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3 Marketing Strategies for Writers Who Hate Marketing

Let me tell you about David.

He’s a professional writer (blogger, fiction writer, non-fiction writer, etc.) who doesn’t like marketing his work. He says his job is to write, not to promote, and that if he works hard enough on his art, then his readers will come.

There’s just one problem.

Only a few people have come across David’s work. And when they do, they don’t stay long.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Not too long ago, I was David. And if you’re writer struggling to find an audience for your work online, he’s you too.

Writing is a hard, demanding craft and there’s nothing more disappointing than releasing your work into a vacuum.

Please don’t give up.

Through these three proven marketing strategies you can keep writing and make peace with your reluctance to promote your work.

Strategy #1: Research What Your Readers Want

Social media is a resource that marketers love because they can survey what their audience wants and develop personas.

You should view social media media as a tool for researching what your ideal readers want and to test how they will receive your work. You can also use social media to find writers or publishers who can help your career.

With BuzzSumo, you can use social media to research your current writing project. For example, when I type the term “marketing writing” into BuzzSumo, I can see most shared articles with this keyword or about this topic across social media.

This enables me to:

  • Research blog posts like this one
  • Find other writers I should work with or follow
  • Identify websites I should write for

Similarly, if you’ve finished a new book or giveaway for your blog, you could A/B test the title or cover by running a free poll on Facebook or Google+. These types of polls helped me pick a more relevant cover and title for my book.

Finally, before you publish your next article, take five minutes to find and review what’s already out there and what your audience has shared. Then, share what you’ve created with this audience using a time-saving app like Buffer or HootSuite.

Tip: If you don’t have a large social media following (or if you’re just stuck), communities like the APE: Authors, Publishers, Entrepreneurs group will help you pick a great title or book cover.

And if you don’t believe that writers should use social media, check out what Paulo Coelho is doing. Or Neil Gaiman. Or Stephen King.

Strategy #2: Email Your Readers

Email marketing is a traditional digital marketing strategy, but it’s one that forward-looking writers should feel at home with.

Think of your emails as a letter between you and your reader.Click To Tweet

There’s a long tradition of this. Harper Lee, Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis are just three of the many authors who wrote letters to their fans.

Through email, you can tell readers about your best work, explain your ideas, ask for feedback and gather information that will help you improve your next book, blog post or article.

It takes several hours to write an auto-responder email campaign, but once you set this campaign up, it will direct new readers to your best work for as long as it’s active.

Meanwhile, you can concentrate on writing new articles, essays or books safe in the knowledge that your blog – and by extension your writing – is marketing itself.

Tip: Give members of your email list high-quality bonus content for free such as chapters of your book, worksheets or templates that they can use. This way, your most loyal readers will get more value from your work.

Strategy #3: Write Guest Blog Posts

You’re a forward-looking writer committed to the art of blogging. You know how important it is to have a digital presence, and that blogging helps you practice your craft.

Writing guest blog posts for high-profile websites is a great way to market your writing. When you write for a large website, your words will appear in front of a new audience that is unfamiliar with your work.

You can make peace with this marketing strategy because it allows you to keep writing and promote your work.

Every writer who wants to improve knows how important critical feedback is. When an editor of the website you’re writing for reviews your posts, you will receive feedback that will help you improve as a writer. This constructive feedback is something aspiring writers pay for – but you can get it for free through guest posting.

Finally, if you write several successful guest blog posts, you can ask the site owners to share your content or promote your book. This is cheaper and more efficient than trying to run an advertising campaign.

Tip: When your guest blog post goes live, write a second blog post on your website that links to the guest blog post. This should expand on the guest post or welcome new readers to your website. This way, your blog keeps up to date and your existing readers will read your guest posts.

But I’m a Writer, Not a Marketer!

Can I blunt?

This is a cop-out, and it’s one I spent years making.

I’ve sat in writing groups and listened to myself and my peers describe how marketing a book or a piece of writing is debasing. I’ve agreed that marketing should be left to the marketers and writing to the writers.

We were wrong.

If you’ve read the Special Report on Engaged Audience Building for Authors, you already know talent isn’t enough. You may be a writer and your books, blog posts and articles may be art, but what’s the point if nobody finds your work?

