Writing Resource: 9/100 – Marketing 101

As some of you reading these posts might know, my background is in Marketing. (The good sort, not the sort Bill Hicks talked about.)

I worked for 25 years at one of the most respected publishers in the world.

During that time I ran or managed hundreds…actually, probably getting into the thousands, of marketing campaigns for multi-million seller books.

Marketing is important for books.

It’s a fact. Pass it on.

(Actually DO pass this article on if you enjoy it – to anyone and everyone you know who you think might also enjoy it. We call that viral...)

Perhaps for some, Marketing is an unpleasant necessity when all we want to do is ‘work on our craft’. It might be seen as ‘tacky’ (having sweated over a well targeted email campaign for one niche product which increased the sales by over 300% in the space of a week, I told the author about it with relish only for them to sniff haughtily and, with a slight shudder, say disdainfully, “I simply hate junk mail.”

You’re welcome.

There’s a whole lot of books out there on marketing, and a fair old sub-section on marketing fiction: many of them have snazzy titles like ‘How to sell a gazillion copies‘…and then you check the Amazon ranking and see said book dwindles somewhere in the sub-strata of sales itself. Physician heal thyself.

That’s not to say there aren’t some good books out there on marketing your work. There probably are. There are some good websites too, and you should definitely check them out.


You are your own best marketer.

It helps if you can create a blog or a website; build an email list; invest in some paid-for ads, understand price promotion (for example: until the 20th December only, You Could Make a Killing is available on Kindle for a frankly unbelievable, earth-changing, life-altering, perfect Christmas present being price of only 99 pence. How do we do it so cheap? I can’t tell you, but I’ll tear it up myself before I give it away any cheaper. This offer MUST end next Thursday…) talk publicly… and so on. But you get my drift from that slightly OTT copy: it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are a few things I’ve done to promote Basement Tales and You Could Make a Killing.

  • Told family and friends about it (God have I? They’re not replying to phone calls anymore and the seasonal party invites seem to have got lost in the post)
  • Did a countdown price offer pre-launch
  • Set up a little eCommerce site on this very site. (It’s tricky: post and packing costs me more than I make from the books selling on Amazon – but some people have issues with the big ‘A’ and in the 4 Ps of Marketing you’ve got to include Place.).
  • Produced leaflets – singles and multi book offers: some even had a little redemption code on them for an easy to set up offer.
  • Wrote guest blog posts
  • Reached out to authors whose books I enjoy (“Call me guys…miss you…”)
  • Done radio interviews – local community stuff: nothing big but my dulcet tones are out there
  • Worked with writers groups: including the previously mentioned workshops on How to Get Published from my 25 years experience working with one of the biggest in the world (but who, unfortunately, do not tend to publish much in the way of contemporary horror, mystery or crime…damn it)
  • Had t-shirts printed. (I haven’t actually – but I know someone who did for his book, and they look great…)
  • Produced point of sale items for local independent bookshops who have taken my books on.
  • Set up an email newsletter
  • Left a copy (with the owner’s consent) in a local coffee shop – it hasn’t been stolen yet, but it is quite thumbed through
  • Set up an author’s page – on Amazon and on Facebook – you might even be seeing this because of the latter
  • Set a little stand up at a local writing festival…

And it goes on.

None of the above cost me very much – most are free other than the time investment.

And it IS an investment. There are times when I think, ‘was it worth spending all that time on that post when I could  have been writing’…especially when a post under performs.

I appeared in a video interview with the guys from Burning Chair recently – the publishers of Burning: An Anthology of Short Thrillers which features one of my story. We talked a lot about a lot of things – writing routines, influences, favourites, and marketing: they’re in the middle of it all themselves, working hard at getting the word out about their new venture (you can find their site at burningchairpublishing.com/) – we agreed, it’s hard work. But you know what? It can be FUN as well.

I’ll be posting a link to the video interview and more details about Burning Chair in a forthcoming article – watch this space.

You don’t like marketing? You can’t ‘do’ marketing? You don’t ‘get’ marketing?

If you like your work; if you want to tell people about it, and you think it’s worth telling people about it, the chances are you’re probably doing it already. Not the ‘evil’ corporate marketing stuff. The ‘real’ marketing stuff: Oxford Dictionaries defines marketing thus:

The action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

We’ve covered the advertising bit – you are your own best advertising.

The market research part? The chances are if you’re writing something you like then it’s probably in a genre you like…for people a bit like you…what do you know about yourself? What do you like to read? What would other people a bit like you want to read? Wow…it’s almost as if we’re doing market research stuff…

If this was a business session  (and I do run my own marketing consultancy, because JJ Abrams hasn’t come knocking at the door to buy the rights to my stuff yet) I could talk about personas, about disruptive innovation, and since I got that fancy old title in business from Oxford University we could go deeper into double helix and marketing, all manners of disruptive innovation, of subverted branding techniques and so on…but…

…If I consider the four authors I have written about elsewhere on this site as being my favourites working today (yeah, I’ll get round to the other six in the series at some point…I’m too busy writing my own stuff…and marketing…); Joe R Lansdale, Colin Bateman, Gregg Hurwitz and Lawrence Block (oops- I’ve praised his books, but still to come in the author profile…) they’re all instinctive marketers.


Because they’re enthusiastic about their ‘product‘, they engage with their ‘customer‘, and they provide ‘value‘ – both in their primary product, but also, through their online and offline engagement with secondary benefits…

Maybe that’s starting to sound a bit too marketing speak.

My point is – don’t just write what feels ‘true’ to you, market yourself and your work in the same way: if, at the end of the day, you can be as proud of the way you present yourself as you do your writing, then you’ve done okay.

I recently wrote an article on the idea of combining the loves for a ‘hobby’ (and if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to survive on your writing income alone, it all too often, in the kindest way possible, gets discussed by friends, families and others as ‘the hobby‘- sounds like a horror movie), with your everyday business activities.

You can read the full article here on Linked In. 

And, because this is marketing: don’t forget – My titles are available – either from this website, or from Amazon, including the frankly ludicrously priced for-one-week-only ‘You Could Make a Killing

Pick any of them up via my author’s page on Amazon…

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