How Marketing Can Smother the Creative Muse

Foxglove - Guenette photo

Not to be overly dramatic, but attention to a successful marketing strategy can quickly edge out every other thing in a writer’s life. For those without an iron will for the juggling of competing demands, to say nothing of boundless energy, I offer a few words of caution and few more of encouragement.

Dangerous waters sign - google imagesFirst the caution – we all like the bad news first, right? Hang in there with me, though. This bad news isn’t as bad as the sign to the left might suggest. Until a writer comes up with that successful formula for selling his or her books, the whirlpool of marketing sucks one down again and again. I have found, with my third promotion, a glimmer of hope that there is a way to ride the power at the edge of that whirlpool rather than being pulled down by the undertows and sneaker waves.

I’m talking about being able to market and write. After publishing four novels, I am familiar with the writing process and once I get going, I’m confident of how things roll along – writing, rewriting, editing, formatting, publishing. Up until recently, marketing has been an abyss of failure that I periodically threw money down because I had to do something. But as to having any recipe for sustaining and dealing with significant selling – I didn’t have a clue. Okay, maybe that is harsh. I had a mantra I repeated to myself – if you write it, they will come. Seemed a bit pie in the sky but it kept me going while I produced a three book series and a stand alone novel! I also made a commitment to giving my books time to succeed – I was in this for the long haul, writing books I believed in.

Turns out this little quote is true:

Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue – Andrew Davis

Along came my success with a BookBub promotion in late March and two moderately successful promotions to keep the ball rolling since then – one in mid-May (Free Kindle Books and Tips) and another just completed (Freebooksy and E-Reader News Today).

The time consuming charting and the compulsive checking of my sales and KENP page reads is definitely passing – somewhat like the way the symptoms of a bad cold let go their grip. In time, I predict I will do what has to been done for marketing and then let the stats take care of themselves. They will, you know – even if I’m not watching.

Encouragement sign - Google imageNow for the encouragement! If you have a series of books to promote, setting the first book in the series free and promoting it to a large number of people works. It costs money to do this but, in my case, the money has been well spent. Think of the words of Henry Ford. “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.”

After my three promotions, Disappearing in Plain Sight has been downloaded onto 40,000 Kindles or reading devices with the Kindle app. Those kind of numbers make a difference for the halo effect of subsequent sales in the series; they matter for reviews – Disappearing in Plain Sight went from a modest 33 reviews on to 93; and those number help build an email list of involved readers who really want to know when the next book is coming out.

To immerse myself in a successful marketing campaign and sustain it long enough to get used to the process, is an effort akin to producing the first draft of a novel. And believe me, each endeavour has its own rewards. I never wrote the Crater Lake books because I thought it would make me rich. At the same time, I never wanted to go in the financial hole and have to subsidize my efforts from money hard earned elsewhere.

Though this emphasis on marketing may have wafted the smothering blanket over my creative muse for a period, she is pushing through and as I find the balance, I feel the voices of the Crater Lake characters clamouring for attention. They definitely have way more story to tell and expect me to get on with that telling.

Pink Daises - Guenette photo

10 comments on “How Marketing Can Smother the Creative Muse

  1. Kelee Morris says:

    Thanks for the advise and encouragement!

  2. Peter Ralph says:

    Hi Fran,

    Your blogs are works of art. Superb. Yes, I remember “the if you write it, they will come” attitude of a year or so go. I also remember the “why aren’t my books selling?” You didn’t sound confident.

    Now in the space of a few months you’ve turned everything around. You were a terrific writer a year ago BUT now you’re a savvy marketer too. I read about a guy called John Ellsworth who was knocked back by every major publisher over 20 years. Then he found Kindle, did three FREE BookBub promos in 18 months, built his mailing list to 10,000 and now nets approx. $60,000 month via Amazon. The sky’s the limit if you can get the marketing right.

    I’ve read some terrific books on Amazon that have been ranked in the millions. I’ve also read some real duds like John Locke’s that have hit #1. Many will disagree but monetary success on Amazon works on the 95/5 formula. Ninety-five percent is marketing and five percent is writing.



    • I’m not sure I’d go as far as your 95/5 formula, Peter, but I sure have appreciated your input and support on this marketing journey. Remember the Rocky movies? You remind me of Rocky’s trainer, Mick – the crusty guy in the corner who always says – get back in there, keep your chin up, hit ’em with that upper cut, you can do it. Marketing encouragement can’t always be of the subtle variety, that’s for sure.

  3. smilecalm says:

    wishing your creative marketer happy success!
    back, when doing public health interventions & education
    “marketing” what could be offered by myself or my programs
    was my least favorite task 🙂

    • Wishes accepted, I can always use them. Marketing – never a favourite pursuit for one who craves the worlds of imagination and yet – shout out while focusing on the hope of changing even one small attitude or viewpoint of one person. I can do that.

  4. jane tims says:

    I have followed your pathway in self-publishing as a story in itself! Having just published my first books of poetry, I now know a little about the marketing stage. A different genre of course but with a lot of the trying of different approaches. Impatience is a big part of it … The need to give it all time. My goal is to have as many people as possible read my words. I am so grateful to have a book as medium for this! Jane

    • Stories within stories within stories – we are all of that and more, aren’t we? Yes, I hear you on the impatience thing. I am looking forward to hearing more of your marketing story as you move forward. The power of words – oh how we adore such a thing.

  5. Behind the Story says:

    You sound as though you’ve found a successful formula. I’m so glad it’s working for you. I published my first novel before learning anything about marketing. That got me off to a shaky start. I’ve done a few things and I’ve learned a few skills. I still have a long way to go. Lately I’ve made an effort to get back to work on my second novel. I’m putting marketing on the back burner for now. Congratulations on your success with BookBub and your subsequent promotions. It’s good to know it can be done. Thanks for your very hopeful post.

    • Many times during these promotions, I have caught myself thinking how I wished I’d done this or that differently over the years of trying to get the word out about my books. But the truth seems to be that we have to learn by doing and when the time is right – maybe something about all the stars lining up just right – it happens. The BookBub success is really about having three books in a series and the first one well enough done to intrigue readers enough to move them onto the next and the next. That just took time to achieve. Many thanks for your congrats 🙂 I’m glad my post is hopeful. The bottom line, for me, will always be having a book worth selling and you sure have that with Tiger Tail Soup. Best of luck.

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