Tortured fiction writer asks, “Where do I start with marketing?” (part 2)

Have you read “The Martian” yet?

Best novel I’ve read in a LONG time, especially if you’re kind of a geek like me.

Astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars—his team thinks he’s dead because they watched him get speared by debris during a freak dust storm.

He has to figure out how to make 90 days worth of supplies last for nearly 4 years until the next Mars mission is due to land.

Mark discovers that he has a few REAL potatoes (not freeze dried) and creates his own little potato farm in the closely controlled environment of “The Hab.”

It’s looking like he’s solved his food problem, until…

BOOM! The Hab explodes and vents his heat, water and oxygen into the near-vacuum of the Marian atmosphere.

There are a LOT of lessons in this book that apply to marketing, especially the way Mark keeps his head and thinks through every problem one step at a time.

But I want to go back to Mike’s question from yesterday:

Hi Josh,

My name’s Mike. I’m a fiction writer. I’ve had a film project optioned, but that’s currently being tortured in development hell. Chances are the project will never see the light of day. Also, having tried and failed to go the traditional route with book publishing, I’ve decided to take the plunge with digital self-publishing. I’ve done some initial research, but need to do much more on working up a blog and creating an online presence, and this, as you undoubtedly know, requires knowledge of marketing.

So, my biggest question about marketing is, ‘How do I get started?’

I’m an absolute newbie at this, so even the most basic information would be welcome at this stage.

For most authors outside of the marketing niche, their efforts to promote their book are about as helpful as The Hab’s explosion was to Mark.

They run themselves ragged to “get their name out there” and sell more books.

Book tours, book signings, speaking engagements, media interviews, social media promotions…

Some authors get pretty good at this whole publicity game, too.

But all publicity does is get you a fleeting moment’s notice.

If you don’t have a way to stay in contact with the people who you’re reaching, then you’re pretty much just spewing oxygen into the black void.

This is where it’s useful to think like a marketer.

For every activity, you have a specific next step in mind.

The goal of publicity isn’t to sell books.

Instead, you’re looking to add people to your “tribe.”

A little community of people who are really into YOU and what you’re doing with your writing.

That means you need a “home base” where you write about things that will interest your audience.

You could use a Facebook page or Facebook group.

But a much better option is your own website and email list.

And at every opportunity, you’re looking to send people to your list.

Let’s make this concrete.

I don’t know what genre Mike writes in. I’ll just say he self-publishes westerns.

I’d make my website all about westerns. NOT just my books, but the genre at large, or some sub-genre.

I’d have an email list where I talk about the westerns I’m reading—what I love and hate about them.

I might create a list of the top 10 western writers you’ve never heard of, and offer that to entice people to sign up for my email list.

Then I’d pick 2-3 publicity channels that I wanted to invest in…

Maybe there are a lot of podcasts and Facebook groups about westerns.

I’d spend some time each week getting myself booked on podcasts and commenting in Facebook groups.

And the goal of each bit of publicity is to send people back to my site and get them on my email list.

Same thing when I publish a book. Every book needs a call to action at the beginning and end that pulls people deeper into your world.

(Pro tip: Want to almost force people to jump on your mailing list? Leave a big, juicy loose end dangling at the end of your story, then offer a bonus chapter that wraps it up.)

Here’s the takeaway:

In your book marketing, don’t run around like crazy pestering people to buy your book.

Build a tribe of fans who want to hear from YOU, and the book sales will follow.

P.S. For a deep dive on self publishing and marketing, check out this book: