Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: How to Non-Market

Originally posted at 10 Minute Novelists. Currently cross-posted at as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.

billboard-951520-mI’ve spent a large part of my career as a commercial writer in my own small business. Small business owners are responsible for everything. I was writer, peer reviewer, company book-keeper, chief executive, project manager, strategic planner, stores manager, cleaner of toilets, sales person and, of course, the big ‘M’ word. The one I feared. Marketing. So I learnt how to promote my business by non-marketing; marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing. Marketing that an introvert like me could do just by being myself.

It was good preparation for being a self-published writer. Again, I am running my own business. And again, I’m out in the world vigorously non-marketing.

Non-marketing is about being present

The first rule of non-marketing is to spend time with people who might want to read your book. Get to know them. Talk to them about the things that interest you. Find out what interests them. Be present.

In traditional non-marketing, writers joined Toastmasters, and Rotary, and the local bowling club. They went to book fairs and gardening clubs; talked at schools and writers’ workshops; went to dinner with agents and editors and book clubs. And we can still do all of those things.

Today, we can also spend time with people all over the world, using the Internet. You don’t have to be everywhere; choose two or more from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, blogging and all the others. Then go and meet people. Be present.

Non-marketing is about being genuine

If you want a friend, the old saying goes, you have to be a friend. The second rule of non-marketing is to offer others a helping hand. One of the things I really love about the romance writing community is the open-hearted, open-handed and genuine approach to helping others.

This isn’t about reciprocal arrangements: like my page and I’ll like yours, review my book and I’ll review yours. It isn’t about sucking up, either. Being genuine means giving because I can, because I know the answer to your question, or have the contact you need, or have a blog and would love you to be my guest.

The flashy insincere marketers might also be helpful, but always there’s an agenda. Sponsorships are often this kind of marketing. The support comes with strings attached, in the form of opportunities to sell their service or product. Sponsored by [insert name of famous soda drink here].

As non-marketers you’ll be helpful because you are genuinely interested. You want to know about the birth of a friend’s grandchild. You celebrate your friend’s acceptance letter from a publisher because you’re genuinely happy for them. You hunt your research database for an obscure fact someone has asked for. You send you a condolence message because someone’s troubles touch your heart.

Non-marketing is about offering a unique experience

If you’re present in a community who love the kind of books you write, one way you can be genuinely helpful is to offer them your book. Not in a ‘buy, buy, buy; me, me, me’ used car salesman way, but gently, as part of the conversation.

Let’s say people are talking about the kinds of protagonist they prefer. You may, if it fits in the conversation, use a description of your own protagonist to illustrate your point. Keep it short. Make it interesting.

It helps to be very clear about what you do that is different, and to have a few lines you can use. If someone asks what I write, I say ‘historical fiction with strong heroines, heroes who can appreciate them, and complex plots full of mystery and suspense’. It’s a tagline I’m working on, and constantly changing, but it’s getting there. My hero Rede is “a man driven by revenge who needs to move beyond his past before he can have a future”.

And there you have it. I’ve used my work to give two illustrations of my point. And I don’t need to belabour it until you’re bored, or sell you something today. Today, we have more important things to talk about, such as how you can turn a friend into a long-term reader.

Non-marketing is about being good at what you do

Insincere marketers rely on lots of noise to keep driving new customers to their product. Non-marketers know that the best customers of all are the ones who love your product so much that they will sell it for you, by telling all their friends.

So write a good book. No. Cancel that. Write the best book you can. And when you’ve finished, write a better one. Never stop learning; never stop improving. Your best marketing tool is your library of successful publications.

Non-marketing is about building long-term relationships

I don’t want readers. Or, at least, I don’t want just readers. I want to make friends who will stay with me for the journey.

Readers, yes. People who find I offer them a reading experience they can’t get from anyone else, so they wait for my next book and pounce on it as soon as it goes on pre-order. People who will contact me and tell me what they like, discuss my characters, adopt my heroes as book boyfriends and my heroines as BFFs, argue about the motivations of my villains, pick up some of my subtle jokes and codes.

And fellow writers. People who will laugh at the things I laugh at, tell stories about their craft that inspire, amuse, or dismay, help me out and accept my help, understand the journey — its costs and its rewards.

Above all, I want friends who care about books and about story telling, and who are happy to talk about them. And the heart of non-marketing is making friends.

10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJudy holds a Masters in Communication, and is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. As a writer and editor for a broad range of government and private-sector organisations, she has applied her clear writing skills to topics as diverse as insurance, climate change, income tax, genetics, finance, local government, and health.

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Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Word-of-Mouth

Originally posted at 10 Minute Novelists. Currently cross-posted at as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.

billboard-951520-m“Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep, Talk a Lot, Pick a Little More…”

I date myself with this reference to The Music Man (and finally publicly admit my long-time love of musical theatre), but I find it inexplicably accurate when discussing word-of-mouth marketing.

