Angela Yuriko Smith
There are few things that frighten authors as much as marketing and promotion. Walk into any group of writers and ask them what their biggest career hurdle is and most—if not all—will mention marketing.
Even horror writers (the badasses of the word nerds) fear the marketing monster. Typically we go above and beyond in the face-your-fears department—we tend to embrace our discomforts and savor our terrors all in the name of authenticity. So what is it about selling our work that makes us so timid?
For one thing, we all care. Art is about releasing a part of yourself for the world’s consumption. Our words and worlds are built from personal memory and experience. We identify as writers. We exist in a duality of what we do and what we are. They are both the same. If someone critiques us in our day job, it’s something we joke about later. It’s just a paycheck.
Receiving a bad critique of our work is another story. At our best, we grit our teeth and try to improve. At our worst, we can sink into deep depression—or worse. Critiquing our work is critiquing who we are. Considering that, no wonder it’s terrifying to slap a price tag on our work and send it out to make a buck.
Unfortunately, marketing and promotion must be mastered for success for every one of us. It doesn’t matter if you are indie, traditional, or hybrid published. If you are a writer, marketing matters. This is your creation, your baby. No one will work harder for your baby than you.
We have all sorts of excuses for why we don’t market ourselves. “It’s too expensive, embarrassing, and time-consuming. I would rather spend my time producing instead of promoting. I don’t want to alienate my friends and family. My publisher will do that. I don’t know how.“ All of these are valid concerns.
Please allow me to systematically annihilate them …
- Marketing is too expensive.
Sadly, there are wolves out there that know how difficult marketing is for creative types and they are hunting. They promise big returns—for big bucks. While there are valid investments in your career, most of what I teach is free or nearly free. Our royalties are generally small, as a group. It doesn’t make sense to shell out a pile of money to make more small royalties.
- Marketing is embarrassing.
Get over yourself. The entire world is not watching to see if you screw up. Most of the planet is too busy worrying about their own screw-ups. You can be embarrassed, if you are trying to pawn off a substandard product, but you aren’t that sort of writer. Your baby has been polished and edited until it gleams, right? So don’t be embarrassed. Marketing is just letting people know about something they might want. You’re doing them a favor, really.
- It’s too time-consuming.
I empathize. Time is what I have the least of. I live with six dogs, four people, publish Space and Time magazine, blog regularly, and write daily. I won’t mention the Spanish practice group I host weekly, the open mic poetry event I host monthly, organic gardening … I get that marketing takes time. I focus on efficiency in my campaigns because wasted time means words don’t get written. But considering how long it takes to write something saleable, can we afford not to take the time to market it?
- I’d rather produce than promote.
I’ve heard quite a few writers dismiss marketing with the excuse I write for myself, not the world. Okay, but then why are you bothering to publish? The very act of publishing is to set your words into the world. How sad would it be if no one ever discovered Hemingway, Poe, Doyle, or any of the greats? They understood the importance of positioning their work to be discovered or their names would languish in obscurity with the thousands of other excellent writers who were never discovered. Why publish what won’t be seen?
- I don’t want to alienate my friends and family.
See #2. This is an awesome product, isn’t it? Original, edited, and professionally presented … why wouldn’t they want to see it? They are already fond of you, despite, or maybe because of, your quirks. Again, marketing is just letting people know about something they might want. You’re doing them a favor, really.
- My publisher will do that.
Publishers are busy, busy people. Not only are they busy answering all your questions and concerns, they have to physically manage your product. Editing, layout, graphics, printers … and then, if they are a publisher, they are busy marketing their publishing company as a whole. Do they also write for publication? Then add their own promotion to their list. If you want to be a publisher’s favorite, then market yourself. It makes their job so much easier. Excellent product is one thing. Helping your publisher sell it makes you a favorite. It is a fact that publishers, producers, and the like take into account an author’s social media impact. A big name is only important because of the reach it has. A smaller name with the same impact is gold.
- I don’t know how.
Then keep reading. Every month I’ll be sharing how to tame the marketing monster. Don’t dismiss the beast—if you let it get out of hand, marketing can morph into an insatiable fiend that consumes all your resources. Leash it, and the beast works for you. This should be a snap for horror authors. Turning monsters into money is what we do.
From free promotion in virtual worlds to the old-fashioned press release to the local newspaper, there are as many options to get your name out there as there are tropes. I work hard to hone the craft side of my profession, but I attribute most of my success to being unafraid to market my work. There are a thousand amazing writers out there. Very few are also amazing marketers. Strive to be both and write your own future.
Along the way, I am happy to share whatever I’ve learned, and continue to learn. Horror writers may be the badasses of the word nerds, but we are also the most supportive and cooperative community I’ve ever had the privilege to be included in. We support each other, understanding that this is not a competition. Helping each other helps the genre we all love. Here’s to taming your own marketing monster, together.
Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for a 2017 Elgin Award. Her latest novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards® finalist. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine, a 53-year-old publication dedicated to fantasy, horror, and science fiction. For more information, visit SpaceandTimeMagazine.com or AngelaYSmith.com.