Marketing: Direct or Indirect?

I’ll bet most of us writers who ventured into the independent publishing world didn’t give much thought to marketing and promotion, even after we typed “The End” for the first time. I know I didn’t.Ourjob is to write the compelling stories. The wonder and magic of the Internet should take care of the rest, right?

Then came the reality check. Readers don’t just find you. You have to go out and find them.

So, now we’re expected to be savvy business owners and marketing geniuses — ready to sell, sell, sell! But writers, by and large, are not gregarious folks. We live primarily within the worlds we create and don’t feel comfortable selling ourselves and pushing our products. Yet, if we are to become successful in this brave new world of publishing, we have to do just that. How do we solve this conundrum?


Marketing generally comes in two flavors: direct and indirect. We’re all familiar with the first. It boils down to the simple shout of, “Buy my book!” It can come in the form of a direct message to each new follower on Twitter, an email to people who have subscribed to your blog, or a post on your favorite Facebook group. It can also take the form of a conventional advertisement like we see every day in print, television, and on the Internet. Marketing in this fashion can be effective, but it is difficult to pull off well, and often rubs our introverted author personalities the wrong way.

Indirect marketing is just what it sounds like — it’s not in your face and blunt, but more subtle and discreet. Some of the things we do naturally as authors are prime examples of indirect marketing. A blog that discusses the mechanics of writing, or your interest in physics if you write science fiction, or the environment if you write about horticulture — any of these are fine examples of indirect marketing. You are providing something of value to a potential reader without a blatant, “Buy my book!” shout in their face. Guest blogging, joining in discussions on forums, or providing thoughtful comments on someone else’s blog are all great methods of indirect marketing.

I’d like to share another idea for indirect marketing that I’ve been experimenting with this past month. Around the first of the year on my blog, I started a weekly feature titled “Your Voice Matters” where I’ve told the story of a young person who has made a difference in their lives, and the lives of others, by speaking up and taking a stand about a certain issue or problem, such as bullying. As a writer of Young Adult fiction, I feel it’s important to develop and encourage our youth to be active participants in society. After I’d been running the feature for a little over two months, I introduced a giveaway for a Kindle Fire or Nook tablet. The main method for entering the giveaway is to read a book and write a review which is posted somewhere public, like Amazon, Goodreads, or a review blog.

Here’s the important point: the focus of the giveaway is about reading and writing, not my books in particular. Because of that, I’ve had many teachers and librarians get excited about this and present it to their classes because it’s about encouraging kids to read. I have traffic coming to my site that may never have found it otherwise. They come to enter the giveaway, but while they are there, they see my book covers and other links. Some stay and have a look. I also have bonus entries available for “liking” the book series’ Facebook page and for tweeting about the giveaway. Now, I could have set it up so people had to read and review only my books to enter, but would that have had as broad an appeal? Certainly not.

The key to this is honesty and being genuine. I genuinely want young people to read. Sure, I’d love for them to read my books, but really, I’m just happy if they read, no matter  what books they choose. So, my benefits from running this giveaway are two-fold: I get some extra traffic to my site and I feel good by providing an incentive to get young people reading.

People can spot a phony from a mile away, so if you try this indirect method, make sure it’s something you truly care about and have a passion for. Pick a hobby or charitable cause that interests you and relates to what you write about in some way, then create some buzz for it. It will be easier to get others involved and easier for you to talk about as well.

Plus, it’s much better than being just another voice in the sea of “Buy my book!”