Bestselling crime writer JJ Marsh, based in Switzerland, describes the light-bulb moment when she realized that marketing wasn't about her, but about her readers, and describes how this became a turning point in her fortunes as an indie author.
You Are Not Selling To Yourself
In the last year, marketing has started to make sense. Like so many authors, I loathed trying to sell my books and found the whole business an embarrassing, dispiriting struggle. But I persevered. Because pug food doesn’t grow on trees.
I bought books on marketing, subscribed to ad courses, listened to gurus and tried to apply what I learned. Finally I stopped dragging my heels and started my own newsletter.
Then came the revelation. In the very first session of Tammi LeBrecque’s Newsletter Ninja, she said this:
You are not your reader
That might seem obvious to you smarter ALLis out there, but it changed my whole mindset. Of course I hated marketing while I was trying to sell to a mirror image of myself.
Right after reading that, I changed strategy and tested some techniques I’d always avoided because they wouldn’t appeal to me.
Me vs My Readers
Let’s compare me and my reader.
- I am a middle-aged, British indie writer living in Switzerland. I’m the author of a European crime series. I like travel, Prosecco and Netflix.
- My target reader is Betty from Columbus, Ohio. She’s retired and belongs to a library and a book club. She likes baking, crockpots and the Acorn TV channel.
I don’t subscribe to author newsletters. I have never responded to one in my life no matter how many emojis are in the subject line.
Betty does. She writes back, saying she likes hearing my news and the ‘colorful headline’ always cheers her up. She answers my which-title/cover-do-you-prefer questions and tells me she’s been checking out the book locations on Google Maps.
Out of 1.5K subscribers, over 20% are just like Betty.
Advertising & Other Forms of Extroversion
Hard-sell advertising, clichéd copy and boastful claims put me off rather than attract my attention.
Not so my readership. ‘Nancy Drew for adults’ is one of my most successful straplines under an ad so far. ‘SHOP NOW’ is more effective than ‘FIND OUT MORE’ as a call to action. Sticking five individual stars on the ad actually works.
Attitude to Facebook
I wouldn’t dream of commenting on a Facebook ad, and unless I know the author, I rarely ‘like’ pages.
Betty and her friends have whole conversations on my ads. Since I’ve realised I’m not actually talking to myself, I tentatively started inviting some of those engagers to ‘Like’ the page. They’re now steaming along to the 5K mark.
I’ve never joined a Facebook group to discuss an author’s books. I’m too busy trying to write (and sell) my own.
When I bit the bullet and set up my fans’ group on my author page, I almost spontaneously combusted at my own arrogance. “I’ll give it three days and if not even my sister has joined, I’m taking it down.” Today I’m preparing a signed copy for the 200th member.
Result: More Readers, Soaring Sales
This change in mindset has resulted in a steady increase in sales, a committed readership and a reassuringly large bag of kibble for the pugs.
It has also enabled my husband to quit his job to market my books full-time. One stage removed from being the author, he shares none of my qualms and happily uses every tactic going to connect my books to the right readers.
Betty has been joined by Bec in Australia, Bill in the UK and Bonnie in Canada. We’re learning all the time what type of marketing appeals to each kind of reader, because it does differ.
But what we do know for sure – not one of them is me.
OVER TO YOU What was your lightbulb moment in moving from indie author wannabe to soaraway success? We'd love to hear about your experience.#Indieauthors - don't market to someone like yourself - get to know your readers and sell to them instead! @JJMarsh1 explains how this approach has made her sales soar. Click To Tweet
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