The marketing gurus are all wrong

Every day, we’re bombarded with messages: Market your book! Use Twitter to increase sales! And a never-ending stream of tips,do-s and don’t-s, which go from plain common sense to very strange indeed. Apparently, according to one site, you are not supposed to have dates on your posts. Apart from the fact that I can’t delete mine, I have no idea how this is going to help you. Sure, a reader won’t be able to see if he or she is visiting an older post, but then again, if they can see it’s an older post, they may just as well be tempted to look at newer posts… wait… I think I’ve spotted the problem.


Sorry, but if you have to resort to such strange things in order to get people visiting your blog, there must be some other problem.

As far as I know:
– People detest being marketed at
– That doesn’t mean that you should never do it
– As long as you do other stuff as well
– If the big publishers haven’t been able to figure out why a book suddenly takes off, what chance does anyone else have?
– In other words: NOBODY KNOWS!

I heard interesting discussions on the subject of sales, or not, between self-publishers. Some people are convinced there are seasonal patterns. Other people mentioned how they’d been sick or otherwise away from the marketing effort, and had suddenly gotten a lot more sales.

Some anecdotal truths:
Most people report better sales the longer a book has been available. It seems a book needs to be available for at least six months before any kind of word-of-mouth is happening.
Most people report better sales as a result of having more items available.
Most people can’t pinpoint sales to any activity.

I want to offer a one-word analogy: mushrooms.

As some of you may know, I also sell books on natural history. This includes guides on identifying fungi. You know, toadstools. Mushrooms. Seeing as it’s autumn and the weather is cooling down, these things are making their mushroomy appearances all over our lawn. In fact, some were already doing that a few months ago. The mushrooming is likely to continue for the next few months. In the nature strip in the next street, there is a mushroom that is so incredibly hideous, it looks like someone has left a baseball glove on the grass (about that size, too). Some years it’s there, some years it isn’t. Some years it’s late, some years it’s early. But one thing is for sure: at some time during the colder months of the year, there will be a day or two that everyone is buying mushroom books. It’s like everyone is saying to each other ‘hey, let’s get a guide to identify fungi’. There is no pattern other than that it usually happens in the cooler months. That is what sales are like.

Like mushrooms: you can keep the soil moist, but no one can predict when and where they’ll appear.

6 comments on “The marketing gurus are all wrong

    • Thanks. I’m just tired of the marketing speak. Publishing does not deliver immediate results, whichever way you choose to do it.

  1. This is probably the most sensible thing I’ve read today! It’s kind of like weight loss — you can try pills, shakes, gadgets etc. for “instant” weight loss.


    Eat less and exercise and realize you won’t lose 20 pounds in a week.

    I suppose writing success (however it is defined) would come from creating lots of good stories that have a long enough shelf life that readers will eventually find them. Without that, no amount of tweets or blog posts will help much.

    • I suppose writing success (however it is defined) would come from creating lots of good stories that have a long enough shelf life that readers will eventually find them. Without that, no amount of tweets or blog posts will help much.


      Persistence and good stories. That’s all you need.

  2. I wish I could figure out marketing and promo and use sales as a measurement.

    Here’s something I can’t figure out: I haven’t done *any* recent promo for my book that came out over two years ago, yet I’m getting sales and pulling royalties. Dunno why.

  3. Oh, this is very funny to me right now, having just become totally obsessed with the number of different fungi, mushrooms etc. there are around this year. Up here in the Byron Shire anyway.

    But apart from that synchronicity, it’s comforting for those of us who haven’t got started being published/publishing, to ‘hear’ you say that about marketing. I mean, if regular savvy writers don’t know, newbies obviously shouldn’t worry too much.

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