Marketing Your Best

In his interview in this month’s issue, Harlan Coben reiterated a perspective I have oft heard repeated by the authors with whom I speak—particularly the most successful authors: forget about the market. I think it bears repeating now because so much focus has recently been placed on market­ing, which is slightly different than The Market, but not much.  For instance, if you pitch a non-fiction book to an agent, you will probably be asked which books already on the market it compares to, why it is different, and how you will sell it. All of which is understandable but, I must say, still minor compared to the primary job of a writer: writing the book you most want to write. Which is Harlan Coben’s point. Want to have a good writing career? Write the best books you can. Want to sell more books? Write better books, whatever that means to you.

Yes, it is a good idea to make bookstore appearances; yes you should try to get interviews in newspapers and magazines like this one; yes you could make a Youtube video, go on a blog tour, twitter, facebook—all of it.  If you have the energy, do it.  But if all you actually have the energy for is writing the best book you can, I believe you will be all right.

Perhaps someday that will change. Perhaps someday publishers or writers will learn how to market a book to success. I do not believe that day has arrived. Books remain stubbornly quaint; they have their own strange energy to them. Somehow a book finds its way to the people who most want it. These people read the book, and then they tell their friends, and so on. Marketing has its practical purposes, but I believe it also serves the larger need of calming our fear by giving us something to do once the book is out of our hands. We know that in the end it’s up to those strangers we call our prospective readers, and once they start reading, all the marketing in the world won’t change a word you’ve written. So make those words your best.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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