The Root of Book Marketing

I was pulling some rather thick and determined ground cover off a bank the other day. Most of it came out without too much effort. A strong pull here, a few cuts with the lopper there, and I was able to untangle and tug the bank clean. Except for one particularly difficult root. No problem, I thought. I have all the tools I need. I got this! Here was my methodology:

A tug. It’s what worked for the others. This one? Barely budged it.

Snip. I cut around all the small root strands. Tug again. Nothing.

Shovel. I dug all around it and tried prying up from each angle. No luck.

Axe. I figured if I can get the axe head down around the base of the root, I could just chop it off. I swung the axe repeatedly and it seemed to bounce off it like it was made of rubber.

Pick. I used the long-handled pick to slice through the main root remaining. After repeated swings, I was sure it would come out.

Tug. Forty minutes later and it barely felt like I had done anything at all.

But I persisted. I would not allow this to defeat me.

Shovel. Snip. Dig. Snip. Tug. Pry. Swing. And finally, the beast gave up its soul and the gnarly stubborn thing was defeated. After much sweat. After many tools. After a variety of methods. After a prolonged persistence.

And after I had accomplished it, there was one thing going through my mind. Book marketing. Yeah, the root of all evil in my book.

Honestly, marketing is, for me, the most mundane, undesirable part of being a writer. Many times I’ve said to myself: why even bother. Just keep writing. This isn’t working. That isn’t working. Just give up.

But the root reminded me that life, like root extracting, like book marketing isn’t about one method. It’s about many methods, many tools, and many attempts over a sustained period of time.

If I gave up at AXE, that root would have won. If I only tried the shovel, I would have lost the battle. It was the combination of tools and attempts over time which did the trick.

What do you need to do in order to unlock your book marketing success? What have you tried? Keep doing what works. Keep trying new methods. Keep looking for new tools. And keep tugging, no matter what. That’s ultimately the key. The root never would have come out if I had thrown in the towel. You also won’t solve book marketing by allowing the root to remain in the ground. It’s a constant fight, but it will be worth it. One day.

Do I (an indie author) really care about marketing?

No.

But yes.

Do I hate marketing?

Yes.

Do I want to market?

No.

What do I want to do?

Write.

Okay, there’s a series of honest responses. I put marketing somewhat on the same plateau of being at a Chinese banquet and being served sea slugs because I’m the honored guest.

The honest answer is that I don’t want to eat sea slugs no matter how good my hosts think they are. I also do not want to spend time marketing my books no matter how important everyone in the universe connected to indie writing tells me it is.

Here’s the basic question that is always asked: how will anyone know that you released a book unless you tell them that you released a book?

I don’t know. I just pretend there is a way. I’m a creative writer. I can create all kinds of possible ways that people might know. Perhaps aliens will infiltrate a person’s dream, telling them that they need to read “A Love Story for a Nation” or they will be sucked up by a UFO within the next month. Or maybe a ghost will write on the bathroom mirror, “Recluse Storyteller.” There’s lots of possible ways. How about a time travelling Vietnamese who read “Banyan Tree” will encourage all Vietnamese teachers to choose this book for their classes. See, why would I want to market when I have all of this activity going on?

I see you aren’t impressed. Well, I don’t need to sell books to make a living. So there.

Yes. Yes. I do wish I could make a living by selling books. Okay, you got me there.

But I’m too busy. I don’t have time to figure out what to do wrong next.

Yes, I know. Thomas Edison didn’t have time to fail at creating a light bulb either.

But I really hate it, doesn’t that count for something?

Yes, it does. It counts for poor book sales. Get to it!

Okay, okay. I will reluctantly not give up, and I’ll keep on marketing as best I know how even though I don’t know how. I will spend money I don’t have in hopes of a future payoff. I will not stop simply because I am lazy or sick and tired of poor results. I will continue, showing off the grit and determination that I claim is so important.

But, I will also not stop writing because, honestly, that’s all I really want to do.

Thoughts on Offering My Novel for Free

I live in Penang. If you have never visited Penang, it’s like food paradise. Delicious, cheap, “hawker” food stalls everywhere – Chinese, Indian, Malay, Thai, etc… I already lament the day I have to leave, and I have no intentions of leaving anytime soon.

Penangites are rather stingy when it comes to paying for food. We want it cheap – and delicious – and the competition is STIFF. There are countless stalls and restaurants literally everywhere – it’s truly wonderful.  But it also means that MANY restaurants fail in such a dog-eat-dog environment. (No, Malaysians don’t eat dog, in case you thought that was a pun.)

I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant, and whenever one does open here, I love to analyze its marketing to see if I think it will last. To make a restaurant work, you need lots of patrons, but with such competition, you need to pull in the skeptical locals who don’t know for sure if your $7 meal is any better than the $1.50 you could pay at the road-side hawker. I always tell my wife, “If that was my new restaurant, I’d be running blow-out specials for the first month!  Tuesday’s buy-one, get-one! Friday’s 30% off! Cut/Slash! Get the people in the door, then overwhelm them with high-quality, massive portions, and great service. Have them walk away saying ‘Wow. I have got to tell my friends about this place.'”

But alas, that never happens. At least not around here. New restaurants typically underwhelm and die out when folks realize they can get better tasting food at a fraction of the cost on the street. The restaurants never get the traffic they need and the crucial word-of-mouth necessary to make a difference.

Oh, I am supposed to be writing about my novel.

Well, this is exactly how I feel about offering my novel for free. First of all, is it easy to offer my novel for free?  No. I put a lot of work into it. I reached deep inside myself and tried to offer something significant – worthy to be purchased, and I firmly believe that “Beauty Rising” is worth at least $2.99. 🙂  But that’s not the point.

The point is to get traffic. There are different ways to do this. Reviews is one way, and I’m continually looking for independent reviewers for my novel. A few have reviewed it already and many more will do so over the next few months. Reviews are a solid way to give an audience some piece of mind about purchasing a book from an unknown author.

But a review isn’t always a sure bet, and it is hard to predict how much traction will come out of one awesome review.

There is, however, no substitute for putting the book into a reader’s hand. This is in essence the purpose of offering my book for free. I believe in my work, and I believe in my future work enough to entice readers into my fictional world. If they like it, hopefully I will have them for life. They will tell their friends. They will leave reviews. They will check out my blog, looking for the next release. That’s my goal, and that’s why I’m happy to offer my novel for free.

I hope you enjoy it as much as a $1.00 plate of Malay chicken rice. For two days, it was actually cheaper than chicken rice.