you said shares what I was trying to say better than I said it:

      “Marketing done right and with integrity is just persuading people to get involved in something you believe will benefit them.”

      *That* is marketing in all the best senses. That isn’t trying to gimmick customers into buying. It isn’t a betrayal of one’s own personality or values–which is what, I think, many writers fear from the idea of marketing.

      Certainly, marketing has its own noble aspects. But in the ad-inundated age in which we live, I think people are tired of being “sold” to. I don’t want to discourage promotion; I want to encourage a return to a more genuine and personalized approach to promotion–for the author’s sake as much as the reader’s.

      Actually, I’m encouraging myself in this as much as anyone. I don’t enjoy marketing, and I want to, and I think the only way (for me, anyway) to do that is to keep trying to do it from a more personalized place. And that’s something I’m still deep in the process of figuring out. To some extent, maybe a fulfillment of that idea is always going to be a pipe dream, since writers must operate within a larger system that often demands certain aspects of impersonalization. After all, we can’t be best buds with every single one of our readers, nor would most of us want to be.

      Still, I think there’s a lot of room for discussion and innovation and sincerity within the subject. And I appreciate yours. 🙂

  6. Excellent for us introverts. I’d add: be ready if you get lucky. Ecuse the length, but here’s my story: As I wrote my blook, I learned how to run a blog – but mostly told myself there was no point in marketing until I had several books out there. I listened to webinars that horrified me with their sell-sell-sell advice, though some had good tips on keywords and categories. Banked some short stories I could someday give away. Found Katie!

    Finally I had enough books available to feel marketing was worthwhile (and I’d learned how to write a better book.) I ran a few ads – Amazon, Fussy Librarian, Google, FB – dismal – barely any sales and all lost money. I joined FB groups, tweeted. No one joined my email list.

    Here’s my turning point: joined Instafreebie and gave away a few hundred long previews of 1st book in my series. Got 200 email list subscribers. Got an email from a teacher who liked my book! He bought the entire series! He followed my blog. Recommended me to other teachers on sites he’s used for years. Yeah – he’s the one with personal connections so people listen to his recommendations.

    This all just happened, but I have had the best sales week ever. I popped up to top 5% in Kindle paid sales (not just my category!) which I promoed all over twitter and FB. Joined a second giveaway-and-discounted book site – StoryOrigin. A bundle of 99 cent books are about to start (yes, I dropped my price on Amazon to qualify) so if people buy, it will be a sale on Amazon – and dozens of us authors are promoting the bundle, so FAR outreaches me alone.

    Will my luck continue? No idea.

    • This is helpful. Thanks. If my book is a hit with anybody, it will be a hit with teachers! If I could only get them to read. I’ll try this.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Congrats! That’s awesome. 🙂 I’d say you did all the right things. You put yourself out there, kept plugging, had patience, and didn’t give up. I ran into this apropos quote today: “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”–Will Rogers

    • Oh, BTW, you can get to Instafreebie with this link (yes, this is like my associates link) https://www.instafreebie.com/authors?invite_code=HMWnxxzfMW

    • Kate, thank you for your realistic version of what really happens. I’m stuck in that same place you were. I’m 4 novels in. I have a blog of over 500 subscribers (who I love) but that doesn’t translate to readers, I can’t get anyone to join an email list, I’ve been reluctant to do any ads mostly because I don’t want to waste the money (if history has proven itself so far), and quite frankly, it seems so confusing. I beat my head against the wall when I think about selling. Even freebies on smashwords didn’t turn into “buyers.” I just gave away a ton of free books! I’m on Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, FB groups, finally gave up on twitter, have an author website, everything I’m “supposed to do.” And nothing! Even KU proved no page reads the first time around so I’m giving it a second try. One week into it and nothing so far. I think I’ll try Instafreebie. That’s one I haven’t done. Thanks for the recommendation. And congratulations to your success! I also agree that luck and timing has a lot to do with it.

