Marketing Your Book, Or, How To Rake In Cash With Both Hands and Never Eat Ramen Noodles Again

There was once a day when being an author involved rising at ten, donning your tweed jacket, and seating yourself comfortably at the typewriter for an hour before money started pouring in through every open window.

Today, let me tell you, is not that day.

It never was, really. Sure, every writer in the movies tools around in a private jet and pays for lavish meals with a cast-off Rolex. This is the same Hollywood that depicts people shrugging off multiple gunshot wounds or jumping through glass windows without being shredded into damp red ribbons.

But there was a time, not so very long ago, when a mid-list author could keep a roof over her head and a car in the garage.

Again, today is also not that day.

I think authors are heading down the same road musicians have already traveled. When vinyl albums were all the rage and wireless meant FM radio, people bought albums. The musicians got a share, which of course could be ludicrously small after the record company took their cut, but in theory (and sometimes in practice) everybody was compensated for their work.

Then came the internet. Within a few years, the majority of the listening public decided they'd just listen for free, and now musical artists are reduced to hoping people buy enough of their 99 cent songs on Spotify to keep them in guitar picks and store-brand Alpo Helper.

Writers face a similar quandary. I've been told, right to my face, that 'I only buy free or 99 cent ebooks, because it's not a real book.'

Fair enough. I didn't argue the point. It's not up to me to define what is and isn't an actual book to anyone else. 

But I am dismayed that books, like songs, have been devalued in so many minds to the point that books and music are worth *less* than a drive-thru Egg McMuffin.

And piracy? It's a factor. It's also a fact of life, and nothing can be done about it. Let me show you something. I signed up for a piracy-monitoring service called Blasty. Blasty searches the web for your titles, finds the pirated versions, and sends a takedown notice to the pirate sites. 

Of course, Blasty might as well send a live chicken to any pirate site that isn't in the US, of which there are probably zero. Since foreign sites just ignore the takedown notice, it's more a way to blow off steam than to reduce piracy. Anyway. Here's a screenshot showing just a few of my titles:


49 alerts, with more coming in as soon as these are cleared. And by cleared, I mean 'sent a toothless takedown notice.' There's no mechanism, legal or technical, available to me to force the removal of my pirated works. They get an official-sounding nastygram. They probably have their email filters set to delete all such messages unread. Fighting piracy is a waste of time.

There are those who claim I'm not losing a dime to this, because the people torrenting or downloading the books from bogus sites for free would never have bought them anyway. Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not going to waste time or energy arguing the point. 

I do believe digital thievery is a contributing factor to the devaluation of books in general. You can get books for free. Most people are honest, and don't, but some do. And as time goes on, I predict the numbers of the ones that read pirated copies for free will grow too. Because why not, everyone does it, blah blah blah. And since getting the identical product for free is just as easy as paying for it like a chump, well, take a good look at human nature. After you've had a quick bout of depression and a shower, I think you'll see my point.

But we plug along, despite it all. Nobody ever said it would be easy.

So what are my book marketing tips?

Surprise! I don't have any. You can blog and tweet and Facebook and email until your fingers are sore, and you may see sales increase, decrease, or dwindle away to nothing. You can dump cash by the bushel into book promotion sites. You can teach chickens to tap-dance, too, and that will probably prove just as effective as any of the other methods I mentioned.

It all comes down to reader reviews and word of mouth, in the end. Both of those activities are beyond your control. 

The only thing you can do is start writing another even better book. 

Do that often enough, and you might just see results.

So that's what I'm off to do now. 

See you next week!