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How Not to Market Your Book

How Not to Market Your Book @janalynvoigt
Since officially becoming a debut novelist when DawnSinger (Tales of Faeraven 1) launched last June, I’ve launched, advertised, tweeted, updated, blogged, spoken, and distributed materials about my book.  I’ve soared to the heights of lists but also, like Pilgrim, sloshed through the Slough of Despond. Sometimes it seems that I stand braced against an unmovable mountain, shoving with all my might. That’s a good way to come down with a case of exhaustion, as I soon learned.

I have a friend who made the New York Times bestseller list with his very first novel and now seems assured of a mega-career. I’ve stood beside him at book tables and watched readers fall all over themselves to buy his books. An author I know sold a movie option for her debut novel and has become a headliner. Another friend requested (and received) the rights to her books from her publisher and is now making money hand over fist self-publishing. And me? I sweat in the trenches while my book sells in fits and starts despite earning mostly 5-star rankings and reaching the top of Goodreads’ most-requested giveaways list. If life isn’t fair, then the writing life is even less so.

And yet, now that I’ve stopped trying so hard to promote, I notice something unusual–remarkable even. The formerly unyielding rock of Mount Discoverability ever so slightly shifts beneath my hands. I look back over the rocky terrain I’ve trudged in the past nine months and see, yes there, a faint path. How had I missed that I walked upon it? What had seemed a trackless wasteland has been all along my proving ground.

Maybe you are like me and haven’t rocketed to instant success. You scramble to find the golden key to unlock the answer to what will work in marketing your book. Take it from me, someone who learned the hard way there is no golden key. Some things work better than others, but even those vary. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. The one thing I’ve discovered that works for all is the art of strewing “breadcrumbs” online to lead readers to your book. There’s nothing wrong with mounting promotional campaign after campaign if you know how to do it properly and have the strength of Samson. But if you don’t measure up on either of those heads, admit it and instead do what you do best. Yes, really. Whether by writing blog posts, newsletters, magazine articles, short stories, or even just posting creative updates on social sites, you can lead readers to your book simply by using your creative skills. You may not soar to instant heights, but you’ll make slow, steady progress.

Now that’s news that can move a mountain.

Written by Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt

© Janalyn Voigt
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I’m Janalyn Voigt, an author, speaker, and former social media mentor. DawnSinger and Wayfarer, the first two books in my epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, released with Pelican Book Group and will be followed by at least two more installments. I’m also working on a romantic suspense novel set in an Irish castle, but then historical fiction has a grip on me too. Being unabashedly multi-genre makes me into what some might term a reluctant rebel, but I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller.

9 thoughts on “How Not to Market Your Book”

  1. This is a great post, Janalyn. I recently was talking with Dan Walsh (The Unfinished Gift) at a writer’s conference, He’s one of those authors who got picked up immediately by Revell. His career is now taking off. So I know it does happen, but even he admits it was simply God that made it happen.

    When I sat in on one of his classes, though, he talked about how painstakingly he edited. The truth is, even though he got picked up very quickly by a major publisher, he still spent a lot of time in the trenches learning his craft.

    I find most self-published authors have unrealistic expectations. Selling books is not magical. There are certain things that have to happen – you could call them laws, I suppose. One thing that bothers me is that so many people in marketing try to make money off the uninformed with the premise, if you take my course and do these things, you will be successful. It just doesn’t work that way.

    Last night in a Chinese cookie, I got this quote: Teamwork: The fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” The only way I know to speed up the process of discoverability is through networking. But even with the John 3:16 Network, it’s hard to get people to be “doers.” Kind of like church. We all want the great results for ourselves, but aren’t always willing to commit to help others in a meaningful way.

    In the end, though, God has a way of blessing us if we are faithful to Him. All we can do is keep our priorities straight, focus on the process, and let Him control the outcome. What works for everyone is slightly different, and some of us are more gifted at public speaking, or blogging, or tweeting, or whatever. There is no “magic” bullet. If there were, I would have found it by now. Tried too many things that cost me money that were a complete waste. But, like you, I am starting to see a glimmer in sales. Well, I have written way too much here, but obviously you stirred me by your comments. Great wisdom and great insights.

    I would love to post your comments on the John 3:16 Blog. Let me know.

    1. Lorilyn, thanks for commenting. You’re right. We’re all in this together. Christian writers know they don’t compete but merely obey. I agree that many authors can get in a hurry and not want to invest time in learning craft. In traditional publishing those writers almost assuredly won’t meet with publication. Some writers go on to self-publish when they shouldn’t and then wonder why sales don’t come. That’s not always the case with indie authors, my friend being a case in point. However these days even a stellar book can have difficulty being discovered. Given that, it makes sense for authors to make sure the quality of their work is as high as professional editing can make it before they publish.

      Yes, you’re welcome to use this post and also the image if you’d like. I’m honored at the suggestion.

  2. It’s hard for me to take my own advice sometimes. For years I hired and fired insurance agents. No matter how well a person dresses, talks, presents, etc., the ones I have seen succeed are those who put one foot in front of the other and steadily do each day what they need to do. Persistence is the key.

  3. Great post and great advice, Janalyn. I’m not even close to being as close as you are to star-studded authors, publishers and connections, but I went through the same inner struggle. I’ve just recently settled comfortably into the “long obedience in the same direction.” I’ve quit chasing the illusive butterfly. Now that I’m not out there waving my net around in the air, the butterfly might one day come settle on my shoulder. Meanwhile, I’ll be busy doing what I am supposed to do at the moment.

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