  7. I’ve done both, at different times in my life. I used to raise money for a non-profit group. I’ve pitched a lot of people in my life. Many tens of thousands! I find it hard to switch gears back.

    I agree the key is to offer something real. I don’t want to fool people, or confuse them. My book is what it is. I want to explain it. It will appeal to some people. It won’t appeal to others.

    Not sure why more non-authors don’t fill this role for authors, especially if there’s money to be made. It may go there in coming years. Or maybe there’s no money to be made! I’m not sure why traditional publishers expect authors to market either. What do traditional publishers offer, if not a platform for authors who have talent but not a platform? Isn’t that the point? If not, it smacks of taking a cut. You write the book, you create the platform, we get a piece of the action.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The times are a-changing. A lot of new marketing techniques have settled in, but I think a lot are yet figuring out their place within the overall scheme of things. I think one of the reasons more authors don’t hire marketers is two-fold:

      1. It’s expensive. Most unestablished authors can’t afford to have someone else do the work for them. So they do it themselves. If they know what they’re doing, they succeed and then figure, “Why not keep doing it for yourself?” And if they don’t succeed, well, money remains an issue.

      2. It’s hard to find marketing professionals who really know what they’re doing. It’s far easier to make money helping writers sell their books than it is to make money actually selling books. Hence, there are a ton of start-ups designed to help writers, but not all of them have the creds to do it any better than the authors might do it themselves.

      • There’s room for somebody to do this on a commission basis! If I expect to make a dollar a book off Amazon and I give a quarter to a marketer, that could work out well for both parties. The marketer worries about the platform. They don’t have to be Oprah. Maybe they start as a respected voice on Goodreads. They get traffic. They drop a mention of a book. Not a lot of work for them, with a potentially big payoff. Division of labor, working for you and me ever since we stopped scratching for slugs and such in leaf litter and took up farming.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          I bet there are people out there doing just that.

        • Working on commission, sharing the risk. Even someone like me with a paper-thin budget could get behind that. I haven’t made a big study of it, but from what I’ve seen people selling author-services want their fee up front. I’ll assume most are honest and do what they say they’ll do. If someone does work on commission, I assume they’ll be picky about their customers.

  8. Great, wise, and balanced approach to marketing, bravo! I never really knew a lot of these things in so many words, but I guess I just figured them out instinctively from watching others and doing what felt authentic. It IS hard to market sometimes and not feel embarrassed for marketing yourself, but at the same time I’m a firm believer in believing in the value of what you create (and making sure it DOES add value to people’s lives!). Bryan has some great advice and I’m glad he’s been able to help so many people with attracting the right readers to their books.

    • Though, to be fair, I am a very extroverted extrovert, so it has probably been easier for me than most writers, haha!

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        Hah. I still shudder when I think about the first time I lugged a box of my books around town, trying to get local bookshops to carry it. Terrifying. :p

  9. So, let me get this straight.

    Make a great product.

    Package the product so that it looks like what it is–cover, website, et al.–so that it will attract the attention of those who are looking for this sort of product.

    Connect with people and serve them–make them feel good when they connect.

    Is that your message here, or did I miss a bullet point? Fantastic stuff that gives me hope for the day (I fear it may be far off) when I have something for which people will pay. My hat’s off to you.

  10. Giving value, I really think that really is what it’s all about.
    I’m still figuring all this out as well, but I have a strong feeling that, these days, effective marketing happens when people know, like, and trust the author. At least, that’s what I’ve observed.
    In that sense, taking an authentic approach to marketing not only gets readers interested in the work, but also creates fans who are interested in the person creating it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      In mulling some more on this, I think one of the essentials at play here is the *author* coming to a realization of the book’s true value. We all love our stories, but I think we often struggle to believe they might actually be worth something to others. Certainly, there’s a balance between humility and confidence. But if we’re uncertain whether the book we’re offering *has* value, I think we have to go back and either figure out what that value really is or realize there isn’t enough value and work on improving that. Ultimately, that’s one of the essentials of simply writing a good story.

