Marketing is hard. Also, marketing is easy.
And if that makes your head hurt, it's worse knowing how absolutely true both those statements are. I'm learning, as I dig deeper into marketing my own books, that the whole system is kind of conflicted and confused from within.
On the one hand, you can find dozens, maybe hundreds of guides for marketing. You can practically get step-by-step instructions. And they work! Or worked — for that exact person, business, or brand at that exact moment in their history. Will they work for you, as an individual indie author? Maybe, maybe not.
You can follow one of those marketing plans, and it could be unbelievably easy. Or it could simply not work at all, and every sale is a struggle of epic proportions. You may hit Hugh Howey-level success overnight, six figures rolling in every month, or you may toil unread and unknown for years before someone finally stumbles across your work and gives it a go.
Them's the breaks, kid.
I know, that's brackish water to swallow. I'm having trouble with it myself. But no marketing strategy is perfect, and nothing is guaranteed to work, and the sooner you come to grips with that the less hair-pulling you will have. Because there is one strategy that will tip the odds more than anything else you can do.
Keep at it.
The guys from the Self Publishing Podcast (Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, David W. Wright) talk about this in their book Write, Publish, Repeat, and on their podcast. They may word it a little different, and they may not weigh it the way I choose to, in terms of importance, but I think they'd agree in principle —
The best marketing is to produce more work.
It's a numbers game. The more books you have out there, the greater your chances of discovery. But more than that, if you have a library of work sitting and waiting to be read, then that first discovery by a new fan will give them a whole universe to explore. That translates to more books sales, obviously. But fans love being abel to dig right in on something they've identified with and come to love. And they like to infect other fans with their fandom — so more books also means more meat for the fan machine to chew.
Mmm ... fandom meat.
That's the strategy I'm taking. And yes, it's a slow burn. But eventually even a slow burn gets through the thickest logs, and I know that eventually all the work I'm doing will pay off.
In most respects, it already has. I don't have my name at the top of a best-seller list yet, and my sales aren't going to replace my day job at the moment, but I do have a pretty decent following so far.
You folks are amazing, too. You buy these books, even the "short pants" books, without question. That's a lot of trust, and I really can't tell you how much I appreciate it!
In fact, it's the responsibility that comes with your trust that has me pushing myself harder. I want to learn more, grow as an author, get a better system in place, because I owe it to the handful of people who read and love my work. That's the point.
Actually, the point is you're amazing, and I love you. In a strictly platonic, let's-keep-our-pants-on kind of way. Mostly.
If you're a struggling indie author, all of this may sit a little sour in your stomach. But I think that it's part of the dues-paying you have to go through. Part of the conditioning. Part of the training. Treat every day like a new chance to take another step forward, to put some new trick into play, put put a few more pages in the book and a few more books on the shelf.
Write every day. Or as Neil Gaiman put it, "Make good art." Make it the defining habit of your life. That's the only "one true trick."
Good luck. And let me know how it's going for you. I'm happy to talk to you about your books, about my books, about marketing — about anything! Tell me how it's going, and maybe we can chat about helping each other make it go even better.