Monday, 15 September 2014

The best marketing plan in the world can’t save a poor quality book

By Narelle Atkins

A successful marketing plan will result in your book being visible to your target audience of readers. I also think it’s possible that an effective marketing strategy can be detrimental to an author’s career if their book doesn’t live up to reader expectations.

Readers are smart. They may not know the technical writing craft terms to explain why a story isn’t working, but they can recognise bad writing. This includes characterisation and story structure as well as grammar and spelling mistakes. Readers know if a story is boring, slow and doesn’t engage them. They know if the characters are flat and seem to make illogical decisions. They know if the plot is unbelievable or if the writing style is pulling them out of the story. Rel Mollet recently wrote an excellent post from the perspective of a reader here.

There are books that will break out despite having numerous writing craft problems, but those books are the exception to the rule. The likelihood of a book breaking out, in general, has similar odds to winning a lottery. There’s also a difference between a poor quality book that is lacking in the fundamentals of storytelling and writing craft, and a reader not liking a story due to personal taste.

For example, we all have different tastes with ice cream. Some people love ice cream, irrespective of the flavour. Others have specific likes and dislikes. And there are people who don’t like ice cream at all. Ice cream that has the wrong consistency and can’t be served in a waffle cone, or has the incorrect base ingredients, is likely to disappoint even the most devoted ice cream fans. The fundamentals of writing craft are like the base ingredients and consistency of ice cream, and genre is like the flavour.

Many years ago, when I first started writing, authors focused nearly all of their energy on writing the best possible book. Marketing was a secondary consideration or designated as primarily the publisher’s job.

Now both traditionally published and indie authors have marketing responsibilities. There are expectations that authors have a website, blog, and are involved in social networking. Book discoverability is even harder now there is infinite electronic shelf space for both print and ebooks. A challenge for authors is how to balance the time they spend on marketing vs. writing their next book. I wrote a post on this topic on the International Christian Fiction Writers blog here. 

A potential downside of the ebook revolution, and the ease of indie publishing, is that authors may mistakenly believe that a big focus on marketing rather than learning the craft of writing will lead to book sales and a successful publishing career.

Authors can’t control their book sales numbers but they can control the quality of their books. It’s still worthwhile to spend the time required to write the best possible book. Professional editing is important, whether this is done by a traditional publisher or an indie author hiring top quality freelance editors. A professional book cover is essential. A reader won’t buy your second book if they’re disappointed by your first book. 

Resist the temptation to upload your unedited first draft on Amazon or Smashwords. Readers deserve quality books and they deserve to receive value for money. Plus, a reader’s time is valuable and they can’t get back the hours they’ve invested in reading a bad book. 

Don’t become the author who readers in your chosen genre skip reading because the quality of your writing is poor. Not everyone will like your book. I write romance and not everyone likes reading romance. That’s okay. My job as a romance author is to write quality books and market my books to romance readers who like the types of stories I write.

You only have one chance to make a first impression with readers. Make it the best first impression possible and wow your future readers with an excellent book.



NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. Her debut book, Falling for the Farmer, was a February 2014 release, followed by The Nurse's Perfect Match in May 2014, The Doctor's Return in August 2014, Her Tycoon Hero in November 2014, and Winning Over the Heiress in February 2015.

Narelle blogs regularly with International Christian fiction Writers and Inspy Romance. http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/ 
http://www.inspyromance.com/ 

She is also a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA).
http://acrba.blogspot.com/ 

Website: http://www.narelleatkins.com
Blog: http://narelleatkins.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NarelleAtkinsAuthor
Twitter: @NarelleAtkins https://twitter.com/NarelleAtkins

18 comments:

  1. You are so right, Narelle! I think impatience can make us step out too soon. I have to constantly rein myself in and wait, learn a bit more, and polish my books. I want to put a quality product out there that readers will feel gave them value for money. Great post.

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    1. Hi Cat, I agree, impatience can lead to writers jumping into publishing their book too soon. That's where independent feedback and validation can be helpful. Unpublished writing contests are one way writers can gauge how their writing craft measures up against a specified criteria and receive numerous opinions on the quality of their work.

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  2. Too many authors see "marketing" and think "promotion". Marketing is so much more than that, and begins, as you've said, with a top-quality product.

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    1. Hi Iola, yes, I agree this is an important distinction. Often writers don't know what they don't know. They can't see the flaws or editing issues in their own writing and mistakenly believe they have a good quality product.

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  3. Well said, Narelle. Investing time in the actual writing is what counts in the long run, and helps in making your novel a memorable read.

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    1. Hi Rita, I agree, we shouldn't underestimate the value of investing in writing time and learning our craft.

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  4. Good post Narelle. and you are right about readers we don't know the ins and out but we do know what we do and don't like.

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    1. Hi Jenny, yes, I agree. As a reader, I'm disappointed when a book in one of my favourite genres doesn't deliver on its promise. We want to love the book and enjoy our reading experience.

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  5. Quality is essential. The importance of that should never be under-estimated. Great post, Narelle.

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    1. Andrea, I agree. In theory, each book we write should be at least the same or better in quality than our previous books. Sometimes deadline pressure can show, and subsequent books in a series aren't as polished as the author's earlier books. If an author is still struggling with significant writing craft issues by book 6 or 7, I tend to assume they'll never 'get it' and I don't bother looking at their new releases.

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  6. Hi Narelle, I like your encouragement to work hard on what we can control. Good writing, good editing, good cover. Thanks for the reminder. :-)

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  7. Hi Dotti, I agree, it's important to recognise what we can and can't control. Our last book is what will sell (or not sell, if the book isn't a good read) our next book.

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  8. Writing something of excellent quality takes so much time it would be so easy to give in to the temptation of finishing a manuscript which is only mediocre. But like you say Narelle, readers cant be fooled. Sometimes authors are only given that one chance.

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    1. Hi Susanne, You're so right, it takes time to write quality books. And, even more time to learn how to write quality books fast. A rushed writing apprenticeship usually isn't the best plan. Thanks for stopping by :)

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