Dear Sherry: Lost in the Marketing Mire

“Dear Sherry” is an opportunity to ask for advice on writer’s/creativity block, time management, the process of writing, and more. Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Her fiction has won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book award, and been nominated for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize for Speculative fiction. If you could ask a writing coach anything, here is your chance.

Overwhelmed by Marketing

Dear Sherry,

I don’t have great expectations of becoming super-rich overnight from my writing, but I do need to contribute to the household income in order for my spouse to allow me to write full-time. I have a handful of books published: some traditionally, some self-published, so it isn’t like I’m starting from scratch. I know a lot of the marketing and publicity falls to me, but every time I look at ways to market my books, I freeze. I have no idea where to begin. I need a solid plan to make $1500/month writing. I currently make $3.

Lost in the Marketing Mire


Dear Lost in the Mire,

Congratulations on having defined the amount you need to make to earn a satisfactory living from your writing. Believe it or not, that is a huge first step.

Getting your name and product out to your readership is a challenge for every writer, whether they are just starting out or looking to expand their audience. There is so much material out there about how to market your book that it can be distracting from the writing, as well as down-right overwhelming.

How you divide your time on your writing business is essential. The majority of your time should be spent on writing. Without new products becoming available, your back-list becomes stagnant. Most readers do not buy the same book over and over again like they do their favorite cup of coffee. They will, however, buy new books from authors they love, and spread the word to their friends. Following that, however much time you designate in a week for building your business, approximately 60% of that time should be on money-making activities, meaning posting ads, sending a call-to-action to your e-mail list and social media contacts, etc. That is, anything that elicits some kind of response to bring in money. 20% of your business-building time should be on the prep-work, so creating the ads and writing blog-posts and/or newsletters without a call-to-action. 10% should be spent on doing something extra for your fans. Perhaps you wish one of your readers a happy birthday, or you send out an extra newsletter with an article you think your readers would like. The remaining 10% should be spent on administrative work such as bookkeeping.

You know you have to earn $1500 a month from your writing. Break it down even further. How much of that do you need from e-book sales? What about print books? Is there a way you can diversify a little more? Perhaps a merchandise shop through Zazzle or Café Press? Is there a workshop or two you can offer online? If, for example, 10% of your e-newsletter subscribers will buy everything you put out, how many subscribers do you need to have in order to have satisfactory sales?

Once you’ve broken your income down, you can figure out the best way to achieve that goal. Maybe it’s through ads. Maybe it’s through freebies or social media. There are some great resources on how to market your books, and they break down the best ways to market for the kind of income you need, whether it’s for e-book sales or workshops. Again, the options can be overwhelming. You will be tempted to try them all. If you’re good at doing them all, and you enjoy it, then have fun. If you don’t enjoy them all, pick a handful that you do like and put your efforts into those. Those will be the techniques most likely to succeed.

I’m going to recommend two authors who have approached the marketing of their books in some great ways and have documented them in their blogs. Arthur Slade is a YA author who has been documenting his e-book sales as well as his most recent release after he took a course on making a book a bestseller. That specific blog post is here.

The second is Clare C. Marshall, who has made herself her own publisher with a brand. She travels to several conventions a year to hand-sell her books, and she blogs about the results after each one, along with what worked, what didn’t, and what she will do differently next time.

Full disclosure: I know both Art and Clare. They did not ask me to promote their blogs. They are great people and great writers. They are also proactive in pioneering their way in the indie-author business, which I’ve been following with keen interest, to see what new and interesting ways books can be marketed. I appreciate their willingness to share their experiences and knowledge with the rest of us.

For more specific ways on how to build your business as a writer, and to diversify, I recommend you visit Joanna Penn’s website. Read her books. Listen to her podcasts. I have found her to be a great resource because she provides information on how to grow your business depending on the kind of income streams you choose. I also greatly appreciate that teaching authors how to sell their books isn’t the only thing she does. She also writes fiction that she has learned to market. She informs us based on her own experience, but she’s also open and teaching writers new and innovative ways to market.

Creatively yours, SherrySherry Peters



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  • Jayne Barnard September 2, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Good resources, thanks, Sherry. I’m always struggling with how much to market, where and when and will I turn people off.

    • Sherry Peters September 4, 2016 at 10:33 pm

      Thanks Jayne. Let me know how it goes!


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