I was just featured over at The Indie Spotlight (permalink is here), and learned a few things about marketing. Imagine me sighing heavily, because that's what I do when I hear that word. I'm no expert, I'm still learning it myself, but I did just learn an important lesson to share with you, and I have a few others for the self-published author.




For every writer figuring out any part of marketing feels exactly like this 

 

There are 5 stages of marketing: 

1) Before writing your book
   - Marketing Yourself As A Writer   

2) After you’ve written the first draft
   - Researching Marketing

3) After you’re done editing 
    - Beginning Book Marketing

4) After you’ve formatted 
   - Personal Marketing

5) After you’ve published  
   - Perpetual Marketing
 



Stage 6 (every writer's favorite) get faced as you have never been shit-faced before

 

In stage one you will not focus on marketing your book: you focus on marketing yourself. Many people make the mistake of marketing their book before they write it (how many thousands of times have you heard someone talk about their book only to tell you that they haven't written it yet?) Sorry, but at that stage you have an idea, not a book. Still, you are a writer, so market yourself as a writer. 
 

The best ways to do this are to build a strong online presence. Seriously, go write for free somewhere. Do try to eschew fanfiction or slashfiction, but find other sites where writers post. The truth is that the more sexual the writing the wider the audience. I write more than erotica but found my widest audience on literotica.com. Each story I post gets an average of 20,000 views and admittedly fewer of those click through to my profile, fewer of those follow the link to this site, and fewer of those actually buy my book. Remember the rule of Chinese Menus (aka street marketing): only 1% of all people exposed to your product will buy it. So get as many people exposed as possible and begin marketing yourself early and often. Target your genre but think about more sexual or erotic writing, just stay away from fanfiction.


 

 
Yup, it's like that but a 1,000x less classy

 

 

Until you’re done writing the first draft, all you need to worry about is getting your name out there and building a fanbase. Enjoy it and take it as a test drive: do you truly enjoy writing? Don’t do it if you won’t enjoy the perpetual craft and push that is professional writing. You can join a writer's group which affords many opportunities, but marketing ain't one. Join online groups, chat rooms, free writing sites. Volunteer your services as a critique partner. Network all you can but remember the rule of Chinese Menus: only 1% of all those contacts will buy your finished product, so cast your net as wide as possible.


Now, when you've finished the first draft, trust me, you need a break before editing. Write something else, take a vacation, or go on that brothel-spree across Nevada or Amsterdam you've always been planning. Just make sure at this point you do not slack off on researching your final marketing. 

Begin researching critics, reviewers, and promotional sites. You'd be surprised what's out there. Do avoid the first page of Google results; the Amazon Kindle Boards are filled with fellow hungry authors and almost no readers. Focus primarily on the promotional sites of your genre. You will find 3 types of sites available to you: promoters, critics, and reviewers. Reviewers are a bit like kinder, softer critics, critics are hard to reach for the self-published author, and promoters will feature your cover, links, and an excerpt with no commentary. Focus on reviewers and promoters.  




 
 

This is how you will view critics, so seek them sparingly 
 


Now is the time to do something sneaky (something I forgot to do): email 5 promoted authors from every critic/review/promotion site you're interested in. Ask them how long it took before their work got put up on the site. You can bet your ass the real time is a factorial of the quoted ETA. Also try to gather data about how popular the sites are (you can run URL's through data analytic sites like this one). Notate every bookmark with turnaround time and traffic. Keep it organized and clearly labeled, and keep 2 lists: one for the very few who will accept unpublished works, and the rest who only take published works.

Okay, you take that info, file it away nice and organized, finish up your Brothel-A-Palooza and then commence editing. Finish the editing by which I mean finish your first edit for grammar & spelling, your second edit for content, your third edit for pacing/flow, your fourth edit for grammar & spelling, and then your 3 outside editor edits. It'll take a long time, but once it's done, before you go downloading MobiPocket Creator or creating a Kindle account, go back to marketing. NOW is the time you send off copies & excerpts to those sites that take unpublished works. To be fair, there will be very few. Go ahead and hit up every single one of them now and give your estimated publish date as 1 month in the future.




To be fair no one expects an accurate guess, try and this happens


 
before you get to that point, while your outside editors are working, you should amp up your free writing and build a website. Start entering contests, post on websites, submit your page to Reddit or StumbleUpon. This is the time to really push to get your name out. Now you can start posting about your book, it's done! Trust me, post about a book anywhere in the writing process and it tempts fate and dooms it. Now it’s done, so go nuts with the mentions.

The next step is the whole formatting process. After writing a novel this seems easy. I tell you, I have never smoked so many cigarettes and cursed like a sailor while squeezing a stress ball as during this process. From a blog very much like this one I was saved by a step-by step formatting guide for creating a eBook. The paperback....frankly, solving the meaning of life might be easier. This process covers everything from formatting the font & spacing to designing the cover and will test your sanity.



This is the point at which you get to go "fuck tasting the rainbow, I wanna be axe-murdered by that shit!" crazy


Once it's done now you get into personal marketing. Buff up your website and get that cover on there!. Hey, free ones like mine at Yola are very easy, and save the professional one for when you need it because more than 6 people per month Google you.  Take your cover and get business cards made with the book title, where it will be sold, your name, and your website. No email address or phone number. This is the business card for your book, not you. Search online for the free & cheap card printers and get a small number made. 


Also begin to talk to local non-chain booksellers. If you publish a paperback through a service such as CreateSpace it makes it easier for local independent booksellers to order, so start cultivating the friendships now. Trust me, you'll need time away from the computer to save your sanity. Now is not the time to get orders for the book, but it’s the time to put it on everyone’s radar. You’ll be awaiting your proof copy and you will have to go through 2-3 of those, making changes after each one. It’s a law of writing. 
 

The real flurry of marketing comes once you have actually published. The second you have, ignore the urge to go post about it on Facebook or Twitter (ok, but post it quickly and then do the following) and begin marketing. Instantly all those critic/reviewer/promoters that only take published works will be accessible.In your research you should have notes about how long it takes between your submission and the posting time. Pick the shortest one first and submit it right away. Then take the longest and immediately submit to that site. Done. NOW is the time to go onto your blog, your Twitter, your Facebook and go nuts. Make sure you have all your info (website, IBSN, seller sites) before submitting or you'll have a devil of a time correcting it.




At every stage of writing, the Devil's in the details


Now that the book is out, return to the list and put the promoters/critics/reviewers in order of turnaround time. Submit your work to one each week, one week apart. Now look at promotional opportunities with your publisher. For example Kindle offers lending, or free library check-out for Prime members for 3 month stretches. You can even pick 1 week where you will sell it free to Prime members. Remember how when researching marketing you noted the traffic on sites? You want to coordinate your Amazon Prime Free Purchase Week (if you published with Kindle, and frankly, you should) to the week your book is run on the highest-traffic critic/reviewer/promoter site. Say for example the highest traffic site for you is romanceraversbeehives.com and their turnaround time is 4 months. Schedule for yourself a reminder to check and the second it goes onto that site for review it should be free for Prime members. The more you give away, the more you sell.


Through it all keep up your free writing, keep handing out those cards, keep chatting up booksellers, and memorize your sales pitch. Once your book is 100% finished trust me, you want to forget it existed, but you still need to work at it. If you get your own website, update it often. Remember to get your friends & family to write reviews on the sites where your book is sold. Check back often to see what products you're linked to (customer who bought X also bought Y) and Google the other book. Where is it promoted/reviewed? Add those sites to your list. You should only slow down on marketing when your second book is published.


This is a very general look at marketing, I'm still learning it. I've cobbled together the advice from friends that has proven true and the tips I've learned by making my own mistakes. In the future we'll take more specific looks at marketing stages, but for now I hope you have a handle on the stages. 
Oh, and in case you're wondering, the turnaround time for The Indie Spotlight? 6  Months. 


Or more time than it takes to create a brand new goat