I had a very honest conversation with my BFF/support-network-of-one the other day about marketing, or more specifically about how little I find myself motivated to market my books.
You see, when I first started writing My Brother’s Keeper I was mostly writing it for me, and (by extension) people like me. I didn’t really think that hard about how to appeal to an audience, because that wasn’t the point of the book. The point was that I had been learning about things that I felt needed to be shared. The book was the only outlet that I had to share them. When i first started writing, I didn’t even know if it would ever get published. I was never sure that any of my words would be seen outside of my personal circle. But I wrote it anyway. It was, in that regard, very much a passion project.
So when the book was eventually published, I had no real expectations about who would want to buy it, and was at a complete loss as to how to market it. I understood that the topic was not one that held mass-appeal. In fact, quite the opposite – I imagined that given the option most people in my general genre wouldn’t willingly choose to open it up and begin reading. How do you market to the general public when the general public doesn’t really want what you’re offering?
The short answer was that I didn’t. I spread it around among some of the “people like me” whom I know personally, and I let it exist on line for those who would take the trouble to find it. But beyond that I created only the most fundamental of online platforms in support of this book’s existence. Not surprisingly, I had very moderate successes in the first year – which is to say that I would happen upon an occasional “person like me” who liked my book and wanted to use it for teaching purposes with their church/small group/Bible study. That person would order the book in bulk. But beyond that, sales were essentially nonexistent.
So when the BFF/SNOO (see above) started quizzing me on why and how I would “take the next step” in marketing My Brother’s Keeper, I eventually admitted to her what I’d never said out loud to anyone else. “I don’t want to market this thing.” It just felt like too big an effort for too small a reward.
But then she reminded me that all of the generic marketing plans out there (you know, the ones that assume your book has mass appeal and therefore a widespread audience) were just that – generic. They were not hard-fast rules, or one-size-fits-all programs. They were guidelines and tips, some of which would apply to my book, and many of which were completely useless to me. The truth was that there were ways that I could put the book in the hands of the right people – people who, if they read it, would understand, agree with, and maybe even appreciate and want to use what I had written. I even knew who some of those right people were. Some of them would even know who I was if I were to mail them a copy.
So what was holding me back? Only the fact that I’d been too nervous to consider sending it to them. Which is, of course, nonsense. I wrote the book because I had something to share, after all. How could I now turn around and claim to be too scared to share it?
So this is my resolution. It’s time to start an actual marketing campaign. I am sending this book out (physical copies) to the people who I want to read it. I’m doing it this week. No more excuses, no more delays. It’s time to put it out there. Stay tuned to see what happens next.