How To Market A Book Without Annoying Everybody

Some time ago I hit upon a radical new strategy for the blog. When I had a question I didn’t have the answer to, I was going to ask someone who actually knew something about it.

And I have a question about book marketing. People who’ve had the misfortune of hanging around here for quite a while will know that nothing irritates me more than pushy, scatter-gun book marketing tactics. There are many marketing techniques which, if employed poorly or heavy-handedly, can make potential readers feel like they’re on the receiving end of an attack, not an offer. Even worse, they can make people extremely prejudiced about a book, even predisposed to dislike it.

But does it have to be that way?

Lorna Sixsmith is a social media trainer and author of 3 non-fiction books about the farming life: Would You Marry A Farmer?; How To Be A Perfect Farm Wife; and just this month, The Ideal Farm Husband.

I’ve watched over the past few years as Lorna built up sales and readership through a steady, targeted book marketing strategy, which resulted in her appearing frequently on TV, radio and in national newspapers both here and abroad, and ultimately, selling lots of books. So when it came to this thorny question, I thought I’d ask her.

I know deep down that although she’s made it look easy, it’s not. And whenever anyone comes to try and sell a book themselves, they find out just how bloody hard it is.

And now it’s time for me to shut up, and let Lorna do the talking.

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How To Market Your Book Without Annoying Everyone

How did you go about finding out who your target market was? Do you find that writing to a specific niche is a help or a hindrance when it comes to marketing?

Initially, my blog helped enormously as those interested in my posts about farming life and being married to a farmer were also from farming backgrounds. They enjoyed laughing at their own lives as they empathised with my experiences. Later on, conversations on Twitter in particular showed me that social historians and urban dwellers enjoyed learning about farming in the past and present too.

Being able to target farming media is certainly advantageous. I also time the launches of new books to coincide with Ireland’s National Ploughing Championships every September, as much of Ireland’s media concentrates on farming for the week and this makes it easier to get interviews and features.

 

Through your blog and the publication of your first two books, you’ve had coverage in newspapers and appeared on TV. How did this happen for you? What’s been your biggest break to date?

Having a blog and a good presence on social media helped but my first big break was an interview on the top Irish national radio station. It came about as I heard a presenter read out a problem from a young farmer and I popped a copy of my book in the post to the programme with a note. Sometimes you just need a bit of luck and the right timing for it to happen.

I’ve been interviewed on a number of TV programmes. I guess being on television brings the most kudos as well as the most awareness of my books.

 

What, in your opinion, are the dominant social media platforms for authors? Do you see them as effective book marketing tools?

Goodness yes, definitely. Apart from anything else, it’s where potential readers can find out if they like you and like your writing. I love when readers tweet me telling me they’ve just bought my book, or their opinion. I think most writers love solitude but social media tools give us a chance to chat (and market our books) without having to extricate ourselves from our comfy writing caves.

Which platforms are best for authors? I use blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. I think the most effective platforms will vary for different people. For example, someone who loves photography and incorporates it into their books will do better on Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook as their photographs will pop off the screen and gain more followers who will buy the book.

Many people see large numbers of followers as equating to success. I believe it’s good to grow your following but what is more important is engagement (are you talking to people and are they talking back?) and that they buy the book when it comes out.

How To Market Your Book Without Annoying Everyone

If you were writing fiction, would you change your marketing plan?

Hmmm… I’ve various ideas for my next book and have to decide soon which one I’m settling on. But whether it’s going to be non-fiction, memoir or fiction, it will still have a farming theme so my marketing won’t alter significantly.

 

Are there strategies you’ve employed in the past which didn’t work at all?

Well, in terms of getting press coverage, you have to acknowledge that you’ll win some and lose some. Sending out a press release stating that I’ve a new book out doesn’t work on its own, I have to provide a story or funny article with it.

 

What do you think of asking friends and family to help promote your book? Do you think there’s any danger that asking people to do this might turn them against it – or against you?

I don’t tend to do this. My mum will sell a few of my books to her friends and a few relatives but that’s it really. It’s a very fine line for writers between having a skin that is thick enough to withstand criticism and put yourself out there, and thin enough to realise that enough is enough when it comes to self promotion. Too much promotion will start to grate. If they like you, they will buy it. I know I’ve gone to launches and bought books because I like the author, not because I’m a huge fan of that particular genre. Indeed, it might be the only book of that genre I’ll read in the year. I haven’t read a Mills and Boon type book since I was about 15 but I’m going to give one of Abby Green’s a try. I’ve never met her in person but I really like her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

How much research do you do before talking to anyone in the industry or the media about your book?

