What Motivates Me to Market My Books?

Market Pic

This is what you need to find for yourself—an idea that will motivate you to market your books. You’re unique. I can’t tell you what will motivate you. Consider a variety of alternatives. Try to understand marketing in different terms. Search for a reason that will make you—that’s right, you—market your books.

I’ll offer a few ideas at the end of this post to help get you thinking. In the meantime, I’ll share my story of what motivates me to market my books. Maybe this will help you with your search for a motivational tool.

My story unfolds by showing what is commonly done (that’s what I did, too), instead of what should have been done. After this, I’ll show how I found my motivation to market my books.

We all struggle with this. I did. When I published my first book in 2008, fortunately, I had a few things going for me starting out:

  • A Ph.D. in physics. This expertise was invaluable for my math and science books.
  • Experience formatting lengthy, technical articles for professional publication. I had also been making and formatting worksheets for several years before I ever published my first workbook.
  • Several years of teaching experience. This is helpful for many of my books which aim to provide instruction of some sort.
  • Much passion for writing and teaching.
  • Ten years of sales experience working my way through school; mostly at a department store, but I had even sold second-hand books for a few years. This helped me understand marketing and marketability, but I was initially focused only on the latter.
  • CreateSpace was relatively new in 2008; many authors hadn’t even heard about it yet. There was much less competition. (Note that my books weren’t on Kindle back then, and even now I sell about 8 paperbacks for every e-book, largely because of the nonfiction content I write—many of the books, such as workbooks, aren’t even suitable for Kindle.)

However, at the time, I lacked one very important ingredient: the motivation to market my books.

Most new authors similarly have a few things going for them—probably different things, but your strengths, whatever they may be, can help you succeed. Most new authors also lack the key marketing ingredient. Both marketing and marketability are highly important (noting that you can include having a great idea, good storytelling skills, editing, cover design, effective blurb, and such in marketability).

Many new authors feel the way that I did back in 2008:

  • If a book has merit, it should eventually sell on its own. (Problems: getting discovered; difficult to overcome slow sales rank; hard to get reviews until it sells—and if you have reviews, but no sales rank to support it compared to the publication date, that will make buyers leery.)
  • I didn’t feel comfortable asking people to buy my own books; I didn’t want to toot my own horn. Except for my mom, I didn’t even ask family or friends to buy my books—instead, I sent them free copies. (Problems: initial sales help your sales rank; you need to promote your book to help it get discovered; if you don’t feel strongly enough about your writing to tell others about it, why should they read it?)
  • I didn’t do any pre-marketing. I had no website, no blog, and wasn’t even building buzz for my books. (Problems: pre-marketing helps stimulate early sales and reviews; early sales help to build early customers-also-bought relations; exceptional pre-marketing can land a book on various bestseller lists, which can greatly improve exposure.)

As too many authors do, I just had my books out there, hoping they would survive on their own. I was very fortunate. Some of my books had enough marketability to get discovered and sell on their own (keep in mind, there are many, many more books on the market now in 2013 than there were in 2008—so if I were starting out today, maybe I wouldn’t have had the same good fortune).

Even so, sales were very slow for the first seven months. I published several books starting in July, 2008. One was a “real book,” while the others were stat and log books. I had had the foresight to publish the stat and log books, which related to my hobbies, golf and chess, using worksheets that I had previously made for my own personal use, knowing that this would give me some needed experience in formatting and publishing before I published my main book, which at the time was The Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions, Volume 1. I managed to get these stat and log books and my extra dimensions book ready for publication at the end of the summer of 2008, and that’s when I self-published them.

Sales were dismal from July, 2008 thru February, 2009. That was a long stretch where my conviction to self-publish was strongly tested. Like many other new authors, I got through that by working on my next book, The Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions, Volume 2.

When I released Volume 2 in March, 2009, sales exploded. My two extra dimensions books were ranked around 5,000 for a couple of weeks. Sales slowly dropped, but then I began publishing math workbooks for my Improve Your Math Fluency series that summer, and my overall sales have improved tremendously every year without exception. (My extra dimensions books are no longer among my top-selling books.)

