Friday, June 08, 2007


In what follows, I really don't know what the hell I'm talking about. I'm just saying what sounds plausible to me, but my style is to speak as if I'm stating facts. I'm not. These are my opinions and I'm no expert. Feel free to agree, disagree, or point and laugh! As always, I'd be delighted to hear your thoughts, even contrary ones. :-)

Marketing. I've read a lot of literary agents' blogs, and some really stress the importance of marketing your novel.

Do book signings! Hand out book plates! Speak at conferences! Network! Brand yourself! Get hustling; don't you want a writing career?

I don't believe this is as important as they think. I'll explain why in a moment.

First, let me say I think the publishing industry is delightful. Hype does not create a bestselling novel and advertising does not create a bestselling novel. Only merit creates a bestselling novel. What turns a mild-mannered work of fiction into a roaring beast of ka-ching-ka-ching! is word-of-mouth endorsements. People wander into bookstores and browse for whatever looks good. If they buy and read something fantastic, and love it enough to start telling others, those others will actively seek the book.

All marketing can do is inspire curiosity in the initial "I'll take a chance on it" buyers. If they remember the writer's name or the cover art from somewhere, then they might pick the novel off the shelf where otherwise they would have walked by.

Marketing won't convince them to take the book home, however. It will only convince them to take a look at it. They'll buy the novel only if they decide - there in the bookstore - that it looks enjoyable or worthy.

Marketing also won't convince them to talk about the book with anyone. That's a spontaneous phenomenon brought on by the quality of the novel itself (which is why such endorsements carry weight.)

So marketing your book can only make people give your novel a chance; it can't generate appreciable sales. Only the quality of the novel can do that.

And if you don't market at all, but have a great book? As long as it's in the bookstores, it will probably do fine. Dark horse bestsellers happen every year.

In other words, don't stress about marketing; that's putting the cart before the horse. To quote my hero, just write well.

Well? Am I a blithe fool? An idjit who makes a decent point? Let me know your opinion!

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