In All Marketers Are Liars, the oracle of online marketing Seth Godin provides numerous examples of companies, brands and business people that tell authentic stories about their products.

He writes, “When you find a story that works, live that story, make it true, authentic, and subject to scrutiny. All marketers are storytellers.”

Did I mention Godin wrote 17 books?

What You Need To Do Next

As a writer, your most important task for the day is to cultivate your writing routine and create. You can’t market your work if you haven’t produced anything of value.

However, your job doesn’t end when you press submit or upload your new eBook to Amazon.

Research what your audience wants, build relationships with thought leaders who can help and keep searching for ways to get in front of new audiences.

Don’t feel bad or sleazy about these kinds of marketing activities.

Instead, you are telling stories about your work. These are stories which you may know well, but which your future readers haven’t heard yet.

Are you a writer who feels uncomfortable marketing your work? Or have you found a way to make peace with writing and with telling people stories about what you create? Please let me know in the comments below.

About Bryan Collins

Bryan Collins helps writers become more creative and productive on his website Become a Writer Today. Get this free lesson from FINISH and discover how to outline your book faster.

24 comments

  1. Hi Kathleen,

    Firstly, I’m sorry to hear about your son.

    I understand that you’re a hater of marketing. I recommend reading ‘All Marketers Are Liars’ before giving up on marketing altogether. Yes, they’re are companies that will market for your but it’s expensive and they won’t do as good as a job as you can.

    I suggest focusing on the writing now and taking one small step every day towards building your online platform. Do this after you’ve completed your writing for the day.

    You can do this by guest posting. Or you could take a course in WordPress on Lynda.com There are dozens of high-quality posts here that explain how to market a book or other types of content too.

    Remember, a great masterpiece isn’t much good if it never sees the light of day (unless you’re J.D. Salinger)

    I hope this helps.

  2. I was doing a search on marketing and came across this website. Great article.

    I have a website, blog, but I’ve done very, very little marketing. I’d just about come to the conclusion that even though I love to write my dislike for marketing is to the point where I might as well give up on ever selling anything.

    Then in October of 2014 one of my sons died and my whole world and my outlook on life has changed. Even though I’m still, me, a hater of marketing I’m on fire about writing my son’s story. What does a person do in my shoes?

    Is there a company who does all the marketing for authors?

    1. I really feel for you, Kathleen. Modern marketing is not about shouting “buy needs telling. my book!” It’s about making friendly contact with prospective readers and telling them why they would like your book. You can start gently on social media, just making friends. Make friends with other authors too, like me, and you’ll get support.

      Good luck. I’m sure your story needs telling.

  3. Hi Hassan,
    It’s good to hear positive feedback!

    My strategy for guest posting is to pick blogs where your audience (or future audience) is active. It helps if the blog is really popular, has an engaged community and is one you read anyway. So that’s quality over quantity.

    That’s also why I pitched Firepole Marketing and why I’m grateful that they accepted my post.

  4. Hey Bryan,

    Loved your article especially since it relates to me at this moment right now…

    ( Upcoming freelance blogger)

    My favorite strategies are the 1st and 2nd. They eliminate any “fluffy” type guess work and allow you to drill into your audiences needs and likes immediately.

    About guest posting though, the more the better right?

    Or is it about quality over quantity?

  5. Hey Bryan, your post really hit home for me. Thanks so much for writing it up! As a copywriter and fiction writer myself, I’m all too familiar with that feeling of not wanting to put myself out there. There’s a lot of pressure for artists not to “sell out” (whatever that means). But it’s the people who write top quality stuff AND market themselves well who rise to the put. Thanks for the reminder that we’re all in marketing. -Corey

  6. Thanks Bryan for the helpful advice.
    I taught myself marketing when I self-published my local history books, but through reading good advice, like Firepole and APE, I’m improving all the time. I’ve realised that you can’t rush making yourself known, so the sooner you start, the better. I recommend authors start finding their way around, tweeting, blogging, finding blogs to read and comment on, etc., even before they finish writing the book. That way, you’ll have a head start when you finally have something to sell.

