Five ways to find satisfaction and success in the marketing process—without compromising your personality and principles
By Mike Magluilo
The guest speaker said I need a platform. The workshop taught me how to attract more followers. The podcast encouraged me to give my book away. The newsletter recommended starting yet another author newsletter.
Breathe i-n-n-n… Hold, hold…
I didn’t start writing a novel because I have a natural gift for sales. Like many writers, the pressure to hustle likes and retweets, the vulnerability of a newsletter, and the cheek of buying my way onto an obscure bestseller list rattled my enthusiasm to market my debut novel A Reason to Run before asking my wife to take my headshot.
After taking a deep breath, I told myself I get to choose how to market my book. I decided to experiment with low-risk activities like building a website and networking with the target audiences represented in my story. I created an Instagram account, announced it to nobody, and let the algorithm find my initial followers. A month passed, and I retained my dignity and the respect of my contacts. I’ve continued ramping and expanding cautiously.
I stopped worrying about how many copies of my book I’ll sell or how much net profit I’ll make and discovered marketing is not about selling my novel. It’s about helping people buy it. Marketing became the reward for writing my book by presenting opportunities for direct interactions with the audiences I want to read my work.
Instead of another post about how to increase sales, subscribers, followers, and shares, this post is for fiction book authors looking for the inspiration and confidence to leave the writing den, find satisfaction and commercial success in the marketing process, and become a better writer—all without compromising your personality and principles.
Five Rewards of Fiction Book Marketing
- Connection: Your book provides opportunities for personal interactions of substance. You hold a piece of art you created in your hand! It’s called a “novel” for a reason. What a rich and captivating opportunity to engage with friends, colleagues, classmates, and neighbors in a way that goes well beyond tired social media updates, reunion small talk, and impersonal messages often involving someone asking for a favor. After spending the last three years sheltered within the writing community, I found non-writers are genuinely thrilled to meet an author. Responding to the curiosity of potential readers with sincerity and openness has brought a new level of purpose to my writing journey.
- Clarity: Engaging with readers helps you better understand what your book is about. As a writer, you know putting ideas on paper forces clarity of thought. Drafting a query letter, synopsis, and website helped me know my book better. Early marketing efforts beyond the literary community have forced me to polish my talking points even further as I present my story’s relevance to specific affinity groups represented in my book. For example, a key supporting character in my story has Down syndrome, my story takes place in the Chicago area, my main character works as a golf caddie, and as the book’s title suggests, running plays a major role in the storyline. Like the Feynman Technique for learning, converting written descriptions of my book into plain spoken English tailored for the interests of these different audiences has helped me better understand my own book in the most simple and specific terms possible.
- Joy: Stop taking your book so “literar-ally.” Some days I can only take so much of the sighing self-importance and navel gazing known to creep into our beloved writing community 😉. Talking about my book with readers reminds me many people just want a good story in the same way they might want a good pizza. Of course, I want readers to lose themselves in the literary craft underlying my work, but first impressions will be shaped by the joy I take in describing storylines and characters, not the finer points of comps, genre rules, audience categories—or the recipe for the sauce.
- Recovery: Take a break from writing to become a stronger writer. Athletes, executives, educators, scientists, and musicians know success over the long-term requires pushing and challenging ourselves, yet periods of rest allow for repair and growth.
Neglecting your next project while marketing your current novel doesn’t mean you’ve surrendered to the Resistance, as Steven Pressfield describes. I think of it as converting in the red zone. You’ve invested years of life, sweat, and tears to create something the world has never seen. You’re within twenty yards of the goal line. Don’t let a fear of sharing your gift hold you back.
Bonus Point: Slow-rolling my next project has allowed my subconscious to do its job generating ideas around storylines, characters, and scenes. As I shape the raw matter of my next novel, I know I’ll start the hard work from a more solid base than my first book.
- Growth: Embrace feedback to get better. Book marketing requires letting go of your inner control freak. Unlike the workshops, beta readers, and editing process, you no longer control who sees your work. You’re going to get a reaction. Some will cheer, many will ignore, and yes, a few will criticize.
I agree with the popular advice to avoid reading your reviews. Feedback intended for other readers, however, is different from the direct interactions you’ll have while marketing your book. We read in our genre and listen to author interviews to learn from other writers. If learning from the experience of other authors can make me a better writer, then understanding how other readers experience the story I tell about my book has the potential to make me a better writer faster.
Bestselling authors groan about marketing their current book while finishing the draft of their next. I’m not a bestselling author and didn’t start writing with dreams of becoming one. Maybe one day the last remaining major publishing houses will chase me with the budget and staff to market my latest book while I peck away on my next. Such luxury will free me from the burden of engaging with the people I hope to touch with my work.
Wait, what? Book marketing provides an opportunity to interact with the best people in the world: readers interested in my work. Writing is escape, therapy, and the opportunity to explore questions we have about the world. Marketing allows us to capture the energy of connection, clarity, joy, recovery, and growth in a quest to share our work on our own terms and become better writers. Don’t let fear, ego, or your next project distract you from taking responsibility for the one you hold in your hands today, however you choose to define success.
About the Author
Mike Magluilo is a writer and recovering finance professional, father of three and husband of one. He enjoys clean living and dirty jokes and loves old dogs and small gestures. Mike is the author of the novel A Reason to Run (Rootstock Publishing, October 2023), and his work has appeared in Zig Zag Lit Mag, Cold Lake Anthology and Flash Fiction Magazine. His story The Golden Boy took first prize in Flash Fiction Magazine’s summer 2023 flash fiction contest. His short fiction and blog posts can be found at MikeMagluilo.com. Mike lives in Cornwall, Vermont.