  11. To add a little perspective: I had a book come out early this year from a major publisher. The publisher has done amazing things to promote the book. I have also put in 200 hours of work to promote the book, such as blog tours, personal appearances, articles for magazines, visiting friends’ book clubs, and creating a website and updating it regularly. These are all things the publisher could not do for me. In fact, my contract obliges me to do “reasonable” things to promote my book.

    Two hundred hours of work so far this year — it’s happy work, and I’m having fun, but it is a lot of hours. If you’re publishing independently, be prepared to work at least that hard.

  12. Karmyn Konzal says

    Thank you for addressing this.
    I have always been afraid of marketing, or any kind of self promotion. Maybe because it was all on me and what if people find out I’m not as good as I claim.
    But I suppose that is nothing new.

    What you said about writing being an offering, not a product, resonates with me. I want nothing more than to be myself, it’s who I’m most comfortable with anyway.
    And I am really looking forward to ‘dreambreaker’ 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Totally. It’s a fine line, but there definitely feels like a huge difference between saying “Here’s my book! It’s amazing! You’ll love it!” and “Here’s my book! I put my heart into it! I hope you enjoy it!” The former is a promise we have no way of knowing whether we’ll be able to fulfill. The latter gives both us and the reader space to glean what they will from it.

  13. My fear of marketing is the reason I set up my website. I could not bring myself to force my books or stories on anyone, even my friends.(My husband has no such hesitations, he get my friends to read my stuff, I should have him market my work.) For so long I was to afraid of rejection that I did not do anything to put my writing out there.
    I have learned since starting my website and posting my short stories and putting excerpts of my work out into the world and just simply sharing the links on social media sites that while I love my work, I cannot expect it to be perfect for everyone.
    It is true that I am an author because I am an introvert and it is scary to try to put yourself out there. On the flip side if you ever want your work to be seen by the people who will need it in their lives eventually we have to open the door and show it to the world, one way or another.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Actually, I think you raise a really good point here. It’s super-hard for authors to be objective about their own work. This is one of the reasons it’s so hard to market it. Marketing is full of rejection: customers who aren’t interested or didn’t like the product. But when the product is your baby, it’s difficult not to take it all personally (even though, to the reader, it rarely is). It would be optimal to have someone else, who is not so invested in the work, do the marketing for us. But since that’s rarely an option, this is just yet another reason authors have to develop thick skins.

  14. Olaide J. Oladapo says

    Dear K.M. Weiland, Thanks once again. This post is a very good one for new authors like me. Keep up the good work!

  15. Bruce Morton says

    Thank you for your article!
    My book is about a father accused of raping his son.
    The ex wife had full custody.
    She was mad about visitation I was receiving.
    Then claimed I was sexually abusing my 3 yr old boy.
    For over 2 years, I couldn’t be alone with him.
    Then, right before the Judge was going to make permanent full custody decision (when accused, I immediately sued for custody), the ex wife abducted our son.
    I didn’t see him for 18 months.
    The ex had gone to CBS News with her story about 6 months before the abduction.
    CBS called me 2 days before the abduction stating they had been covering the story from my ex wife’s perspective and wanted to get my side of the story so they could determine if their “news” story would be a part of CBS 48 Hours, CBS 60 Minutes, or if it would be a special unto itself.

    This turned out to be Reality TV before there was such a genre.

    Little did I know that my ex was going to abscond with our son on the weekend before the final custody ruling. CBS News DID know that she was going to kidnap him.
    Very long story short, 18 months after the abduction, and a month after their CBS NEWS Special aired on prime time TV, the FBI called me to inform me that my ex wife had been arrested flying into NYC from Vienna, Austria, my son was OK, and I could come to New York and get him which I did on the following morning.

