Words that go with writing: solo, alone, unaccompanied, quiet, unobtrusive, internal.

Words that go with marketing: connections, mass, commercial, global, universal, noisy, external.

Few other art forms require both skills from one human being.

That’s you.

Yes, you could write the best book ever and run for the hills, never to fret about a bookstore signing or a writer’s conference. Hello, J.D. Salinger. And Cormac McCarthy. I guess Marcel Proust wasn’t out and about very much, either.

If you’re not producing work at that level, at some point you might have to undergo that strange transformation from recluse to extrovert, from solo artist to mass marketer.

No doubt you’ve perused a hundred web sites—looking for the secret.

You may have shelled out good money for a marketing class or a marketing workshop—searching to learn the magic touch.

You may have felt that electric tingle when you spotted a come-on tweet or a promising Facebook ad—sell millions of books tomorrow.

In fact, there seem to be as many people selling book marketing tips and strategies as there are actual writers.

Guess what? They don’t have the secret, either. Check their list of clients. Have you heard of the books they represent? Do these marketing “geniuses” really possess the perfect formula?

Just stop.

There is no magic.

Only thoughtful work.

Yep, it’s work. And it takes time.

So I’m here with a healthy dose of reality.

So herewith a list of (I hope) common-sense thoughts about marketing your novel:

  1. Be yourself. Only do what comes naturally.
  2. Go where readers congregate: bookstores and libraries. Introduce yourself to every independent bookshop within driving distance of your home. Check with the chains, too. Drop off books as gifts with the person at each store who handles events and inquire about options that might include you. Get to know your local librarians (you’re looking for speaking opportunities).
  3. Months and months before your book comes out, edit and check every email and every street address of every single friend, classmate, colleague, cohort, and relative you know. You will gently nudge them with postcards and well-designed, simple emails about the fact that your fabulous book exists. Once or twice, a few months after the book is published, you might remind me that it STILL exists and has drawn rave reviews. You can ask them to do things to help you (host book clubs, post reviews, tell friends).
  4. You will remind yourself on a daily basis: not all books are for all people.
  5. Be supportive of others in the writing community. Don’t write negative reviews. Don’t argue with people who don’t like your book. Don’t try and sell to other writers. Fellow writers are supportive. Make connections. You never know where a relationship could lead.
  6. If social media comes naturally, start making friends online many months or a year or two before your book comes out. Comment on reviews. Listen to podcasts. Re-tweet comments from your favorite critics or other writers. Yes, you can actually “meet” people here—people who can help you. Establish your voice and be clear about what you stand for. Not just “I got a book,” but comment and post about yourself and your priorities, too. What do you have to say? Establish yourself online the same way you do in your community.
  7. Hire a publicist. Yes, but only if it feels natural to you. Yes, if you have the money. Yes, if you are willing to interview three or four of them and choose the one with the most proven experience and legitimate contacts. Good publicists have connections and relationships. You’re looking for publicists who can increase your chances of receiving reviews and/or profiles written about you and your new book. You’re looking for publicists who can book you on radio or television shows and who will pitch you as a speaker at conferences. It is entirely possible to do this yourself. But it takes time.
  8. Months and months before your book comes out, make a list of dream publications you’d love to prod to write a review of your book (or a profile of you). Do you know anyone who knows anyone at these publications? Develop your pitch. Send a friendly email, something simple.
  9. Don’t overlook neighborhood newspapers and local magazines.
  10. Think topically. Make a list of every publication and website that might have an interest in the themes and topics covered in your book (even if it’s fiction). Start querying them early. Don’t get discouraged. A book editor at the Denver Post told me that they receive 50 to 60 book submissions each day. They review only a few each week. That means 300+ are not reviewed. (You know the editors can’t even give some books more than a cursory look.)
  11. Be yourself. Think long term. Think of a steady 24-month push for your title. Do something every day, whether online or sending an email or reaching out to someone online.

If it was a science, we would have long shared the formula. Book marketing is an art and it’s a long, thoughtful haul. Enjoy the ride. And start work on your next book. Maybe the next time it will be so good you can run for the hills.

About the Author
Mark Stevens has worked as a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor in Boston and Los Angeles; as a City Hall reporter for The Rocky Mountain News in Denver;  as a national field producer for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour (PBS) and as an education reporter for The Denver Post.  After journalism, he worked in school public relations before starting his own public relations and strategic communications business. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Colorado Authors League, Pike’s Peak Writers, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Mark is the author of The Allison Coil Mystery Series, which includes Antler Dust, Buried By The Roan, and Trapline. Visit him at http://www.writermarkstevens.com/.

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