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 blogs regularly with International Christian fiction Writers and Inspy Romance. http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com/
She is also a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA).
Twitter: @NarelleAtkins https://twitter.com/NarelleAtkins