    1. Hi Ann Marie,

      Good to hear your growing your knowledge and that’s sound advice. The writing should always come first but it’s helpful to have a head start.

      Thanks for reading

  7. The main difference between the limitations of the traditional publishing paradigm, and the new self-publishing method is that authors must market themselves, or hire an experienced marketer to promote them.

    When you list the advantages and the disadvantages to both methods, there are far more checks in the plus column in favor of self-publishing. It is a difficult adjustment for some authors, but the trade-off is well worth it in the long run.

    1. Hi John,
      I agree.

      The Self Publishing Podcast is a great resource for writers wondering why your point is so true. The three hosts even say they’d be reluctant to take a traditional book deal because of the power of self-publishing.

      Thanks for reading

  8. Thanks so much for the very helpful information. Being a new author I never realized how difficult it can be to market your own work. Currently, I am working on building my e-mail lists. Blogging? Not one of my better suits. But, I’m willing to learn.

    1. Hi Rose,
      I was surprised by having to market my work too. I thought it should stand on its own two legs. Look on it this way: even Leonardo da Vinci had to spend time (and money) finding patrons who promoted his work.

      We can do it too.

      Thanks for reading

      Blogging is a superb way to market your work by the way.

    1. Hi Sharon,
      I’m glad you found the post helpful. I agree, there’s no point creating if nobody is there to see the creation.

      Thanks for reading

  9. Thanks for the resources to seek out to augment research and marketing.
    I’m dragging my feet to ‘get out there’ due to lack of confidence that others will be as interested as I hope they will be. Fear of lack of interest is a hurdle writers have to overcome.

    1. Hi Virginia,
      I’m glad you found the resources helpful. It’s natural to drag our feet sometimes. You
      can make progress by harnessing the power of small but daily wins towards your goal.

      Good luck!

      Thanks for reading

  10. Hi!
    I just want to thank you for this article. I have been largely intimidated by marketing, as a fledgling indie author. This article gave me some valuable insights and reminders that I have to consider. Although I have traffic coming to my website, I aim to have more followers I can really connect with. But in truth I have found that process to be very difficult no matter how many methods I read about and try. I have to ask: How would you go about asking someone to be a guest blogger? I feel rather small in the large indie author world. Every time I consider just flat out tweeting someone or even emailing someone it just feels weird, or like I’m too small to be considered. Maybe I should dive in and email despite?

    1. Hi Rae,
      If you’re unsure about marketing, I recommend reading Seth God’s All Marketers Are Liars. This book helped me make peace with writing and with marketing.

      If you want to guest blog:
      * Read the blog in question for a month, comment and share their posts etc
      * While doing this, brainstorm ideas for posts you could write
      * Send the blog editor a short pitch saying why you like their blog, how it helped you and what you can do for them. It also helps if you have a title for your post.

      I hope this helps
      Thanks for reading

  11. Hey Bryan

    Thank you so much for introducing me to BuzzSumo. I am an idea executor, not an idea generator, so this tool will prove invaluable!

    And guest blogging seems to be a fabulous way to increase the visibility of a novice author without feeling too awkward 😀

    Thanks again
    Kit

    1. Hi Krithika,
      Buzzsumo is an excellent tool that’s getting a lot of praise from content marketers. I like it because it’s useful for validating ideas and finding people to work with.

      Thanks for reading

  12. Hi William,

    I agree businesses can build on social media and advertising, but I know many writers feel uncomfortable with marketing their work as it doesn’t feel creative.

    I like guest posts because you can keep writing and your work will market itself on another site. Think of it as marketing on auto-pilot (that could make a good guest post!)

    1. That does sound like a good guest post Bryan, I understand what you are saying, maybe instead of writing on social media, they could write on article websites and then state on their social media networks, hey check out this article I just wrote on this website. Could be an idea? Thanks

  13. Hello, I think anybody that create online art / web design as well as a writer can relate to this post. Everything that goes online needs some sort of marketing to make help your work reach the right audience. As you say, social media is essential and a fantastic tool to reach new people. I know of some businesses that have built their business on social media and advertising through social media. I think it all just takes time and being active online. We enjoyed reading your tips in this article and would just like to say, thank you for sharing this with us.

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