    The book is about the horrendous actions that CBS News put my son and my family through; and about a father who persevered and kept his sanity throughout a surreal and challenging 5 year period.

    Part of my marketing challenge is defining who my ideal target market is. I want CBS’s actions to be plain and clear; I am, and since 1990 have been a huge reader of Self Help, Motivation, and attitude type books. I strongly believe they helped me through the challenging times.
    One of my ideas was to release a chapter or two online; and include some video clips (20 seconds to 45 seconds) showing pieces of the CBS News Special.

    Any suggestions are welcome by you or your readers.
    Thank you K.M.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I think the first step would be to define clearly what your genre is. I’m sure there will be different approaches to marketing memoir vs. self-help.

  16. Thank you for this post. I’m not at the publishing point yet, so I’m trying not to think about marketing too hard. (I don’t want to scare myself into not finishing the book!) But I your advice to concentrate on what you can offer seems sound to me.

    On a slightly unrelated note, I’ve been wondering whether `Wayfairer’ was coming out later this year, or if it’s scheduled to come out next year.

  17. OK, you sold me. I guess I really do need to set up my website and even a blog. Can anyone direct me to good resources for how to be an effective blogger? I took a class and I have the word-press how to book, so i think I can manage the website basic set up; but I don’t know anything about being an effective blogger. Any referrals to books, webinars, and (reasonably priced) classes appreciated.

  18. Thanks for the perspective.

    Your post highlights, in part, the catch-22 I keep coming back to in my marketing efforts. You say that if marketing efforts don’t have traction, the problem may be the product, that the books don’t meet readers’ needs for a good story.

    One way to know if those needs are being met is sales. But, it could be that I just haven’t done enough marketing to attract sales and the books are fine.

    I can either spend my time doing more marketing to find out if the books are good–if that actually works–or I can spend time continually rewriting the books to make them better.

    Do you have a suggestion for my knowing where I am: at the point of more marketing or the point of more polishing? That’s a big one! Thanks!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Beta readers are instrumental in offering objective feedback on a book’s real-world readiness. Sometimes it’s also worthwhile to hire a professional editor. Many will offer a first-chapter review to give you an idea where you’re at before you commit to a full edit.

      • Thanks for your prompt reply. I do have a professional editor and several beta readers, a couple more helpful than others. In fact, one of the books in the first series has won a best self-published award from a reputable group.

        It is possible I’m compulsive about fiddling with the stories because I’m resisting more effort on the marketing front! Thanks for helping us all think about this.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          That’s understandable. Sometimes the efforts we put into editing are a little more obviously quantifiable than those for marketing. 🙂

  19. *sigh* I’ve tried so hard to be a responsible marketer. My books are through a small Indie-publisher, which means that at least I haven’t yet had to learn how to do Createspace or design my own covers (although I’ve had to come up with the photos used and help with the back blurbs). But I have to do all my own marketing. I’ve tried paying for “bumps” on social media and tried to entertain folks with my Amazon author page, I’ve stood smiling behind a table at every book fair in every city I could reach, donated copies to the local libraries, and looked up how to do a newsletter. But since I have no idea how to get an email list of fans started, that’s fallen by the wayside while I finish the next book in my series. I figured that since I like essay-type writing, a blog would be my best bet, but most of the time I sit there with maybe one sentence and a completely blank mind. Have you ever SEEN Kris Rusch’s blog? It’s miles long several times a month! But then, she has an extensive background in publishing, so there’s plenty of meat for her to tear into. And you write about how to write. Some people pop out a book a month, so they blog about WOW, look what I’ve done, so come and buy it! That’s not me. While I love writing books, I have no idea how to share HOW I do it nor any feeling that it hasn’t been said before. I certainly don’t want to be one of those newsletter/bloggers who start out “Hi! How’s your day going? Mine’s been fine, except that Ultrakitty decided to have her kittens in hubby’s sock drawer” etc. So I fumble back and forth, trying at best to just get my name out there somewhere, hoping someone who is interested in my kind of book will, kind of, stumble over it. And maybe tell a friend. Sounds pretty pitiful, doesn’t it? I didn’t choose to be a writer — it’s literally the only job I’ve ever had that always makes me happy. Just wish it made my creditors happy too.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Seriously, if you have a cat named Ultrakitty, you should write about her. 😉