Not that much to be honest. I’ll buy the newspaper, listen to the radio programme or watch the TV programme a few times so I have a good idea of how to pitch the press release.

How To Market Your Book Without Annoying Everyone

What do you think is the difference between effective marketing and shouting?

I see shouting as repeatedly telling people to buy your book because it is 99c this week or because it has 400 5* reviews. I’ve never purchased a book from any of these methods. Admittedly it can be a fine line between sharing something enough so people know about it and yet ensuring they aren’t so sick of you that your book is the last thing they will ever buy. Carol Hedges does it beautifully, a mixture between compelling call to action tweets, interesting historical information (as her books are historical fiction) and chat.

I have purchased lots of books from other authors on Twitter because they’ve tweeted something that was entertaining or amusing or because we got into a conversation about writing or farming. I probably don’t send enough “call to action” type tweets for my own books. I prefer to direct people to a recently written blog post that gives them a flavour of the book with a call to action at the end.

 

Is it necessary to embellish your personal or publication story in order to market a book?

Hmmm… you may get more coverage if you can twist your situation into a trendy storyline. Stories about stay-at-home mums achieving success always seem to be popular. I’ve yet to send off a press release entitled “Farmer’s wife writes self-help book to save farming marriages” or anything remotely similar (Inland Revenue decided my books are self-help hence I don’t get the artists exemption).

The “city girl moves to countryside” angle is popular too. I lost out a couple of radio interviews when I told researchers that I was born and bred on a farm.

You have to do what you’re comfortable with and what you can sustain. There would be no point in me trying to pretend I’m a perfect farm wife, and yet I’m not quite bad enough to portray myself as someone who always makes a mess of things either. I’m just an ordinary farm woman who enjoys writing and tries to see the humour (or at least the silver lining) in most situations.

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How To Market Your Book Without Annoying Everybody

 

From February to April you’ll find Lorna in a calf shed but from May to August, she’ll be in her writing cave. Never fear though, she does have a life from September to January! Her three indie books, Would You Marry A Farmer?, How To Be A Perfect Farm Wife and An Ideal Farm Husband are available from her website, www.lornasixsmith.com, as well as all Irish bookshops and numerous farm shops in the UK and Amazon. Lorna’s second book is a finalist in the Carousel Aware Prize non fiction awards.

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  63 comments for “How To Market A Book Without Annoying Everybody

  1. October 6, 2016 at 8:16 am

    I really like this post and I agree with Lorna about many things. I don’t plan on using my family and friends. I’ve simply never been the type of host a tupperware party or allow my kids to sell shit for their school or clubs. I can’t do it!

    Lorna appears to have a built in niche. It’s not a huge market, but there are quite a few folks with farms or live a country lifestyle. This is key in my opinion and she can work trade mags, websites etc. that appeal to this group.

    I use my blog more or less as a place to test what people read/like. I plan to have a link to the book and a couple of excerpts, but most of the writing is and will be about whoever it is I want to write about at the moment. I don’t really expect that many fellow bloggers to purchase my book so I’m not going to hit them over the head with it.

    I am researching Japanese/Japanese-American societies and plan to start there. Also a good friend of mine has a lovely bar-restaurant where I’ll be hosting a Japanese theme night with book proceeds to go to a local charity for young girls who are struggling with life in general. It has never been about fame or profits for me, but about a message and doing what good I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 6, 2016 at 10:39 am

      I had wondered about the difference in marketing fiction and non-fiction with this post, Bonsai, but if I’m right in that you’re writing fiction, I think you illustrate very well there how to find your niche, even if it isn’t as obvious as Lorna’s. Your Japanese theme night is a brilliant example of how to take something from a book and use it to market the book in an original and interesting way. I hope it’s a tremendous success for you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 6, 2016 at 11:30 am

        Actually the book is a memoir of my 21-year Japanese affliction. There are only a couple of other books out there by “outsiders” who married Japanese men and both are vastly different from mine. They are traditionally published while I spent time with a best-selling author coach and professional editors and the like to ensure a professional product, in the end I opted for self-publishing as a way to keep control of my very personal content. This is another reason I want to go beyond my circle in my marketing efforts. Thank you for the well wishes!

        Liked by 1 person

    • October 6, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      I’d never host a tubberware party either 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. October 6, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Oh but I did post a back-cover reveal today as I’m really proud of the professional artwork and wanted to show if off 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. October 6, 2016 at 9:56 am

    This was a very interesting read. Like many bloggers, I’d love to write a successful book. However, the idea of ever having to promote a book fills me with terror. It sounds like a fantastic way to lose a lot of friends very quickly. I’m going to bookmark this post for future reference.

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 6, 2016 at 10:43 am

      Me too, Bun. I’m terrified of book promotion. Particularly seeing as I’ve spent so much time giving out and pontificating about it in the past. I’m afraid I’ll end up marketing a book by hiding in bushes and hoping someone might think to look in there for reading material.

      Liked by 2 people

      • October 6, 2016 at 12:25 pm

        That’s an interesting technique. I think I may borrow it should the time ever come.

        Liked by 1 person

      • October 6, 2016 at 3:01 pm

        That’s one of my favorite strategies as well. I’ll be sure to share tips with you if I ever figure out how to make it work for me though.

        Liked by 1 person

        • October 6, 2016 at 4:17 pm

          Thanks, Allie. I can’t wait for us to take the world by storm with antimarketing.

          Like

    • October 6, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks Bun, have to admit that I hated asking friends for support during my crowdfunding campaign but I’ve noticed that if I like people I do want to read their books, even if it’s not the type of genre I usually read. Not many of my friends will read my farming book but they might tell friends who are farmers about it.

      Liked by 3 people

      • October 6, 2016 at 1:38 pm

        Very interesting. I guess word-of-mouth does work that way. Not every link in the chain has to be a reader as long as they pass the message on.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. October 6, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Thanks to Tara and to Lorna for such an interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. October 6, 2016 at 11:46 am

    Great post Tara and Lorna. I admire the dedication to an alternative strategy and also the hard work that goes into making these books a success.
    Keep at it (both of you)
    C

    Liked by 1 person

  6. October 6, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Informative post. As a fiction author, social media works, but finding your target audience….doesn’t. I have mine, tons of folks in said genres and chitchat often. Sales? Meh. Fiction is definitely a different animal. Soon to branch out to selling books directly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 6, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      I think that’s why many fiction authors try to find an edge in terms of matching their life to a suitable storyline be it the successful stay at home mum or whatever and so many do it very well. I know it’s a case of chicken and eggs as you need the success first to create that storyline but I’ve seen authors doing stories on how their life is very similar to one of their characters too.

      Liked by 2 people

    • October 6, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      It’s tough all right, Baron, in the niche fiction genre business. How to get word to people who identify themselves as fans of botanical physics crime? The only thing is, whatever hope an author has today, they didn’t have a snowball’s chance ten years ago.

      Liked by 2 people

      • October 7, 2016 at 11:01 pm

        True. I write steampunk and have oodles of steampunk buds. They know I write, but maybe 1% buy and read my books. It is the same for other steampunk authors. Find the genre types? Easy. Get them to drink the water? Well…

        Liked by 1 person

  7. October 6, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Great post, though I’d only be delighted to have the book written never mind worrying about who’s going to read it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. October 6, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Thank you, Lorna! There are some great tips there/ The top one for me was “Sending out a press release stating that I’ve a new book out doesn’t work on its own, I have to provide a story or funny article with it”, as it explains why I’ve had such poor luck with my press releases… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 6, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      You didn’t forget to mention the book in them, did you Nick?

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 6, 2016 at 2:48 pm

        I was prepared to shout AND DON’T FORGET TO BUY MY LATEST BOOK (all caps, of course), when a chicken flew in and hit submit. Thank you for letting remedy that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • October 6, 2016 at 2:50 pm

          My pleasure, Nick. I’m trying to work on my comic foil skills.

          Liked by 1 person

        • October 7, 2016 at 8:17 am

          My most successful press release (which also contained details of my new book) was “5 ways to attract an eligible farmer at the Ploughing Championships’ I think I got 8 radio interviews and yes, discussed which wellies are most suitable many times 😉

          Liked by 2 people

          • October 7, 2016 at 9:37 am

            Thanks for that, that’s a brilliant use of a press release!

            Of course, with my goldfish-like attention span, my sole takeaway from that is that I need to wear wellies when giving radio interviews, or I’ll never find an eligible farmer.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. October 6, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    This was an interesting approach with sound advice. I think targeting an audience is a little easier if an author has a cozy niche. A little harder when the genre is broad, though not impossible. I completely agree that social media’s effectiveness is in building relationships and that book sales result from those relationships regardless of the number of followers. Awesome advice on couching a press release inside an article. Thanks, Tara and Lorna, for the great post. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 6, 2016 at 4:27 pm

      I agree with you on the benefits of niche marketing, Diana. But Lorna’s really made me wonder if authors need to work a little harder at finding their own cozy niche.

      I think she makes it look easier because she’s been so successful in what she does (shut your eyes here Lorna or I’ll embarrass you). But when you think about it, the focus of her books is very narrow indeed: not even just farming, but relationships in farming – and yet she’s expanded it to talk about the role of women in agriculture, the business side of farming, farming in social media, animal husbandry, you name it.

      What she’s doing is making me think a lot harder about the themes and characters in what I write, and how that might be expanded into non-fiction pieces that have a wider appeal (and thus achieve the marketing bit on the side).

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 7, 2016 at 1:41 am

        Ahhh. Yes. I see what you are getting at. Good point. So although I write fantasy, I might look at the story’s or character’s relevance to modern politics or Buddhism or limits on the application of science. Am I reading you right?

        Liked by 1 person

        • October 7, 2016 at 8:23 am

          Yes, exactly. I’m trying to remember exactly what Carmel Harrington did with her second last published book which contained a fostering storyline but I’ve a feeling she wrote a couple of newspaper articles or was interviewed about family relationships / fostering / mothering etc. Carmel does this really well and she also expands on how the characters reflect on her own life experiences so far – and yes, gets press coverage with it.
          I mentioned Carol Hedges in the piece and what she does wonderfully on social media is she shares interesting articles and titbits about the Victorian period which is of interest to her target readers (who have an interest in that era) and of course, that’s the period she writes about.
          Some of my readers aren’t so interested in the nuts and bolts of farming at all but enjoy the history aspect of my books as well as what it shows them about the social history of farming (and when I say social history I’m also referring to our lives today as that will become history very soon).
          I hope that helps

          Liked by 3 people

          • October 7, 2016 at 2:05 pm

            Thanks, Lorna. I totally get what you are talking about and it’s sprouting ideas. 🙂 My blog is pretty busy, and I’ve been wondering about other ways to branch out. I’ve got some ideas now. Have a lovely weekend!

            Liked by 1 person

  10. October 6, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. October 6, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Excellent interview – well done Laura and Tara! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 6, 2016 at 4:38 pm

      D’oh! Sorry, LORNA!
      Was just reading something about Laura (Little House on the Prairie) Ingalls and it’s obviously inveigled itself into my teensy tiny brain cell… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • October 6, 2016 at 5:03 pm

        It’s okay, Jan. You wouldn’t believe what I get called sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

      • October 7, 2016 at 8:24 am

        When I was a kid, I wished I had been called Laura because of her books 🙂 Lorna Doone wasn’t so appealing for some reason.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. October 6, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Warning… I’ve just written this while half-asleep. Jump to the last sentence.
    I’m in the middle – or maybe at the end – of this whole procedure and I feel like I’m wading through jelly. Book launches are great, as in have a big party (or two in this case in different parts of the UK) with as many friends as want to come and give them lashings of food and drink (not necessarily alcoholic) and your books will fly off the table. If you add up the costs, of course there is no profit, but at least you’ve had fun. The other stuff is often demoralising – the papers who don’t respond, the ones that do and print nonsense; the reviews that turn your non-fiction into fiction, the reviewers that say they will and don’t read it, the wonderful review that is only available in one place. That’s all before the social media kaleidoscope. I just had a lovely online magazine blog about my fiction and the new non-fiction (at the same time as I was travelling to give a talk on it – my bad management). All sorts of stuff was happening on Twitter and I haven’t responded to any of it. There’s a note on my desk headed Longer Term with only two items ‘revamp website’, ‘understand Twitter’.

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 7, 2016 at 12:20 am

      It sounds exhausting, Hilary, and I hope you’re recovered from it! Well done on everything so far. Managing expectations might be the key to avoiding becoming demoralised, and that includes not expecting certain social media platforms to do the impossible. I don’t believe anyone can sell books on Twitter, but they might be able to sell themselves, as Lorna was saying. And of course, professional marketers generally expect a very low strike rate from their efforts, but their reach and scale compensates for it.

      Like

      • October 7, 2016 at 8:30 am

        I think Tara is right, it’s about having realistic expectations. I remember about 6 years ago when a friend had an online store and sold 2 pieces after getting a great mention in a really popular magazine. She thought the product would be flying off the shelves. A friend in marketing told me that was fairly normal for the times (recession had hit) so even getting the press coverage doesn’t necessarily get you the sales either unless it’s close to a gift buying season etc.
        I don’t know what the average success rate is from sending out press releases and I sent out many before the Ploughing Championships. I didn’t have time to chase up on some of them but I know I’ll get some of them again. For example, a bookshop in Wexford has just asked me to launch my book from their store and I’ll now have the opportunity to get some press coverage in that area.
        A follower on Twitter just dm’d me last night to say she had a problem getting my book from her local bookstore (which is interesting info as I now need to look into why that bookshop can’t stock it) and she wants to order all three. We’ve chatted on Twitter many times. She hadn’t purchased any of my books previously but now she’s decided to get all three while she’s at it. Sometimes people take a while to get around to making the move.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. October 6, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Well done, Lorna and Mara. Sorry, Tara.

    Continued good luck, Lorna.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. October 7, 2016 at 1:29 am

    This whole marketing thing is part of the cost of self-publishing. We’re not just self-publishers, we’re also self-marketers. And yet as introverted as a lot, maybe most of us writers are, pushiness just doesn’t come naturally. IOW, it’s tough! In the very first post on my blog I allude to that.

    It is indeed a very fine balance. A fine line. I made a mistake, when my novel first came out, to mention it on a blog of which subject matter easily fell within the scope of the book. My brief post was immediately removed as spam even though I tried not to push. That made me wary and I haven’t done it since as I hate spam more than anyone (with the possible exception of Tara). So I limit myself to my blog, and even there I rarely mention it besides occasionally referring to a character. I do have a Twitter account but don’t use it, or, really, to be honest, understand it very much. Haven’t got a Facebook account because I just don’t care for the long-time privacy issues. But as they appear to be “eating the web” someday I may have no choice.

    Everybody has advice, often conflicting. The best thing that’s worked for me so far, at least in the way of exposure, is Good reads Giveaways. Probably there are lots of methods of which I am ignorant. Anyway when I hear of success stories like Lorna’s I have to congratulate. SOMEONE has it figured out! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 7, 2016 at 8:32 am

      Thank you. I agree, different things work for different people. Goodreads isn’t so good for me because avid readers aren’t necessarily into farming books or perhaps more accurately, many of my target readers of farmers may only have time to read 2 or 3 books a year (so wouldn’t use goodreads) hence I need the press coverage to ensure that their choice includes mine 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  15. October 7, 2016 at 8:42 am

    How Kind of you to mention me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 7, 2016 at 10:56 am

      You’re v welcome Carol 🙂

      Like

  16. hamperlady
    October 7, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Really interesting post Lorna but I think you understated how hard you work for PR! It’s also mad how media want to perceive you and try and get you to fit their story. Maybe there is room for that self-help headline!

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 7, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      Lorna certainly does work hard, hamperlady, but I think it’s also about the fact that she works smart (albeit in grammatically better prose than that sentence 😉 ) There are many authors out there who are working really, really hard, but on marketing and PR strategies that just don’t work, such as flooding people’s social media feeds with spam.

      Liked by 1 person

    • October 7, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      Thanks Amanda, I do think it gets easier each year though as I make more connections which is an important point. For example, I’ve got a couple of publications in the UK that have reviewed each book so it’s just a case of contacting them again. It’s getting the new ones that can be difficult but I always enjoy the challenge. I remember thinking that marketing the first book was harder work than writing it.
      I might do the self help one sometime – tongue in cheek of course – would you believe I’m still waiting for a decision from the appeal court. It was heard in early Feb and I was supposed to hear within 2 weeks but enquired about a month ago and no judgement yet. Mad.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. October 9, 2016 at 10:26 am

    After reading this I’ve decided my next book is going to have ploughing in it, and then I’ll try to get it out there before we become cut off from the European Common Agricultural Policy.

    There was a sort of ‘slaps forehead’ moment reading through the post and the comments; the bit about readers buying books because they like the author, not necessarily the genre. It seems so obvious when it’s pointed out to you. That will now go to to the top of my MPfWD (Marketing Plan for World Dominance) Regardless of the strategy, be it real world, social media, press releases, to paraphrase Mr Pickles in the Booth’s supermarket videos, Give ’em the Author.

    Brilliant. Who do I pay for this advice, you Tara or Lorna?

    Liked by 2 people

    • October 9, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      Well, that’s a good social media approach I think – be nice/interesting and people who like you or find you intriguing will buy at least one of your books. Whether they buy the second remains to be seen I guess.
      See you at the Ploughing 2017 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    • October 9, 2016 at 6:34 pm

      It’s Lorna’s advice, Chris, but you can pay me. I’ll be sure to get it to her. Oh yes I will.

      Liked by 1 person

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