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Non-Spammy Marketing Strategies

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by Philip Overby, Mar 5, 2014.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    OK, so I'm trying to really crack open this marketing thing. I think I'm getting closer and closer to having a finished novel that I want to shop around or self-publish, and I'm trying to figure out how to market it without:

    a. Spending every waking hour promoting it
    b. Spending tons of money buying up ads (although some ads aren't out of the question)
    c. Spamming the hell out of people

    I'd like to:

    a. Reach a modest audience
    b. Keep that modest audience
    c. Grow the audience over time

    So with my limited amount of knowledge on marketing, I hear the best thing to do is keep writing. As long as you keep putting work out there, you will (hopefully) have a better chance of finding an audience. Another good thing I hear is engage with readers. But that's one of those chicken before the egg kind of deals. How do you engage readers if you don't have any?


    So what I'm wondering, is what are some strategies that you use or plan to use that won't make people ignore you or shut you out for annoying them? The "screaming into the void" method doesn't work for me. I've found that slowly getting to know people through social media is really the best option to find people with similar tastes and interests (and also find other cool writers). Getting 10,000 followers in a week is not feasible. I guess some people do it, but they're good at those kind of things. I get the feeling not all writers are marketing wizards. I'm certainly not...but I'd like to be!

    I have no idea what I'm talking about, so if someone wants me to clarify anything I posted above, please feel free to ask.
  2. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    There are at least two authors I have read after seeing their tweets and blog posts retweeted by other authors I follow. They were interesting or funny tweets and blog posts that got me to their blogs or following them on twitter, and when they subsequently tweeted about their books I was ready to give it a go. Having a strong online presence with an interesting twitter feed and blog would therefore be a good start.

    I follow you on twitter, Phil, and you don't tweet much. When you do, it's usually links and retweets. You're not engaging. I would take a guess and say you're not a heavy twitter user. Perhaps try to increase your tweeting a bit. It doesn't always have to be about fantasy. It could be a cool idea you had, an odd thing you witnessed on your way to work, a hypothetical question, that sort of thing. Also always tweet your blog posts - most blogging platforms have a thing set up to autotweet, and in Wordpress at least you can edit to add hashtags and stuff too. Tweet about your progress on what you're writing, tagged with #amwriting. Engage, or at least give followers something to reply to, retweet or favourite. Then, when you do have something to sell, you've got a few followers who are interested in what you have to say and you've got regular tweeting material to dilute sales links with, so that tweeting once a day doesn't look spammy any more because it's only one in four tweets or whatever, whereas if you only tweet non-sales things once a week there's seven tweets in a row in between non-sales tweets that are sales tweets.

    Tweeting, and reading tweets, need not take up much time. If you only follow a few people, reading tweets takes hardly any time at all. You can unfollow anyone whose tweets no longer interest you or you don't have time for, or you can unfollow their retweets, so you only see what they tweet themselves and not their retweets (I have this on for a few people - some retweet thirty or forty times a day and it's filling up my timeline with stuff I'm rarely interested in). Tweeting something only takes twenty seconds. It's easy to fit into small slots of time throughout the day.
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    First let me say that it should go without saying that you should be trying to write every day, even if you're editing and marketing and planning other projects. If you want to be good at writing, you need to do it every day - and do the best you can at it every day. So write the next book - but don't make the mistake of thinking that's a substitute for marketing. A second book will be a great mile stone, a big leap forward, because you have two things in front of people. But if you have more people to put that second book in front of, you'll do better.

    The second thing to remember is that your web page is not an outlet. It's a funnel. It's job isn't to be a media center, but a hub, bringing readers from whatever the source is that brought them to your site on to buy your book. If you're trying to be a media center, you'll find that 500 followers gives you 50 sales. The people who follow blogs - whatever you're blogging about - do not necessarily care about buying a book. But if you develop a funnel, or a hub, you'll find that 500 followers can equal 5,000 sales because you're targeting people who can expand your audience. Most of your readers will not care to stop and follow a blog.

