This is a 6 part series called What I Hate About Self Publishing. Part One: The Overview. Part Two: Scams. Part Three: The Education Challenge. Part Four: Time. Part Five: Quality Assurance. This is Part Six: Lack of Marketing. The conclusion.
“I just want to put it out there and see what happens” may be the most dangerous words to ever come out of an author’s mouth. I’m given to hyperbole, so just to be clear: This is a terrible publishing strategy. And so many authors think it’s the right plan.
Oh, to write full time and not worry about marketing. That is, as they say, the dream. Except, I’m not sure it was ever that way. If it was, it was that way for a very short period of time. In older times, if you were lucky, you had a patron or several patrons (not to be confused with patronuses, from Harry Potter). You worried about keeping them happy. Many of the greats were teachers or had other professions. The “full-time writer” who didn’t have to worry about audience building… well, if that ever existed, it was for a very short amount of time.
Every writer has to wrestle with why they write. Is it “For the sake of writing?” That’s seriously the only answer I can think of that doesn’t involve worrying about marketing. Want to tell great stories? Tell implies audience. Audience is reached by marketing. Want to inspire people? That’s people other than yourself, right? That implies audience. And again, audience is reached through marketing.
It’s not dirty. It’s not unfortunate. It’s simply part of the work. Michael Hyatt, the former CEO at Thomas Nelson, said it best:
I assumed personal responsibility. I wasn’t expecting the publishing company to make me famous or make my book successful. I’ve been in this business a long time, and that’s not how it works. If you expect this, you will be disappointed.
It’s just how it is. It’s on you. If your publisher happens to help, awesome, but at the end of the day, if your book doesn’t sell, it’s first and foremost on you.
I have somewhat a knack for marketing. I’m not the best in the world, I confess, but it comes a little bit naturally. For whatever reason, that’s not the case for many indie authors. True fact, the average book sells fewer than 100 copies. I have never met an author who set out to sell under 100 copies.
The average indie author has a brief outline of a marketing plan at best. They describe their audience in vague terms. They aren’t thinking about the steps they need to take in order to connect to that audience. If that describes you, you shouldn’t be surprised when you end up selling next-to-no books.
It is hard work to build a platform that reaches a specific group of people who will be likely to want to buy your book. It’s easier than it has ever been, but easier than it has ever been doesn’t mean easy.
It’s an easy thing to torpedo a publishing career, or at least to put big roadblocks in your own way. If you’re going to indie publish, it should be as a result of a thorough evaluation of the audience for the book and your ability to reach them. If you can’t, don’t self publish. It really is that simple.