A big factor in my improved sales is that I finally found my motivation to market my books. The three keys to success are:

  • Develop a good book, including the idea and writing—both the big picture and the details.
  • Have marketability that will sell your book when it gets discovered (cover and blurb that attract the right audience, content from cover to cover that will satisfy that audience).
  • Market your book effectively to help it get discovered and branded. This step requires motivation and patience.

Motivation for this third step eluded me for quite some time.

The first part of my marketing motivation came from the big boost in sales that I had in March, 2009. Also, a couple of strangers had contacted me to thank me for writing my books (even more amazing is that I hadn’t provided my contact info, and didn’t have a website or blog—they searched online, found where I taught, and discovered my email address the hard way).

This gave me confidence. Prior to this, I had felt tentative. Afterwards, I felt confident that I could write content that would please a significant audience and create marketability that was good enough to attract that audience.

Think about this. My books hadn’t changed. From July, 2008 thru March, 2009, the first volume of my extra dimensions book was exactly the same. What changed was my confidence. Confidence is something that you can change internally. You don’t need to wait for external factors to build your confidence.

When you’re tentative, you’re much less likely to get the sales that you want to gain the confidence you’re looking for. When you’re tentative, you’re also less likely to put the effort into the book’s marketability to give your book its best chance for success.

If you can start out with confidence (but not overconfidence), this can make a huge difference when you’re getting your book ready to publish and when you release your book.

Confidence was just the beginning, though.

As I gained confidence in my books, I became curious about the marketing aspect. The more I thought about it and researched it, the more I realized that marketing wasn’t quite what I had made it out to be. Over time, I gained a new perspective:

  • Marketing doesn’t have to be done through advertising, and may even be more effective if it’s indirect. People get interested in your book when they discover that you’re an author; you don’t have to volunteer it. In person, you can wait for people to ask what you’ve been up to; online, you can simply mention your book in your profile.
  • One of the most important parts of marketing is branding. It’s about getting the title, name, or cover seen and remembered by the target audience. I don’t buy a certain brand of toilet paper because the television told me which brand to buy. Oh, but I do buy a brand of toilet paper that I recognize through branding. You want people to think, “I’ve seen this before,” when they see your book, weeks or months from now when they’re shopping for books.
  • People are more likely to develop a strong interest in your book when they interact with you personally and see your passion for your book. Interacting with your target audience is a valuable personal experience that we small-time authors can provide. Reading a book by an author you’ve actually met: Isn’t that a wonderful thing?
  • If you don’t feel strongly enough about your own book to market it, why should anyone want to read it? Are you saying that it isn’t good enough to share? If you don’t know if it’s good, is it because you didn’t put enough effort into it? If you feel that it’s good enough to publish, then you have to feel comfortable sharing it. You have to work on your perspective.
  • Publishers spend months creating buzz for books. They send out several advance review copies. Other authors, including many indie authors, put a lot of effort into marketing their books. There are millions of books to choose from. The books that are marketed effectively are much more likely to be discovered.

I approached this scientifically (after all, I am a physicist). I did research on marketing. I did some marketing experiments. My curiosity about marketing helped motivate me somewhat. I gained some needed marketing experience this way.

But neither confidence nor curiosity were my chief marketing motivators. They helped me along, but they weren’t enough.

My main motivator came when I realized how many other indie authors there are, and how challenging it is to self-publish. On top of coming up with a great idea and writing your book, which seems like it should be the hard part, you also need to:

  • Be good at writing and storytelling.
  • Serve as your own editor.
  • Format your own book.
  • Design your own cover.
  • Illustrate your book.
  • Market your book.

It’s a challenge just to be a good author. It’s more than just a challenge to be a good author, editor, formatter, cover designer, illustrator, promoter, publicist, and public relations specialist. You shouldn’t have to be a pro-of-all-trades (not just a jack-of-all-trades) to self-publish a book successfully. But you either need to be, or invest money where you aren’t (with the risk that you may not recover it).