    With that in mind, your blog and social media networks have two audiences. The one you need to work on first is your network of bloggers. Who has a fantasy audience? What kind of things do they follow? What do they like to post or tweet? What kind of content can you offer them to get them posting and tweeting about you? Do these outlets like humor? Character ideas? Stuff that pertains to writers? Setting pieces? Book reviews? You can probably create any and all of the above if you need to.

    The second audience, of course is readers. In everything that you post, anywhere, you need to figure out how this post brings readers to your book. Link it to your page. Be fun. Target the audience of wherever you're posting.

    Remember, everything you do needs to be a win-win-win-win: A win for you, a win for your readers, a win for the site posting your stuff, and a win for their audience. You've got to have a lot of confidence to see the things you do in that way. And that starts with a good book and good content - so bring your A-game.
    Philip Overby and Chilari like this.
  4. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    Devor's post above offers fantastic advice, but I read it and go, "How the crap do I do any of that?"
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Fair enough.

    Where do you want to start? Pick a topic and start a new post and we'll see what we get.
    BWFoster78 likes this.
  6. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    Two things come to mind:

    One, half of marketing is being SEEN by enough of the right people, even if the blogs, tweets, and so on (including the writing itself) that you offer are good. "If you tweet it, they will come" simply isn't true unless you slog away for years; you need hashtags and other keywords, to follow people and comment on blogs, and learn to search out the people and phrases and so on that get you attention. Preferably people who like the kind of writing you do; it's impossible to compete with thousands upon thousands of "SF/F writers at large."

    (As you do start that, remember what Chilari said about engaging. It's all about building a bridge between the fans (or at least the places to find them) and what they can see of your writing and the guy behind it.)

    Second, there's one writer's portal that is superb at helping you find the basics, and then at giving you a steady stream of more. Whatever you need, it's on Your Writer Platform
  7. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I'll admit, I'm not a big Twitter guy. I want to be, but it's just overwhelming for me. I function a bit better on Google+, where I find it much easier to engage with people because they have the circling option. So I circle people with similar interests and have made more friends there. I'm not sure if I've made many friends via Twitter just because I find the whole thing unwieldy for me. I got a great tip recently to make lists, and that's enabled me to find tweets I'm interested in more. I honestly mostly use Twitter to find links and such for news. So readjusting my approach to it may make it easier for me. I'm also afraid to unfollow people I feel like I'll never interact with. I mean, I've had obvious spam accounts that I followed for a bit before I realized what they were.

    So yeah, I'd say for me right now it goes activity wise:

    1. Blogging
    2. Google+
    3. Facebook (mostly personal friends and family, but I have a Facebook author page now I'm trying to do things with)
    4. Twitter (where I mostly retweet because I don't know what else to do)

    I should probably utilize hashtags and such a lot more than I do as well.

    Thanks for the tips!
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2014
  8. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I've got that covered mostly. I do write every single day, one way or another, either working on shorts or novels. I'm wrapping up one novel and I'm going to be editing two at the same time, so hopefully that will give me double the chance? (fingers crossed?) In addition, I've followed suit with what I've heard some fellow MS members are doing: posting info about my work and putting up actual stories on my blog. Haven't got much in the way of interest yet, but I guess that comes with time and finding the right outlets. One person on Google+ suggested I find hashtags like Flash Fiction Tuesday and stuff like that to better share my posts.

    Something I've seen Robert Bevan do is share excerpts of his fiction in his posts, which I think is great. If he does link something, he tends to post something funny with the link. It's never "Check out my book." It involves his humor and the humor of his books and think that works really well.

    I have two followers on my blog, so yes, this is true. But I'd say each of my posts gets probably an average of 50-100 hits. Hits of course don't mean much, but I'd hope people enjoy my content and the next time they see something I post, they may want to look at it. Because my blog is everything fantasy related, I can be a little bit more experimental with what I post. I've scaled back on posting writing advice, simply because I feel like I've exhausted a lot of the topics I want to discuss at the moment. I started doing a Bad Fantasy Art feature, which definitely won't get as many hits as a blog post about improving characters or whatever, but it's fun to do and a little bit different. Plus, sometimes I have a hard time giving out advice to people when I only have a handful of publishing credits myself. Not to say you have to be widely published to give out writing advice, but I think people flock to blogs more of people they perceive as successful because these people can offer up relevant advice that worked for them (one reason I think Hugh Howey and Chuck Wendig are so popular)
    I do have several bloggers I keep up with and sometimes I post on the ones I really like or think are helpful. I think I should seek out more because I really only have a handful I regularly read. I think my blog posts tend to be a little less formal, so maybe I should try to seek out people doing things like that.

