Tortured fiction writer asks, “Where do I start with marketing?”

From my inbox:

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.

This is without a doubt the #1 question I hear from people just jumping into this marketing thing.

When you’re brand new, it’s REALLY overwhelming.

And while that’s true of anything you do in life, but it’s 10X worse in marketing because you’re facing a gauntlet of “gurus,” consultants and vendors who a.) want you to use THEIR product or  system and b.) know how to push all your emotional hotbuttons.

They make you feel like you have to be using all the latest tips and tricks and “7 Ways to Explode Your Blog Traffic TODAY!”

They tell you that the world has changed, and you have to keep up or die.

It’s really easy to start feeling like there are a million things you MUST do or your business is going to burst into flames and explode…

It’s all a bunch of hype designed to make you freak out and buy everything in sight.

The best thing you can do for your marketing early on is get a sense for the basic, unchanging principles.

Marketing really isn’t that complicated:

You get your customer’s attention. You get noticed.

You offer them something they want (free or paid) and establish a relationship.

You nurture that relationship.

You offer them something else they want.


There are a million tactics you can use to accomplish each of those steps.

The key to not going insane is to learn to sort the timeless principles from the short-lived tactics.

Your understanding of the principles will then help you pick and choose the tactics that are most suitable for your situation.

Let’s take Mike’s situation. He’s a fiction author.   

How does a fiction author get noticed?

Most marketers just start trying random tactics and hope something sticks.

They’ll try a little Facebook, and a little Pinterest, and maybe throw some money at Google AdWords…

The guiding principle is this: “Where does your prospective customer hang out, and do you have a way to reach them there?”

For Mike, most social media is probably a waste of time.

LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube… Probably not a great fit.

But Facebook and Twitter could be a great place to make that first contact with future readers.

In both places, people are raising their hand and saying, “I’m interested in the same things you are.”

Within those two channels, there are many different tactics you can try.

Once again, principles come into play.

If you’re going to invest time or money to reach customers, you want to do it in a way that brings them further and further into your world.

So you don’t just get Facebook fans. You use Facebook to drive people back to your “home base”—a website and email list that allows you to communicate freely with your tribe.

The takeaway here is:

You have to dive in to the pool.

But don’t just flail around—look to get your feet on solid ground.

Look for the people and resources that are teaching you principles along with tactics.

When you find someone you really trust, look upstream from them.

Who do *they* respect?

Where are they getting *their* info?

What you’ll discover as you head down this rabbit hole is that you quickly develop a sense for who’s worth listening to…

And who just wants to get you worked into a lather to sell you their latest magic pill for $1,997.

Hint: There are WAY more people in that second category.

More “tactical” advice for Mike tomorrow…

P.S. One of the books I recommend to everyone who’s new to this stuff is 80/20 Sales and Marketing. This book is all about fundamentals like understanding your customer and figuring out what you bring to the table that’s unique.

Highly recommended—it’ll save you from a lot of “rookie mistakes.”

Check it out here: