Being a Successful Writer Requires Marketing Knowledge

Here’s some advice I gave on a forum, to an aspiring writer.  But his wife was objecting to the time devoted to the project:

Actually, I don’t think the person shouldn’t write the book – providing he can make peace with his wife on it. But if it leads to a divorce, is it really worth the effort?

Notice how all the TV evangelists have books to give away – for a small donation, of course?

Writing is a form of therapy. It also helps us to clarify our thoughts, feelings, ideas, etc. It matters not whether we are writing a book, a short story, poem, PhD dissertation, etc., as writing itself is helpful. And during the process of writing, join a local writers group (in the US, ask your local adult reference librarian or in-district, community college, to refer one to you). They can give you candid, but honest. feedback. Read books on writing, like On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.

Sure, put it out on Amazon, get an ISBN number, copyright the book, etc. These are all easy steps to do. Then discover for yourself how hard – or easy – the selling process is. I never ask people to take my word on anything or even agree with a philosophical or theological idea I present. I appreciate alternative positions that are well argued and presented. I just prefer taking a more Socratic approach, in “just asking questions” , like Colombo or Socrates. No harm in that, right?

You’re probably under the spell that this book will be a runaway best seller. I’ve spent several years hanging around the College of DuPage, in their creative writing courses. There were many good to excellent writers there. I only think one or two of them ever published anything, and neither piece ever sold much. Even writers who have several published works, usually market themselves by going on speaking and promotional tours. Does she really have a problem if you write a book and nobody buys it?

Let me add this. Writing a book and self-publishing is the easy part (f you call it easy, as “good” writing requires many revisions). Getting people to buy it is the hard part.

Authors need to know a lot about marketing. I run and started a LinkedIn group for writers called Working Writers and a LinkedIn group for copywriters called Copywriters International. Both are sizable LinkedIn groups, with many good writers and marketers there. One of the persons I know is a ghostwriter, who has written fictional works for well-known authors. She was one of the first professional ghost writers out there. It’s one way to get known as a writer – but also very expensive.

I’ve also heard different fictional writers speak, in events sponsored by a consortium of local public libraries. I remember one guy who wrote several mystery books, based upon title names of famous drinks. He was using this as a marketing ploy. He had to travel on his own, promoting and marketing his own books. Often at events like the library talk. And he did say that for the price of a few drinks, he would answer extensively any questions.

Even if you secure an agent and a publishing company secures a contract, you are on your own in marketing and promotion. That is, if and until you become famous and a household name. And what would make you believe more in the rapture? A scholarly book on the topic or one of the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (i.e. which is not really bad writing, by the way)?

The only other way to avoid the marketing -at least, in part – is to be admitted into an élite writing school, like the University of Iowa. Then if the professors like you and think you are good, they use their contacts to promote you. If you can stand their intense scrutiny and tearing apart your works first, along with extensive rebuilding you need to do.

Or you can be like the woman in Basic Instinct: Extremely talented, very beautiful, extremely intelligent, devious as all get-out, schooled in the right university and left with 110 million, to promote and market herself.

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