My Thoughts on Joanna Penn’s Lessons Learns from Her 500 Creative Penn Postcast Episodes (Part 2) (A Post for Writers)

I’m just going to pick up where I left off in the last post.

Joanna’s Lesson #4: Try different strategies for marketing and branding in order to find the ones that work best for you.

My thoughts: This is largely dependent on the genre you write, your personality, and your budget. Also, nonfiction will market a lot differently than fiction. There are a lot of different methods for marketing out there. There’s no way I can list them all.

What I will say is that if someone suggests a marketing strategy to you, and your initial reaction is, “I’d rather poke my eyeball out with a fork,” then this strategy is not for you. I don’t care how well it works for other people. You are not them. You are you. You will be better off seeking out writers who share your marketing preferences and talking to them if you’re looking at a way to fine tune your marketing skills. How do you find writers who share your preferences? This is going to be trial and error. It’ll require you to get on social media and go to writing groups. There are a lot of writing groups on Facebook. I tried MeWe, but they don’t have the quality of writing groups that Facebook does. That is the best place I’ve found for author interaction. If anyone wants to know what groups I find helpful, let me know in the comments. There are also author blogs, but Facebook groups will cover a variety of topics that are most helpful, and your range of people will be broader.

As a general rule, long-term marketing is thought of as “long term”. This is not about getting rich fast. It’s about the steady movement of activity that you can see yourself doing on a regular and consistent basis for years to come. You want something you can stick with. That’s why it has to blend well with your personality. For example, some people like doing videos, and they’re really good at it. They have a flair for it, and you can tell they’re having a good time. These people don’t usually care for blogging. They’d rather talk instead of write. But for me, I’m much happier blogging because I think much better when I type than I do when I talk in a video. Also, I hate selling in person at craft shows. You have to be really engaging in person to pull this off, and in person, I am the person who is in the corner of a room, not front and center stage. Online, I’m a different person. I have no trouble at all joining in conversations. So just consider the kinds of things you naturally lean toward. What are your strengths? What would get you excited? (Or, if nothing else, what doesn’t make you want to run into a hole and hide?) Marketing can be fun if you pick the right activity.

Joanna mentioned content marketing. I also like this type, and it works really well for introvert types. Content marketing involves anything to do with your stories. For examples, I have a lot of Book 1’s in my series for free. Other authors like to do short stories or extra scenes to go with a story. Some people might even pretend to be a character from a story. There are many ways you can work around this. It’s basically looking beyond the book itself and adding to it with fresh new content.

Some author prefer ads. Now, this all depends on your budget. Never go into debt to market your books. (Also, I would never advise anyone to go into debt for covers, editing, formatting, audiobooks, etc.) Ads can be fairly cheap ($15 or so) to expensive ($1000+ a month). For example, you can have a one-time ad where you pay for it and then go your merry way. Or, you can have a pay-per-click ad like on Amazon or Bookbub, and these can be a lot of money. I’ve heard of authors spending $5000 a month on ads. You have to make sure you’re making more money than you’re spending to make this strategy worth it because not all ads will yield a profit.

In addition to overt marketing strategies, it’s important to look at “branding” when you’re building up your author platform. This is all in line with long-term thinking, and it’s the mindset that makes you a professional author. This all takes time. I don’t think anyone settles into their “brand” right away. I think this, like marketing, is some trial and error as you figure out who you are as a writer and how you present yourself (and your books) to the world.

The nice thing is you don’t have to appeal to everyone. I don’t believe you can appeal to everyone even if you tried. Our brand is going to separate us from other writers. The way we engage with people in real life or online will reflect our personalities. We might try to imitate someone else’s style as we’re trying to figure out where we fit in, but over time, our real selves is going to develop as we get more comfortable. I think it’s best to embrace yourself as you are. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and being aware of those will help us figure out the way that works best for us as we engage with the world around us. For example, I have always been best at one-on-one interaction. I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I prefer to sit and listen to other people, and when I’m comfortable, I’ll start volunteering information. So it’s pointless for someone like me to have a brand where I’m front and center in a group leading the discussion or running the Facebook parties. I do think it’s much easier for the outspoken authors to sell books because they are outgoing people. They are naturals at drawing people to them. But it’s not impossible to reach people if you’re more of a quiet person like I am. I think for quieter people, the content we create (along with things like ads) will be our main strength, which is why I’m inclined to focus more on creating new books than I am on any other form of marketing. We all have our strengths, and it’s worth taking the time to evaluate those strengths and figure out how we’re going to use those to the best of our abilities.

At the 51 minute mark in this video, Joanna has two authors featured that discuss the importance of having a core audience who wants our books. What I like most about this is that it’s not so intimidating to think of all the people out there and trying to find them all. I like the idea of focusing on a smaller group. It’s a much easier process when you are looking at reaching one person at a time. (I admit this goes along with my personality.) The way I see it, getting out there with my books is really about building relationships with other people, whether they read my books or not. I do think it’s important to appreciate the people who currently love our books. I know we are always looking at ways to expand and reach new people, but I don’t think it’s wise to lose sight of the people who are currently with you. Back in 2008 or 2009, there was an author who seemed really nice and seemed to be sincere in engaging with me. I bought her book and, as she asked, I left her a review. Well, after that, she pretty much ignored me. It was like I no longer existed. That hurt. They say that people might forget what you say, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.

Joanna’s Lesson #5: Think like a professional author. (This starts around the 59 minute mark in the video.)

My thoughts: She’s right about life being short. We need to make the most of the time we have. It’s up to us to decide what we’re going to do with the time we’re granted. So basically, being a professional author is about showing up for writing even when we’d rather watch a movie or go to the beach. I don’t think it’s wise to write every single day, but there is something to be said for having a habit of writing on a regular and consistent basis. I’ve been at this seriously since 2008, and it really is all about embracing the habit of writing.

I also love the idea of the reward being the story itself. We tend to get this turned upside down in the writing community. The writing community says the story is not enough. The writing community says that the reward is the money, some award, or hitting a bestseller’s list. This is very unfortunate. Because of this thinking, books (by themselves) do not have value. Writing a story is not valued, either. The writing community says the only thing that matters is how “successful” those books are. From personal experience, I can tell you those things don’t satisfy in the long run. They offer temporary boosts of pleasure, but the pleasure quickly passes because no book stays at the top forever and there is always someone more “successful” who comes along.

If you want to truly be happy as a writer for the long term, it’s best to reject the writing community’s opinion. Let the story be the reward. Write the book you most want to read. Write the book so that you can go back to it over and over again, and, after reading it, you can think to yourself, “I’m so glad I wrote that.” That is the key to having a kind of joy that never goes away. You can’t control who reads the book, who will review it, how it ranks, or how much it makes. All you can control is the story itself.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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