Let's get naked here, shall we? I will bare my soul (and my bum) and tell you about the horrible marketing sins I committed, and you will gloat and snicker and hopefully learn on my mistakes ("Don't eat that apple, Ksenia!" you'll scream. And I'll say, "TOO LATE," eat half and force the other half down your throat.)
So. Marketing. Marketing is like breathing when you self-publish. Without marketing you won't sell, and without selling you won't thrive. And without thriving...well, you'll be tempted to quit. Too many self-published authors do. I almost quit the whole affair myself, and not once, three times (from the times I remember). Whatever ignorance or arrogance or both compelled me to think that now that I was writing books (and not running my start-up), I didn't have to market? I thought my books would market themselves. I thought my stories would be so good, they'd compel my readers to market them for me. And I was right and wrong at the same time. Right in that, YES, my readers marketed for me. Wrong in that, NO, they didn't do it on their own, so once I stopped asking and keeping in touch, they stopped doing it and forgot about me and my books.
Splendid, isn't it? I gave up my eight years of marketing experience and went ahead and committed blunders that cost me time, money and sanity, but that eventually led me back full-circle to where I started.
Essentially, I'm starting now from scratch, after self-publishing for five years. You've seen some of it—me handwriting to you cards (with mini horror stories), emailing you if you bought my books and asking for book reviews, offering you to write blog posts to help you with your writing, and so on. I'm still on the learning curve, rediscovering old things that worked and new things that work better. But here are the five biggest sins I committed that I hope you won't. This is given to you with the blood of my bones, because every one of these hit me hard. PLEASE, LEARN FROM IT. And share yours with me, too.
1. NEGLECTING READERS
When I had my start-up, I vigorously kept track of every single customer in a CRM system that consisted of online software, Excel spreadsheets, databases of sent emails, etc. How happy I was to drop it all when the first emails started trickling in after I published my first trilogy. I'd thank the reader for buying my book and never engage again. Right. I never asked how they liked the book. Never asked them to write a review (well, I did occasionally, but it was sporadic). Never followed up by offering a new book to read. I just dropped those people into the ether.
What was I thinking? I wasn't. I wasn't thinking at all. I was enamored by the art idea. Good art doesn't need to be marketed! Well, now I'm going through my email archives by hand, retrieving everyone who ever bought any of my books, contacting (in some cases 4 years later!) and re-engaging. Only about half the people respond. So you see, I've lost. Bit time. No more.
2. ABUSING PERMISSION
Permission to market to someone must be earned. No one owes you their attention. You can't interrupt someone with an ad and gain their trust and loyalty. You can get a short-term return on your investment, sure, but this is not how customers (or in case of self-publishing, readers) are won. You have to ask for permission. If you abuse it, you lose the reader forever.
In the beginning, when my first books started selling, I was gaining permission left and right, and I got so overexcited, I abused it without understanding what I was doing. Since in my childhood my personal space was constantly violated and my privacy ignored, I'd never had time to develop the concept of personal boundaries. I'm still working on it now. So I charged after people like a bull, since this is what was done to me. Only now do I see that I needed to give them space. Instead, I lost them. Forever. And this is another concept that was hard for me to swallow. Once I lost someone, they were gone FOR GOOD. For eternity. Till the end of time. Nothing I did would persuade them to return, and all my efforts weren't doing anyone any good—not me, not them.
3. CHASING LOST READERS
As you can imagine, I chased those whom I've lost. I offered them free books if I could only get them back, and on, and on. I didn't understand that I disrespected their decision and was wasting my time and theirs. And by chasing them I cemented their decision TO NEVER EVER RETURN. They might've turned around, but now they really didn't want to. I was even blocked by a few people on various social media networks where I tried chatting them up. I couldn't understand why. I do now. And still I have this urge to please everyone. Which is wrong. Which again hurts me and them, and leads me to the next point.
4. TRYING TO PLEASE EVERYONE AND SO PLEASING NO ONE
I was afraid to take a stand for my voice. This again comes from my past. Someone somewhere said (I read it in some book) that the moment you put words on paper, you turn certain people away, and that's okay. You wouldn't have a voice if you were sounding pleasant to everyone. Your voice would have to be a non-voice—nonexistent—as there would be nothing to hear. Again, I'm still battling with this need to pacify everyone I interact with, to make them happy, to please them, to serve them, to take care of them—thanks to society that brought me up along with other girls to be docile and servile, thanks to my family that has beaten this into my brain (quite literally, with a fist to my forehead), thanks to the fear of death I cultivated during the times I was abused when I decided the only way to survive was to pretend I wasn't hurting and to please EVERYONE AT ALL TIMES.
Fuck. I hate this. I can't tell you how much. But writing is helping me shed it, this programming to always be nice. And marketing is helping me understand that my financial survival balances on my ability to stand my ground. Thank you for catching me when I fall, dusting me off, and standing me back upright. I'll keep fighting to stand. And I'll start making sales as a result. You'll see.
5. IGNORING NUMBERS
I didn't check my sales numbers, didn't check my blog's traffic, didn't check the growth of my mailing list. Nothing. It felt so good. Oh, I didn't need to do it! I'd all be amazing in no time! Wrong. I'm scrambling now to get number-checking into my daily habit, and I already discovered some surprising things. For example, I learned I get lots of traffic to my site from Pinterest—from the blog posts I pin here. And I learned about my reader demographics from Wattpad. And I learned that my "reading funnel" often started with readers getting hooked on Rosehead and searching for the next book to read and finally giving up, because I failed to put a CTA in the back matter of Rosehead to help them. And so on. Really, the amount of data I missed is staggering. Catching up now.
These are the biggest sins of mine. I also avoided self-promotion in the very beginning. I was ashamed to talk about myself as a writer, to talk about my books, the things I learned, but I forced myself, did lots of interviews and guest posts and even went to conventions, and slowly I started feeling okay with doing it. I also downplayed my work. "It sucks," I'd say and mean it. Of course, it turned people off. What else? I'm sure I'm missing some. They'll come to me in my naked nightmares...
What about you? Share, share. I promise I won't tell anyone. Let's eat that apple. IT LOOKS JUICY.