Tuesday, November 19, 2013

More Creativity or More Marketing?

Suppose I ask a friend, "Which would help me sell more books? Learn how to be more creative with my writing? Or learn better marketing skills?"

The two go hand-in-hand. One without the other is nothing, a big zero, a failure.
However, I think most writers are better at one than the other.

Take Example #1: Jane Author. Jane is a writing machine. She can turn out stories without even trying. She's highly creative, always taking notes, observing, thinking about scenes in her recent WIP, or a plot for an entirely new story. Her products are very good, if not superior to many writers. But her marketing skills are weak, and she doesn't know exactly how to improve them.

Example #2: Mary Market. Mary knows all about marketing. She's even written a book that teaches others how to market themselves as well as she does. But she's a slow writer, and often has more than one manuscript unfinished. Her one book sells very well, because she knows how. But selling one book will not help the bank account.
Both writers will soon suffer burn-out.

The question is: How do I strike a balance between the two?

Personally, I am better at writing than marketing. Writing requires a good imagination, above average command of the English language, and knowledge about writing fiction. All these still require continued learning, for none of us ever know everything. At least, I'm comfortable writing, and so far I have not suffered burn-out.

Marketing, though, is still a bit elusive--and boring. At the moment, I do as much as I know how, and that's not much. Many other venues exist that I have not mastered.
Question: How important is the fact we should market ourselves....instead of the book? Does this make sense? I've read articles that suggest marketing ourselves goes a long way in selling our product.

Maybe our individual personality helps sell--or not. Personally, I'm drawn to authors who are positive and fun and friendly. That doesn't mean I haven't read books by authors I know I wouldn't like in person--it only means it's not the norm for me.

I study commercials for car and trucks on TV. Most are rather obnoxious, in my opinion. However, one of the most obnoxious ones sells the brand of truck we just bought. But the dealer we bought from was here in town, and not one person in there was obnoxious. In fact, they go out of their way to be kind and courteous and happy. Also, they serve breakfast--really! Four kinds of coffee, fresh, glazed donuts, and sausage rolls. In the afternoon, they switch to big bakery cookies with white chocolate, packages of cheese crackers, soft drinks, and popcorn.
The dealer on TV is in Austin, and I would not go there simply because of the man and woman in the commercial. Completely outrageous and loud.

This is a case of personality. If we hadn't been very happy with the dealer and the particular salesman, we would have gone elsewhere.
I think anyone would have.
And this applies to selling anything--our books and/or us.

It pays to be nice.
Celia Yeary
Romance...and a little bit of Texas


  1. Agreed! Nice is as nice does - I met a NYT author that I enjoyed and found she wasn't very courteous. Haven't bought another book of hers since.

    Thanks for clarifying the dichotomy of writing/marketing. Very helpful

  2. Celia, I struggle with marketing vs. writing all the time. I too have heard it's better to market myself rather than just my books. It helps to have a good sense of humor, from what I've observed.

  3. Doesn't everyone struggle with this?! I think one of the main problems is that we "write what we'd like to read". Marketing that is another element altogether. Where do people who like to read the books I do "hang out"? I've no idea because I don't "hang out". I'm working; I'm that slow writer. Perhaps I need a checklist?

  4. This is a huge subject. Most of us in the creative arts never worked on a business degree in college, so we're next to clueless about marketing and promotion. There are so many techno avenues now like Twitter (which I haven't a clue how to use)and Facebook, but I think they only help a little. I have seen auhtors relentlessly promote their books every single day and, honestly, I grow numb to that. I also don't think blogging every single day works well either. I do think that having a presence in reader/author groups and just chatting with readers helps. I agree with you about being polite. I've seen some snarky authors fall in public opinion for rubbing people the wrong way. It would be wonderful if publishers would do all the promoting and leave authors to work on their WIPs, but let's face it, those days are gone for good. It's tough to be an author wearing two hats.
    Of course, writing a blog like this creates interest and that's always a good thing. I like your blogs, Celia and I love your work.
    Now I've written a reply about as long as the original blog. LOL

  5. Ashantay--Me, too. I've done the same thing upon hearing about some rude action by big authors...just can't stand it. No one is going to look down their nose at me. (I talk big, don't I?)Also, I've Unfriended a couple of authors on FB because foul language--and not just once or twice, which I could tolerate, but I mean in every sentence, and sometimes multiples words. Very crude.
    Thanks so much for your reply.

  6. Lyn--most of us, probably are better at writing than marketing. I can learn how to do many things, but I need some guidance. Marketing, even though the internet is littered with advice, is still elusive and at times bewildering.
    I always love a person with a sense of humor.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Linda--
    You've mentioned a bewildering fact about marketing. So, we know how to do a few things--but where is the audience? How do people find us--if they want to? I do not know. Wish I did and I'd be very pleased.
    Otherwise, I do the simple things. FB seems to help me more than anything.
    If you ever have an epiphany, let us all know!