    I remember you brought up the point about "screaming into the void" before. When I had something to promote, it was essentially "Hey, this is out. Go buy it." That approach sucks pretty bad. So now I try to offer something that may pique the readers' interest in some way. It may not work, but I'm trying something different now at least. Screaming into the void doesn't work. Not engaging with folks on social media doesn't work. I feel like right now, I'm doing loads of writing, more than I've ever done in my whole life. So I'm just not tweeting or Facebooking or whatever as much because I can't keep up with everything. I have to figure out a better balance, I know. I hate to say this, but maybe I need to do less writing and more figuring out how to find cool people on social media. Not just to benefit myself, but to just be exposed to more. Discovering Chuck Wendig was awesome for me and I've since been following K.M. Weiland who does lots of great writing posts. I think by finding people with similar ideals and aesthetics is good, but I'm always interested in hearing new voices as well.

    So for now I'd like to grade myself:

    Writing: B+ (I could be writing more, but I think I'm pretty productive overall. My quality is going to improve over time, so I'm always looking at that.)

    Blogging: C+ (I blog enough, but I should probably find more types of blogs I'm interested in. I know several MS I check out their blogs now and again and I like them a lot.)

    Social Media: C- (Twitter drags the rest of them down because I'm just not good with it, but I think creating lists may help me a lot to keep track of people better. Google+ I was really active on, but I've petered out some recently because of the volume of writing I'm doing, and Facebook is getting a bit better as well)

    Thanks for the marketing help! I really do want to engage with more and more people, but sometimes I feel like I don't know where to start. Like BW said, there are so many things we have to do as modern authors that it sometimes becomes overwhelming when you look at the big picture. Breaking down things and slowly building seems to be the best approach.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2014
  9. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    Okay, with Twitter, you don't have to follow back people who follow you. I don't automatically follow back. I see if what they post interests me, and if it does, I follow back, but otherwise I don't. You can still reply to people you don't follow, and you can still see what they say to you in the "connect" tab, they just don't appear in your main feed. I also turn off retweets from people who do a lot of retweeting of stuff that I don't care about. I try to keep my follows under 100. I don't have it under 100 now, but it's at a level I can handle - it only takes me two or three minutes to read back all the tweets that got tweeted while I was asleep, longer if I click on links of course. But this is a managable level for me. Find what's a managable level for you, and unfollow if you feel one tweeter isn't giving you much value for the time you invest in reading their tweets.

    Here are some things you can say on twitter:
    • Comment on issues of the day regarding writerly things, with appropriate hashtags
    • Quote something you've written that you're proud of or which is particularly funny (it might interest someone enough that they ask to read more, or follow a link in the tweet to the story it's from)
    • Ask your followers relevant questions to provoke discussion, like their favourite fantasy villain and why. Follow up by retweeting the best replies and replying with your own opinion on their answer, or further questions. Engagement!
    • Talk about your writing, how you feel about it, landmarks you've reached and so on. Eg, "Just passed the 50,000 word mark on latest novel. Getting to some really exciting bits now! Gonna try and finish the chapter tonight. #amwriting". This stuff keeps your fans up to date on your progress and allows them to reply "Congrats! I just passed 20k" and so on. Mutual encouragement, you know you love it.
    • Stuff unrelated to writing, because not everything is about your work. Let your fans know a bit about who you are. Demonstrate your excitement at a new opportunity at work, or your delight at a great day out at a local historical site.
    • Tell your followers what book you've just read and what you thought of it. Book recommendations are always welcome, and they give you a chance to engage with the author (if you @ mention them and they reply or retweet) and build your network.
    • Tweet your blog posts, every single time. Not all your followers will be interested in all your posts, but a good post might get a few retweets, which exposes it to another 100 or 200 or 10,000 potential readers, and thus potentially a new follower on your blog.