Most readers will not tell their friends how great you are. Sadly, your book is not their primary topic of conversation. However, word-of-mouth marketing is the best, and least expensive, tool you have.

Always has been. Always will be.

Further, this is the way people make buying decisions now—recommendations from friends and respected experts—which is why social media campaigns sell. Static advertising is no longer effective. (Let me say that again: Advertising no longer works.)

Now, the most effective forms of promotion involve conversation. This means review sites, blogs, co- and cross-promotion with other authors, book clubs, signings, and most important, two concepts with more meaning than you think: “Buzz” and “viral” marketing.

Buzz Marketing, as the name implies, is about people talking about your product. However, its specific meaning in the marketing world moves beyond organic discussion. In marketing parlance, buzz is generated by designing the conversations you want people to have. A great example is drug commercials: “talk to your doctor about [insert medication].” If you think lovers of Gone with the Wind will buy your book, tell them why your hero is like Rhett Butler. If they agree, they will tell friends who also love Southern historical fiction. (If they don’t agree, the strategy will backfire, so design your conversations carefully.)

Viral Marketing, like a cat video shared ten million times on YouTube, is created by giving someone an item to pass along. This might be a video trailer or coupon or a sample book or a rack card, but should always be designed to bring people back to your product. A bookmark is lovely, but without an easy link to a buy site (not just your website), its usefulness is limited. Likewise, a pass-along no one passes along is irrelevant.

To achieve these all-but-magical forms of promotion, back to my third-favorite musical of all time (before you ask, Camelot and My Fair Lady).

Pick a Little

Loglines, elevator speeches, and blurbs aren’t just for the back cover (or pitching an agent) anymore. Today, you are pitching everyone who might be interested, including people you will never meet.

Identify thought leaders: Since customers take their advice from friends and experts, pick your targets carefully. Street teams work because their friends probably have similar tastes and are more likely to listen to a friend’s recommendation than yours. Similarly, if a noted authority (like a bestselling author or well-known reviewer) supports your product, buyers will listen.

Keep it short: Loglines work better than blurbs for verbal and social media exchange. “[Book Title] is about [if you have to take a breath, your conversation is too long].”

Start smart: Choose a limited number of outlets and messages until you know what works, and track your results. Indiscriminate efforts are wasted. Begin small and only escalate what sells.

Create Meaningful Messages: Make much of milestones, like bestseller lists, publication anniversaries, or selling a certain number of copies, because these tidbits are easily shared by loyal fans. Promote great reviews, especially ones by thought leaders.

Talk a Little

Begin with human interaction, not calculated conversation starters. Get to know your audience—and let them get to know you—by joining and participating in:

  • Writers’ groups. While the “author water cooler” is, in some ways, counter-intuitive, authors help each other and classes in craft will never hurt your chances of success. To make this most effective, remember that turnabout is fair play; giving back to the community is imperative, not optional.
  • Social groups related to your interest, online and otherwise, for instance, online research-sharing groups, a gardening society, or a historical reenactment troupe.
  • Relevant associations, like historical preservation societies, religious study groups, or scientific research consortiums.

When you have found a niche or two where you feel comfortable, attend meetings, volunteer, speak up in online forums, and generally make yourself known, not just as an author, but as a contributor. The chance to talk about your book will occur naturally, and your audience will be more receptive.

Cheep (or Rather, Cheap)

Word-of-mouth is the least expensive marketing option. When it begins to move on its own, it costs you nothing, and before it does, most of your outlay is in time, not cash. A couple of ideas to stimulate buzz and viral messaging:


Giveaways: Sending an e-copy of your book to a potential reader is a great investment. That said, give away the book or directly related items, not “anything someone might want,” and don’t spend more than your sale is worth. Also, target your giveaway. It makes no sense to give a novel to someone who only reads nonfiction. Copies to reviewers are great, but don’t send a historical romance novel to Suspense Magazine.


Sales: Judiciously lowering the price on your book is great way to get word-of mouth moving. If you watch social media, you will see that “This book I loved is only 99ȼ!” is shared far more often than, “I loved this book.” If you combine sales with similar authors, so much the better, because then you are sharing a larger pool of readers interested in your genre.

Talk a Lot

Once you know which conversations to have and with whom, spread them around! Every sentence can’t start with, “My book,” or the pass-along will be “boring and self-centered.” But as you find the balance between normal interaction and sales, you will naturally find opportunities for both.

Pick a Little More

As time goes on, expand your conversation starters, extend your reach to new thought leaders, and find new outlets for your message. But always—always—make sure the words you are putting in other people’s mouths are ones you want repeated.

Mari ChristieMari Christie is a professional writer, editor, and designer with almost twenty-five years’ experience in marketing and business communications. She holds a BA in Writing from the University of Colorado Denver, summa cum laude, and is a member of the Bluestocking Belles and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Under the pseudonym Mariana Gabrielle, her first Regency romance, Royal Regard, was released in November 2014 and her second, La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess will be available in June 2015.

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