Authors’ Roundtable: Marketing in the Digital Age with Julie Ann Dawson

1 Sep

Marketing in the Digital Age by Julie Ann Dawson

With all of the shiny bells and whistles (and apps and videos) to be found online, it is easy to forget that marketing has never been about instant gratification. It is a long-term commitment to your brand. Marketing is about identifying your target market, and ensuring that they can identify you. There is no magic app that will increase sales. There is no video wizard that will manufacture that elusive “buzz” for you. Despite whoever might be hyping this week’s hot new and improved marketing technique, you have to make a plan that works for your brand and your brand only. Marketing tools may change, but the marketing process remains the same.

The biggest mistake most people make is engaging in what I call the “throw enough crap against the wall” approach. They jump on every conceivable marketing tool they can find while trying to get their message in front of as many people as possible. The problem with this method is two-fold. First, it ignores one of the great truisms of marketing. On average, a person needs to see something seven times before they even remember it. If you are jumping all over the place, the chance of the same people seeing your message repeatedly becomes smaller.

Second, it spreads your efforts too thin. You only have so many hours in the day. You can’t be everywhere at once. Trying to maintain a presence on ten forums while also using Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, and seven other social networks means you never take the time to actually learn the nuances of any one outlet. What works on Facebook doesn’t work on Myspace, and what works on Myspace won’t work on Youtube. But you’ll never know that, because you don’t have the time to learn it.

If anything, the digital age makes it even more important to focus your efforts on specific outlets so that you can maximize your repeat exposure to a specific target market. One recent article in the New York Times noted that the average person sees over 5,000 ads each day. We are becoming desensitized to the sheer volume of ads, and adding to the clutter by throwing whatever you can at whomever might see it doesn’t help.

The best thing a marketer can do in the digital age is to identify three to five key outlets to pursue, and then engage those outlets. Repetition of a consistent message helps people remember you and your brand, and if they remember you they are more likely to buy. Before throwing time or money at the latest marketing fad, consider whether or not it actually enhances your core message or dilutes it.

Julie Ann Dawson is the author of The Doom Guardian and many other titles. (Her Goodreads page is a great place to check out a larger sampling of her work.) When not writing, she operates Bards and Sages, a small press publisher of speculative fiction and pen-and-paper role-playing games. If you’re interested in hearing more of her thoughts about marketing, you might want to try her .99 kindle book, Marketing 101: What People Buy and Why Independent Authors Should Care.
David’s turn:

Having Julie as a guest makes me take a mental “step back” and realize how much has changed in a few short years. (Yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s true.) I first became interested in independent publishing in late 2005, and Julie was one of the people who stood out as serious about her craft, and who encouraged others to put out the best possible product. There was no Kindle, ebooks were a tiny sliver of the market, and no one I can remember was using the term “Independent Author.” We were just self-published authors, one small step above the Publish America crowd in the literary caste system.

The biggest change I see in terms of marketing over the course of the last five years is that ebooks have moved to the forefront of the independent author’s marketing strategy. When I embarked on this journey, our focus was on selling print books, and our marketing strategies were aimed at that end. We looked for ways to break the brick-and-mortar barrier and reach those book-buyers who bought their books the old-fashioned way. Back then, free bookmarks, swag, and signings in bookstores were pretty good ideas. Now, not so much.

I recently (as in, within the last two weeks) read an article on book marketing. One of the author’s highest recommendations was refrigerator magnets. I did a double-take. Refrigerator magnets? Let’s stop and think for a moment- putting aside the time and money invested in designing and purchasing the magnet, what happens to that refrigerator magnet (or bookmark, pen, insert your favorite swag item here…) once it passes into the hands of a potential buyer? That person might buy a copy of your book. Depending on your pricing structure, that book sale might cover the cost of the magnet. And then? The magnet goes on their refrigerator, and who sees it after that? That person, the members of her/his household (who won’t buy the book because they already own a copy), and perhaps a few guests. (Even if the guest notices the magnet and expresses interest in the book, they’ll probably just borrow it from the owner of the magnet.) There are much better ways to reach large numbers of readers with less investment of time and money.

Today, our best bets for marketing are online. The ebook revolution and the advent of (comparatively) affordable print-on-demand books has made the online audience our new primary target, and our focus should be on reaching the largest possible numbers of consumers of digital products. If I like, I can spend several hours at a bookstore, meet a few dozen people (if I’m lucky), and maybe sell a few books. (Unless I talk friends and family into showing up, in which case I sell more books at the event, but those are people who would have bought my book anyway). My preference, though is to publish an article, write a blog post, record a podcast episode, do an interview, or make an Amazon Listmania. Any of these takes half the time (or less) of the bookstore appearance, reaches infinitely more people, and leaves me with time to do the most important thing of all- write.

One thought on “Authors’ Roundtable: Marketing in the Digital Age with Julie Ann Dawson

  1. Interesting thoughts. When invited, I do bookstore signings, but I've found that for print books festivals and bookfairs are a much better use of time in meeting readers and selling copies and getting noticed.

    Online, I agree, one must focus, as Julie Ann Dawson indicated. And David Wood is very correct that online efforts take less time than in person efforts.

    And yes, I'm still figuring out what works for me while trying to fit in time to write.

    Great topic and toughts!

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