    Twitter can be a really valuable marketing tool if you use it well.
    Philip Overby likes this.
  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    It's horribly unfair, but Robert Bevan can get away with things most people can't because he's good with comedy and writes for gamers. Imitate him if it works for you, but I think most people would have trouble replicating his strategies.

    The measures that count are:

    First, sales.
    Second, unique site hits.
    Third, social media followers.

    There may be other important numbers, depending on what you're doing and what you can track. Number of Amazon reviews, or average number of retweets, can be pretty important for many people. But these are the foundational metrics that you usually see. These numbers tell you if you're successful overall but maybe not why.

    The number of followers listed on your blog's dashboard doesn't mean much because it hides so many things. If I follow you on facebook do I need to follow your blog? That kind if thing.

    Going by this statement, and having not looked at your blog very closely, I would suggest focusing a bit on making sure your posts are well-tagged and that you're listing those tags somewhere that makes it very easy to navigate. Eclectic is fine, but you have to give people a way to find what they're interested in.

    Yeah, I hate people who do that . . . . . . . . . . . . .


    It's best to use a blog reader program like Feedly for these purposes, instead of trying to check in regularly on a bunch of different websites one by one. You want to manage more with less time.

    The internet can be a lonely and confusing place, that's for sure.

    When I first started posting about marketing, my advice wasn't to start your own platform at all, but to get a few others and go in on one together. It's a lot of work for bad results. Why do it all yourself? Instead of five posts that nobody reads, make one good one, and post it alongside someone else's good post, and see what you get. That's the theory behind the Article Team, but that doesn't do as much to reach out to readers or showcase your writing.

    Maybe we should put together a sister site . . . . ?

    N'ehh, I'm not thinking clearly. I'm under assault by some dirty diapered people.

    You're off to a good start, but the next term is about to begin.
    Philip Overby likes this.
  11. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

  12. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I try to do more on facebook because twitter still scares the hell outta me. I considered hiring a friend to tweet for me and Phil, if you cannot or do not want to spend the time tweeting, maybe you could do the same.

    On facebook, I'm trying to mix up my posts and see what people respond most to. SOme of my friends comment a lot when I share a picture or example of what I'm working on, and others respond a lot when I post a question like, "Chapter end cliffhangers... How do you feel about them?" So... I'm still testing the water there, but my goal is to have it sort of figured out by the time I submit this to an agent.
  13. Ruby

    Ruby Auror

    Hi Phil, I agree with what Chilari says about Twitter (quoted above.)

    I know I've said previously that I discovered you via Twitter, but it was probably from someone retweeting a link to Mythic Scribes. I think from there I read a story of yours which had won a challenge. I thought it was a brilliant story so I looked you up on Twitter and followed you. I also retweeted the link to your story. I think it took a couple of weeks for you to respond and then I told you I liked your story and you followed me back. At that stage I hadn't joined Mythic Scribes but just received emails from the site or visited the forum.

    I'm surprised you have so few followers on Twitter as a lot of writers/aspiring writers are on there. I tend to follow writers, artists and other creative people. There are thousands of indie writers there all promoting their books so, presumably, they find it a good marketing platform. Most of them advertise their ebooks with a link to Amazon. Sometimes they market a book as free for a limited period, say a couple of days. They also tweet links to their blogs.

    Having now joined MS, I visit Twitter less often. However, writing something witty in only 140 characters can be a challenge.

    I think the advice that's usually given is that you build up a following on Twitter in preparation for using it to market your book(s) so that you have a platform when you're ready.

    I think you recently followed me on Facebook and I reciprocated, but I mostly use that for family and friends. A lot of writers have an author's page where they ask people to like them, usually via Twitter.

    Obviously, all this social media takes up valuable time when you could be writing and you have to take care that you don't become addicted and spend hours procrastinating...:D
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014
  14. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    Yeah, I think after posting this thread, I tried to start being a lot more active on Twitter. That doesn't mean I may post something every day, but I'm going to attempt to seek things out more. I was super slow to even notice things, because I didn't log on to Twitter for weeks sometimes and some notifications may have been going to my spam folder. I'm slowly learning Twitter a bit better and I think I'll try to figure things out more and more. I don't typically follow people unless I know them, but I'm trying to figure out better ways of doing all that.