I strongly support the indie publishing concept. Self-publishing offers so much:

  • Freedom in writing (not unlimited, but now you aren’t forced to give into an editor’s demands).
  • Greater per-book royalties (and you deserve it since you’re much more than just an author).
  • Instant acceptance (no need for query letters, book proposals, rejection letters, or contractual negotiations).
  • Quick to market (skip several months of contacting an agent, writing letters and proposals instead of more books, and a lengthy delay waiting for the publisher to get your book ready).
  • No exclusivity (anyone can publish; no gatekeepers are deciding what is worthy).
  • Access to Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and more (the door is wide open). I strongly support the big companies who’ve provided such amazing opportunities to indies.

The more marketable and more effectively marketed books tend to rise to the top, and the less marketable and more poorly marketed books tend to fall to the bottom.

My big motivator came when I realized that I could have a significant, positive impact on many other indie authors and the image of indie publishing. This is something bigger and far worthier than my own books.

It’s not just me, of course. I see many other authors and even small publishers helping indie authors and supporting a positive image for indie publishing. (This helps to provide balance against those who speak negatively, those who fear indie publishing, and bullies and snobs and such.)

One indie author is tiny and vulnerable. Together we can thrive.

By the way, this is the spirit behind Read Tuesday—a Black Friday type of even just for books. It’s a great opportunity for indie authors and readers.

My WordPress blog is geared toward helping indie authors in various ways, especially marketing. It’s not about selling my books. I put ample information up here to provide free help to anyone willing to seek it, and I have organized my posts in an index to make it easy to find. There is a ton of free information here (feel free to recommend the free content). My hope is that it will help others.

It’s not just the how-to part. I also try to help with motivation and putting things in a perspective that may be useful to humble writing artists who are passionate about their books, but who may not yet have the mindset they need to effectively market their books.

This is my marketing motivator:

  • I’m motivated to market my books to show by example things that other authors can be doing and to share my experience with others. I’m not searching for secrets that I can keep to myself; I’m looking for ideas that may help other authors.

As I said, I see many other authors sharing tips that they have learned. I see many other authors helping new authors out. Indie authors are coming together, and we have much strength through this.

Recall what it’s like to be a kid. There are bullies, there are good influences, and there are bad influences. Just think what a positive difference it makes when an older kid takes a genuine interest in a younger kid and serves as a positive influence, like a big brother or sister. Or even when a group of kids the same age band together and support one another in positive ways, keeping one another on track, and helping to motivate one another. Great things can come of this. Indie publishing isn’t so different.

What motivates you to market your books? That’s the million-dollar question. Most likely, money isn’t the answer. The best motivator for you is something you’ll have to work out for yourself. There are many possibilities. Following are a few examples:

  • Are you sharing something valuable to others? This could be how to lead a healthy lifestyle, help learning a foreign language, or a novel that will help preteens deal with peer pressures.
  • Will your book improve people’s lives through entertainment? It may be a fantasy world that people will fall in love with, an adventure that people want to experience but couldn’t in real life, or a travel guide that will help tourists make the most of their vacations.
  • Do you have a story that needs to be told? Maybe it will draw out emotions from readers, give people hope, illustrate the strength of the human spirit, or help others in similar situations.
  • Does your book support a noble cause? Perhaps the royalties are donated to charity, the book promotes a worthy cause, or spreads awareness about how to prevent one of life’s problems.
  • Have others told you that you couldn’t succeed as an author? If you’ve ever been told that you’ll never be a successful author, that your writing isn’t suitable to publish, that self-published books don’t stand a chance, or if you’ve received several letters of rejection from publishers, you may be able to use this to help motivate you. Where there is a strong resolve, there is a way to overcome the naysayers.

You must first sell your book to yourself and convince yourself that marketing your book effectively is beneficial to others before you will be properly motivated to help your book get discovered.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing); but you can find an abundance of free material on my WordPress blog. 🙂

5 comments on “What Motivates Me to Market My Books?

  1. I love this. You are exactly correct in saying that a successful book is so much more than good writing. I might add that in addition to motivation, a successful author should set realistic goals for their work. They need to correctly identify the proper target audience and write towards that end. Many of us have a clear idea of what the story is, but we have no idea of who will want to read it.

