Marketing 101 for Authors: What Exactly Is Marketing?

Before I became a creative entrepreneur, I was a marketing person. I hated it. Mostly because it was all extroverted people being fabulous and I was a quiet thinker trying really hard to pretend I was like them. I wasn’t. But that’s a different story.

While marketing as a job wasn’t right for me, I’m grateful for the things I learned. I apply these concepts to my business and have from the beginning and I think it’s helped me stay on track and make decisions that are right for my business and brand.

I also see a lot of writers struggle with this, and not just in the “I just want to write and not market” kind of way. I mean they struggle with making the right decisions for them because they’re getting a lot of input from agents and editors and other writers and aren’t sure what they should really be doing. But when you understand what marketing really is (and what it isn’t) you’ll have an easier time deciding which marketing activities are worth your time.


What Marketing Is

For now, let me talk about what marketing is. The AMA says that: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Let me simplify it: Marketing is everything that touches your ideal readers.

In other words, marketing isn’t just sales. And if you thought it was, you’re not alone. A lot of people who work in business make this mistake. Some people say “sales and marketing” and even that’s not an accurate description. Sales is not equal to marketing. They aren’t partners. Sales is an element of marketing.

You’ve probably heard of the “marketing umbrella” which is an oldie but still holds true. The whole umbrella of activities is what you do to “market” and each item underneath that umbrella adds to your marketing effort. Here’s a graphic, but keep in mind there are MANY other things that can go under this author marketing umbrella.

author marketing umbrella

Some authors rely heavily on one type of marketing activity (say, social media or even producing more books) and others spread things here and there throughout all the options. What’s right for you and your business will depend on your ROI or return on investment. But be careful with this! It’s not as straightforward a calculation as you would imagine. (I’ll get more into this in another post.)

Books Are Marketing?

Yes. Your books are a part of your marketing effort. Books can prompt sales of other books, they can be used as giveaways to get the word out about your brand, and they can act as a calling card to represent you. Sure, the goal is to sell books but don’t forget the product of the book in that equation. (Which is another reason why having an outstanding book cover and title is as important as the writing itself.)

How Often Do You Have to Market?

The method and frequency of your marketing efforts should be directly related to your goals. If you “just want to put a book out” you don’t need to do any marketing. How’s that? Just sit back and write. No one will probably find your writing, but that’s okay because that’s not your goal.

Or is it? If you actually do want to sell books, you’ll need to market, and before you can determine what you should do, you need to make a goal that measurable and clear. When you do that, how you spend your marketing time and money will be an easy decision.

Marketing isn’t just one thing, one article, one tweet, or even one advertising campaign. It’s a series of actions and items that are meant to grab a reader’s attention.


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