    It's interesting that you don't use Twitter much after joining MS. I guess in a big way, MS covers a lot of what I want: interaction and discussion. I can be long-winded sometimes so Twitter perhaps isn't the best avenue for me. But I've noticed since I've composed some "lists" it's easier to organize the people I want to interact with and read. So baby steps, but I think I'll get there one way or another.

    I find that most of my followers I've gotten through MS retweets of my articles from the main page. I try to interact with those people as much as I can, especially if they make a comment about it. In any case, my Twitter activity is picking up some, so hopefully that will be a good thing. I agree that Facebook is more for my friends, but I have an author-page as well where I post all my writing stuff (that most of my friends don't care about). Google+ has been big for me finding other authors and such as well, and it's definitely trumped the other two social networks for me.

    Anyway, I'm getting there!
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014
  15. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

    I cannot assure you that the following advices will work for writers, but given how broad they are they should. I won't lie that building a following will consume some time and effort, but you can make it less painful and you can make it the best of this time if you take certain things in consideration.

    Link back to your other pages.

    E.g.: If you have a Twitter account and a Facebook page place a link (or use a widget or whatever) to your Twitter on your Facebook and vice-versa. You want those links to be easy to find. People rarely stop and wonder "Hey, does this guy have a twitter?" and take the time to hunt down your account there, but if they happen to get curious about you when checking your work on a site and see a link to a social network they use they might visit it too.

    Also, once in a while you can post reminding people of your other accounts and what is the benefit of following that particular account. To use a real life example I post roughs and timelapses on my Tumblr, my Facebook gets sketches once in a while and my deviantART has mostly formal updates and a print store (it has a higher reach, so providing a bonus is unnecessary here).

    Update it.

    You don't need to spam the hell of people, but you must give them a reason to visit your profile. You must provide content once in a while. If you can make regular updates in a fixed date (le.g. every wednesday) it's better, but it's not a requirement. If the social network you're using provide some sort of data check it. Facebook, for example, has insights that list what hour your page gets most visits, in what weekday. Take advantage of that.

    If it has groups join them!

    Some social networks have groups dedicated to share works, other to discuss ideas or useful resources. In any case these groups are useful! The sharing ones are easier to maintain, you join them and share your best works and that's it. Every time you produce new content, share it. The other kinds require a bit of engagement, but they pay off. You won't be screaming into the void anymore, you'll be in contact with a related audience.

    Make it searchable.

    If the social network has tags use them. Observe which tags successful profiles of similar content use and adopt them; add specific tags of your own to cover your niche. Just don't forget, use your tags!
  16. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    Nihal: I meant to comment on this before, but yeah, you make some great points here.

    I didn't think about linking my Facebook and Twitter together. I do have a link of my blog on my Twitter page, but I guess I should mix it up a bit more with all the linkage.

    I tend to create new content for my blog at least three times a month. It may be a review, a writing topic, or some special feature like an interview or some such. I feel like I want to get away from the "writing advice" posts more and more since I feel like I may be rehashing the same kind of things over and over again. I do notice those posts get more hits, but I think it's because I post them in writing groups. If I feel like I have something different to say about writing topics (like some of the articles I've done for Mythic Scribes) I'll hone in on them, but talking about show vs. tell or something like that doesn't really appeal to me to write about anymore.

    I'm on a couple of groups on Facebook and Google+ which I really like. The Fantasy Writing Group on Google+ is actually pretty good when discussions get brought up. It does have some problems with people just using it to promote books, but I suppose that comes with the territory.

    I'm getting the hang of tags on Twitter more and more, and I should probably use them on Google+ more often. One person told me about using a tag for flash fiction if I write something as it may get more eyes on it that way. I typically use the #amwriting tag as it gets a lot of eyes on it.

    In any case, I find the people I actually "check out" what they're promoting is if they give some kind of slight indicator as to what they're promoting. If someone just writes, "New blog post. Check it out," I just tend to skim over those kind of things. However, if someone writers, "New blog post on how to descale a dragon," my electronic ears may perk up.
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