    You may have covered these topics before, and if so I apologize. If I may suggest some future article topics. I would like to know how to determine what a best seller indie published book makes in terms of sales and/or in terms of money earned?

    Also, how does a author determine the proper pricing for a book? I know you discussed this topic but I am more interested in the mechanics of setting a price for a book. Is $15.99 too much to ask for a e-book? I don’t know, that is why I ask.

    How does a author determine if it is reasonable to purchase hard cover books, or paperback. How do they sale, is it worth the time and effort?

    Thank you for your blog. It is a honor and privilege to have the opportunity to have a dialogue with someone who knows the publishing business.

    • You’re absolutely right about working toward a specific target audience. 🙂

      If you want to quantify the success of an indie bestseller, the best way is to find some and monitor their sales rank over a period, especially if you can catch a hot new release and watch it for a month or more. What to consider successful largely depends on the genre and the author’s experience, so it’s nearly impossible to put up one number that everyone should judge by. Personally, I think it’s more productive to try to improve our own numbers than to compare ourselves to other authors; we’re all unique, and there are always books doing worse or that have done better.

      When I price a book, I first search for similar books to see what the typical price range is. This gets a little tricky with e-books, since too many new authors price as low as possible, and many traditional publishers price $9.99 and up. Most readers won’t spend $10 or more on a new author’s e-book. Perhaps there are a few exceptions, like textbooks which tend to be fairly expensive. A well-written, well-packaged novel by a new author can probably sell in the $3.99 to $5.99 range as an e-book. Part of it is readers thinking you get what you pay for, and part is the author creating a perception of value, so it is possible to sell at a higher price. Finally, readers usually expect an e-book to provide a healthy discount compared to the print edition.

      Paperbacks are more likely to sell in specific nonfiction subjects. I sell a lot of paperbacks because I have mostly nonfiction workbooks, instruction books, puzzle books, and how-to guides. Novels tend to sell more as e-books because they are often much cheaper that way; but some readers still like to read paperbacks. It depends very much on the habits of your target audience. Hardcover is more likely to sell for a textbook, for example, where the durability would be appreciated, and for bestselling authors who release the hardcover ahead of other editions.

      The publishing business is constantly changing. Even the big publishers who have known it quite well and working hard to keep up with it. 🙂

  2. Great post. I love to hear the success stories. Gives me hope 🙂 Speaking of marketing, how are we doing on Read Tuesday? I posted into some author friendly FB promotional groups for about three days in a row, every few hours. In reading about social media stats, it is said that there is about a five hour window on facebook posts to be seen. I only did this on author friendly promo sites as many author groups are not promo friendly. Even in the promo groups, I was hesitant to keep posting after a few days. I wouldn’t want the administrators to take offense and feel that I was being subversive. So I thought I would cool it for a while anyway. I also boosted a few posts, but I think the author friendly promo posts actually did better than the boosted posts. Problem is, the boosted posts are geared at reaching buyers/readers and the other promo posts are geared at getting author participation.

    • I have similar concerns with my ads. Should I keep running the ones I have, give them a break, change them up? Part of it isn’t to get clicks or views, but for exposure and branding; while overexposure has its own dangers. It’s a challenge. We get referrals and new followers every day; I take that as a positive. 🙂 I’m looking for new places to gain visibility. We also need more activity on RT, as that seems to help according to the stats. This week was insanely busy for me, but things should ease up now.

      Looking for more author participation while also trying to build buzz among readers is another challenge (except where the authors are readers, too). I’ve focused the posts more on authors in the beginning, feeling that the perceived author participation will affect reader interest. But on the other hand, an increased perception of reader interest may help improve author interest. So maybe it’s about that time to turn to the readers. Drawing in authors was easier; I’ll have to think about this.

      If you have any ideas, please feel free to share them. I really appreciate all the help and support. 🙂

      • I am certain that there are readers groups on FB too. I just haven’t found them. I would not want to introduce myself as an author there, so I would use my personal account.

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