  8. Sarah--you have a way of getting to the heart of the matter--that is, most of us are not business people. Even though we all know at least the basics of internet networking, that doesn't mean we know exactly how to take advantage of them.
    My premise is--everything I do on the internet--FB, Twitter, Blogging, mostly, is to get attention and have a little fun. I'm one that keeps my personal life and business off FB.
    You're right, too, about promoting books far too much on FB especially. That does get tiresome. Even I get tired doing my own, and think...if I'm tired of it, others will be, too.
    Still, we should not pull back too much or give up if we expect some success.
    I learned from one author friend how to use Twitter every day and take not more than ten minutes to do so.
    I use FB, as I said, to get attention and interact with others. Most often, when I'm on there, it's my "prescribed time to fiddle around." Then I stop and get back to work.
    Blogs are elusive things. Mine is okay, numbers wise, and I do get comments often from someone I don't know. The main thing about my blog is that I like to do it. Many don't. And I blog about once a week.

    I know authors can hire a group to promote for you, to post messages, etc., and while that's fine for them...it's so impersonal I avoid reading those.
    Such a problem.
    I love to read your replies because they always make me think.

  9. Celia, I think one almost has to have a split personality to write creatively and promote agressively. I love writing and I resent the time promoting it takes away from my joy. It is especially frustrating when one promotes a book and few results are seen as sometimes happens. I really think we need a PR person more than an agent.

  10. Linda--a PR person could probably make more money than we do. Many of us just don't...and can't...promote enough and effectively. I do agree.
    It's frustrating.

  11. Good thoughts, Celia. There is also the cover factor. You are selling yourself when you advertise your book, the attractiveness of the product, and the product. It is time consuming and not always pleasant or easy for us to put ourselves out there, but it is part of the job. I never shove a postcard with my book cover on it until someone asks what I write. Then it opens that door to hand them the card and tell them about the story and start talking about yourself and your book.

  12. Paisley--you're very wise. Always wait for an opening. Many people I know in town still do not know I write novels. Not long ago a woman I hadn't seen in a couple of years said she hadn't seen me--what have you been doing? This, to me, is the perfect opening. It's funny, I've had people say, I didn't know that! As if accusing me of hiding it from them.
    Promotion is tricky all the way around--too much, and we turn people off. Too little, and others won't even know.
    I've not yet found any kind of balance.
    I so agree about the cover. There is a list of 8 things that makes a good cover. I copied them from another blog--so I can't make a blog out of the list--or I would.
    Thanks so much for stopping by.

  13. Interesting blog topic. It is a balancing act for sure. The Marketing is necessary evil, especially when edit deadlines are looming and the muse strikes with a new idea. Good luck finding the right balance!

  14. Thanks, RoseAnn. I can manage what I do--I just need to do more!

  15. I wish I had someone to do the marketing for me so I could just write. I resent the time suck of marketing. But, as you pointed out, it's necessary to sell our books. Otherwise, we're writing for ourselves and our family.

  16. Celia, There are days when I wish all I had to do was write. Marketing should be someone else's job. Right?

    At least I was green enough to believe that "before" my first book released. Boy, was I in for a shock when my publisher told me it was up to ME to market my book.

    I should mention that though it's been 4 years I'm still a bit dazed by it all...and still searching for a less time-consuming, more efficient way to promote.

    Does anyone have any great ideas? We all know blog interviews are fun, but they merit little. And book signings? I hate to even go there. Many times I haven't even recovered the money I spent on gas.

  17. Caroline--So far, it seems all writers wish they could just write. But I wonder if we might not get bored with that. I'm not crazy about marketing, but at least switching back and forth keeps me from getting bored.
    Thanks for coming by.

  18. Laurean--we're all in the same boat. Book signings are the least profitable, I think for everyone but the bigger authors.
    I would choose 3 ways to promote and spend your marketing time and skills on those three.
    For me? That's FB, my blog, and Twitter (and I don't utilize it very well.) Don't spread yourself too thin--better to go for "less is more," but then retain a constant presence on those.
    Thanks so much for commenting.

  19. On a good day, I think I'm good at both creating and marketing.
    On a bad day, I believe I stink at both.
    I do know I spend more time marketing than writing. For one thing, I have to work myself into the mood to create, because that's the way my mind operates.
    Morgan Mandel

  20. Me, too, Morgan. I can't will myself to sit down and create, but I can make myself sit down and promote, which take just a lot of toggling back and forth, hither and yon. You? I think you're one of the best.