Liars Club

One Piece of Marketing Advice for a New Author

by Merry Jones on May 3, 2010

in Advice for Writers,Liars Club Events,The Writing Life

Marketing advice? Really? From me? Well, I’ll try.

See, when my first book came out, the only “marketing” experience I’d had was in fifth grade, selling Girl Scout Cookies. To me as a writer, marketing was one of those impossibly bewildering topics like income tax, checkbook balancing and growing a lawn, something best handled by experts and MBAs. Actually, though I’m embarrassed to admit it, I wasn’t even sure exactly what marketing entailed. I knew it included sales. But I wasn’t sure what else was in there. Labeling? Packaging? Advertising? Didn’t know. Left the whole topic alone, for the professionals.

And leaving it alone was fine with me. I was a private person, content to stay home and write. And openly marketing my own work felt brazen and uncomfortable, much like that dream of walking into a cocktail party naked.

For a while, this strategy worked. The publishers’ marketing people did their magic. I got marketed, passively. I was sent on tours, got booked on local and national television, had international radio and print interviews. In a way, it was uncomfortable, being so exposed. But it was an adventure, too. Other people planned and arranged everything for me, and my books were doing well.

Times, however, changed. Publishers rearranged priorities and slashed budgets, including those for marketing. And, without experts, I was suddenly on my own. Left to market myself. Clueless.

I got plenty of marketing advice, though. Here’s some of it:

Order 40 or 50 thousand copies of your book; you’ll hit best-seller lists.
Send yourself on a national book tour.
Hire a marketing consultant and a publicist who will arrange and even accompany you on your national book tour.
Plaster your book cover on billboards all along I-95.
Print out posters, bookmarks, the first chapter of your book, your reviews, your driver’s license photo, your high school transcript, your kids’ baby pictures and their high school transcripts, and drop these items off not just in bookstores, but in airports, dentists’ and doctors’ offices, beauty salons, banks, post offices, DMVs, the Schuylkill Expressway between City Ave and King of Prussia—anyplace people have to wait helplessly for long periods of time.

Today, despite all this advice, I am still no marketing expert. In fact, I’m still in the process of figuring out what marketing actually entails and how best to accomplish it. I’ve learned, however, that to be successful authors need to become actively involved in it, starting even before their books are released.

So, here it is: If I were to give one piece of marketing advice to a new writer—especially a writer who is a private person like me—it would be: Brace yourself to get out there.

And by “out there,” I mean in the public eye. Maybe not like Johnny Depp “out there,” but out there. How you do this is, of course, up to you. You might give seminars like Marie Lamba, Jonathan Maberry, Greg Frost. You might use social media, from Facebook to Twitter, ala Don Lafferty’s advice. You might arrange signings and panel discussions all over the place like Liars Club authors. You might become active in professional writers’ organizations and mingle at writers’ conferences. You might rent billboards on I-95, or have planes skywrite your latest book’s title above the nation’s beaches.

There are hundreds of possibilities, and my advice is to prepare. If you are to market successfully, you will engage in a tizzy of activity, which is neither private nor introspective; which, in fact, often feels like it’s the polar opposite of writing. Nonetheless, marketing is of critical importance to your books and your career. So prepare. Get ready. Then get out there and do what you have to do to make an impression and create buzz.

Even, I suppose, if it means going into that cocktail party naked.


Merry’s post is part of an ongoing series, where Liars each chime in on a burning question about publishing. To read answers other Liars have already given to burning question #2 “my one marketing tip,” click on Marie’s post.  And check earlier posts to see what the Liar’s wrote about burning question #1.  Plus click back to this site daily for more Liar responses. Better yet, subscribe to this blog!


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacia Friedman May 4, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Hey Merry –
From your vivacious personality and background in corporate media, I assumed your Star Power came naturally. Sorry to hear those marketing dollars have left town, along with Bernie Madoff, now that I’m finally moving out of the starting gate. BTW – I’ve seen billboards on Vine Street and even the Turnpike advertising “Murder in the Mikvah” – a book by a local author, but I have a hunch it is self-published. Thanks for the marketing tips. I’ll need them!

Cordelia Frances Biddle May 5, 2010 at 11:03 am

Ah… Now, I understand, Merry. Your dynamism and public good cheer is a ruse! Well, it works!
My advice to anyone starting out in the publishing biz would be to enjoy yourself (even if you need to fake it during those appearances in empty malls). Readers like connecting to writers who seem like fun folks to know.
I did a mystery convention panel once with an author who was so down on the industry that the audience started leaving every time she opened her mouth. Take heed. Be upbeat. Find humor in the midst of all the murders we commit for a living.
And, Merry, many thanks for your blog. I love the fact that there are admitted “liars” in Philly. Politics, anyone?

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