      That said, I hear you. My own greatest challenge continues to be marketing my fiction. Non-fiction is comparatively super-easy. This time around, with Wayfarer, I’m working really hard on keywords and such. I’m really impressed with the keyword software KDP Rocket, which I’ve been using recently. I’ll be doing a review post on it later this fall.

    • Boy, do I hear you. Only one thing worked for me – so I’ll sing my one-note song. Instafreebie is a site where you upload a book or a preview, them join giveaway groups. The groups solicit emails for your list. Try it free for a month, then it costs to receive those email addresses. But I got 140 sign-ups in my free month and liked that enough to subscribe for a paid month You can always list your books for free, so try adding your sign up at the end of those. Here’s the link and good luck: https://www.instafreebie.com/authors?invite_code=HMWnxxzfMW

  20. Great post, there is a lot of food for thought here. BTW, in reference to a recent past post, I saw Nightwish last night and in heavy metal terms, they kicked a*s!

  21. Not studying marketing (or any business related course in College) is one of my regrets. Marketing is a necessary evil if we want to be discovered. Whether self-published or traditionally published, you need to sell yourself and your books. As they stressed at my last two writer’s conferences, “you are your brand”.
    The only thing I can say is that it gets easier as you keep working at it.
    Congratulations on a nicely written article. I enjoyed the self-reflective tone. Well done!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Same here. I do not believe someone needs to go to college to learn to write. But a business degree certainly wouldn’t go amiss. 🙂

  22. Thank you for this article. I’m an introvert and am struggling with extroverting to do marketing. I just published my first book and having my Book Launch party this Thursday. It has been an almost 30-year journey getting to this point. I thought the hard work was over once the book was done. Not so! It only just began! I like your idea of a mindset shift from ‘selling’ to ‘contributing’ because that is more of the attitude I have about my devotional. Wanting to help others who may struggle the same as I did, and still do.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Congratulations! I’m excited for you. 🙂 I think the mindset of “contributing” is a little easier and more intuitive for message-based platforms, like a devotional. I definitely find it easier to do that reframe with my non-fiction than my fiction, but fiction is certainly contributive as well.

  23. Interesting how this discussion strikes so close to home, even in my current temp contractor gig as a Technical Writer!

    As a Mechanical Engineer – rather than a business major – it feels foreign to have to tout the merits of the products that I am describing, since it seems that the advantages should be intuitively obvious to a casual (technical) reader.

    But what makes the job palatable is that I’m doing my best to be completely factual and objective with my writing, and steer clear of any hyperbole (which is a real turn-off for me, and for many technically-minded customers).

    I’m convinced that it is possible to keep your personal integrity AND be an enthusiastic advocate for whatever it is that you are “selling.” If you believe in it yourself, it’s easy and natural to be a proselyte…

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “I’m convinced that it is possible to keep your personal integrity AND be an enthusiastic advocate for whatever it is that you are “selling.” If you believe in it yourself, it’s easy and natural to be a proselyte…”

      Hear, hear! 🙂

  24. Thanks for the article. It is something I am grappling with especially in regards to time. I’m not too focussed on it yet due to not being ready to try and publish, but I was wondering about starting a blog to gain a potential readership then, when I’m ready to publish, they will be the first to know. Like build a reputation. As I’m looking at doing fiction and non I could even consider doing a blog for both types of writing.

    I especially like the last line of the post, puts it in a nutshell.

    Marketing is just communication. It can be fake, it can be real. I think though if you just put ‘your best foot forward’ so to speak, then that’s a good thing. I think getting a few reads from friends and family and using a few positive responses from them as part of the marketing is good.

    I recently read ‘The Shack’ which was a massive self publishing success and I read about some parts of the massive load of work that went into that to get it published. I find it can be helpful reading some stories about publishing like this as some dimensions can be helpful to just glean what we can from other accounts.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Marketing is just communication. It can be fake, it can be real.” Totally agree. This is the crux of the issue in a nutshell.

  25. Jeff Wunder says

    Great post. If you don’t feel that you have something to contribute, why in the world are you doing this? The effort required to create something of value is huge. There are much better ways to make money. If all you’re doing is trying to fit into a market niche, there are other markets with other products. Money and notoriety should be secondary. It shouldn’t be what writing is about, but unfortunately it is for too many people. I see many writers trying to copy other’s styles, content, advice, forming cliques, in-group out-group politics, etc. All in an effort to be marketable, and betraying their original motivation for writing. Forget it. Research markets, by all means. But be yourself, or it’s not worth it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s a fine line sometimes, since all these motivations have to live in the same space. But juggling them constantly keeps us honest, makes us face ourselves, learn our true motivations and desires, and, in the end, be better writers of human nature because of it.

      • Jeff Wunder says

        Yes, there’s give and take with the world, and you learn by doing, as in other crafts. But what I mean is that as a writer, you should have something to say, and you’re the ultimate judge of what that is. If you’re pandering too much to markets, you’re just another voice in the crowd. And even worse, you’ve lost your own integrity.

  26. Good post. This year, I had some poetry published in an anthology and I have a short story soon to be published in an online journal, so I have some work out there– but I really need to get myself a blog for some promotion so I can venture into deeper publishing waters.

    I should have taken a marketing class in college– my creative writing teachers skimmed over publishing as much as they could, unfortunately– but there’s no point beating myself up over it. I taught myself narrative structure and storytelling through years of observation, analysis, and plain practice. I’ll find a way to get my head around marketing, especially since I would rather self-publish (I write a lot of niche genres).

    Anyway, thank you for this post.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The great thing about most writers is that we’re good at self-starting and self-education. It comes in handy as we’re pushing our comfort zones!

  27. Thank you for this post. Marketing has always been a big scary thing for me for so many of the reasons you discussed. But just changing my perspective on it -from competition to cooperation- makes it seem more natural, and less fearsome. I worked in retail for over twenty years and I could never align with selling product for the sake of sales. I can now see marketing as a way of simply showing up in the world. Thanks again!

  28. I think the number of comments you have received on this post is an excellent indication of your marketing procedure. You have an audience, and that’s what writers want–an audience with whom we can share our creativity. As a teacher I was reminded at the beginning of every school year about entering the classroom each day with a positive attitude. Those 2 words became very cliche to me and I got to a point of thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” But it is so true. Teachers “market” all the time while they are in the classroom (at least they should be). They have to “sell” the educational concepts so necessary for their students to grow in knowledge. Authors aren’t that much different. Finding what works for me that I can feel comfortable in approaching people with that “positive attitude” that they will like my story is an ongoing journey. And I think it has reached the point of thinking outside the proverbial box. So I continue with the social media, my website, my book signings, and keep looking for the next new thing I might try to find the audience that wants to read my book. (Right now I only have one, but am working on another with ideas for a third floating around in my brain.) Thanks for your weekly posts. I enjoy reading them.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks, Patricia! I’m still working on figuring out the best platform for my marketing my fiction. It’s all an ongoing adventure!

  29. Great article. There is so much to learn and how well you have explained things. Writing is an art which requires our time and effort to learn it from masters like you.

    We appreciate your effort in putting up this wonderful post. Thanks for sharing, have a great weekend. 🙂

  30. I’m a medium-level extrovert so I’m able to engage with people reasonably easily (I’m disabled and it takes a huge amount of energy which I don’t really have, but that’s a different story). However, I try to market humbly as, for me, there are a lot of things that put me off buying a book.
    So the things I hate are as follows:

    I loathe being told the marketing author has a best-selling book. Lol, if they’re doing that well, they don’t need me to buy a copy! And when I look at those books, the words ‘best selling’ often don’t mean quite as much as is implied.

    I hate it when authors contact me and assure me I’ll love their book when they have no idea what type of books I like. I won’t buy their book. If they use a little humility and tell me I might like it, I’ll be prepared to take a look. I might, if they’re lucky, buy a copy.

    I want them to woo me, not beat me over the head with their book. And if they’ve never read one of my books, I hate it when they contact me on social media and tell me all about theirs without even acknowledging the fact that I, too, have books published.

    I acknowledge that newbie authors do get a bit overenthusiastic – I admit I did it myself when I started – but we have to learn and move on from that.

    But, like you, I find the hours spent on marketing somewhat soul-destroying. I tend to limit myself so I have time to write my next book. I want to make sales but not to the extent that I’ll run up more debts than I make back, damage my very limited health, or skimp on my writing because I’m too busy marketing. I’d rather have moderate success and be happy with that. And, as you said, marketing courses are all very well but I’m a sceptic. It seems to me the best way to make money is to sell books about marketing to desperate authors and that’s not what I want to do. I’d rather spend my time writing fiction. 🙃

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “I’d rather have moderate success and be happy with that.”

      Hurrah for this. I know from experience that it’s sometimes very hard to stick to that in the face of all the “advice” telling us we can’t settle. 🙂 It’s incredibly important for writers to define their individual versions of success to themselves and adhere to that, never mind the noise.

  31. awesome post. The concept of We As Artists Are Contributing makes sense once you said it. We’re offering something that readers value as meaningful in their lives. Thank you!

  32. “Instead of thinking of your writing as a product you are selling, think of it as an offering you are making…. What do you hope to contribute?” This…totally this! I believe it with my whole heart. This is going on my vision board so that I can remember it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic that has plagued the introverted me for so long.

  33. I’m nearer the beginning of this writing journey and hadn’t thought much about the marketing aspects of a finished product.

    What I appreciate about this post is the proactive, practical, and positive approach to dealing with one of the less appealing parts of the process.

    Sometimes a shift in perspective is all it takes to turn something we dread into something we enjoy, and this post lays out a way to do that. Thank you!

  34. Teresa A. says

    Do you have any suggestions for authors who try the whole “stop selling, start contributing” thing and actually find it too stressful?

    I’m an indie author who wasn’t finding much success just running ads, so I tried this approach after a colleague recommended it to me. At first, it sounded like a solid idea, bridging that disconnect between everything creative writing stands for and everything marketing stands for.

    However, after about two months of trying this approach, my mental health began to suffer. My anxiety flared up, my self-esteem took a nosedive, and I began to show signs of depression. I began getting very bad panic attacks and physical stress symptoms. I felt as though I was stretched in a million directions and my life belonged to several hundred people at once, as I tried hard every day to reach out and connect on a personal level. And the worst part was, my sales figures hadn’t changed. People weren’t interested in my books, they just saw me as an entertainment figure, which was the exact opposite of what I was trying to do.

    Finally, after one particularly severe panic attack that woke me up in the middle of the night, I knew I had to stop before my life got any worse. I made some commitments to go back to being a recluse, for the sake of my mental and physical health, and since then it’s felt like I’ve gotten a weight lifted from my shoulders.

    So my body has let me know, quite forcibly, that this marketing model does not work for me. Any ideas you might have on alternatives would be greatly appreciated.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It can be tough, definitely. I’m sorry to hear it’s been difficult for you, and I can relate. I would definitely recommend listening to what your body is clearly telling you. You have to find the path that works for you and that gives as much as it takes. This can be a very personal balance. I spoke to some of my own decisions about similar experiences in this post: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/protect-creativity/


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