3 Questions Indie Authors Need to Ask Themselves Right Now

I shared an award-winning Huffington Post article I wrote last year: Author Are A**holes — where I tongue-in-cheek rant about the whiny authors who claim they’ve done all they can do to market their books and still aren’t seeing any sales — yet when I go and look at their website I see it’s from 1980, their blog hasn’t been updated in a year, they have no social media to speak of, and their book has zero reviews. Thus, the article.

There’s usually one person (typically a guy, *cough cough*) who tells me ‘I’m doing everything you say, and my book still isn’t selling.’ When I ask if he’s doing everything, and I mean everything I list in the article, he tells me, ‘well, I’m too busy writing to read your article, but I’ve done it all.’

Marketing by osmosis? Okayyyyy.

Let’s deconstruct.


If your answer is “Blogs”. What is working for you? I find that writing these articles, sharing what works for me, and what doesn’t, works quite well in connecting with both authors and readers. So, blogs…check.

If your answer is “Social Media”. I also enjoy connecting with people on social media. I’ve made it my mandate not to spam people on social media with ‘Buy my book!’ messages — it’s not only annoying, it’s ineffective. So I ask questions, listen, share interesting articles, quotes, videos. Cool stuff. Funny. Occasional promotional or sale info. So, social media, check.

The more I study social media marketing (going on seven years now), the more I stick to what I learned almost by accident as a young Pharma rep in the early 90s: people want to be treated like people. Shocking, right?

If I walked into a physician’s office with my shiny company sales aid and read right off it, as my company wanted me to, did my ‘feature, advantage, benefit, close’ formulaic crap, the doctor’s eyes would glaze over (if he or she stayed long enough for that to happen). Once I finished my spiel, they’d say, “Got any pens or pads? How about a coffee mug?” as they ushered me out the door.

Social media is no different.

If your answer is Sales. Sales pitches are weird, stilted situations, where Person A is broadcasting their message to Person B. There’s little interaction — perhaps a grunt or ‘false interested’ question thrown in. No relationship is even required. I found my success as a rep when I ditched the company line and really talked to my physicians (to my company’s chagrin — that is, until I smashed all my sales quotas). Asked questions about their families, their interests, discussed difficult patient types, and, if appropriate, how my drug could maybe fit into a solution. It took time and effort — sometimes  months or even years in a few cases to get to that point, but when I did, those physicians became avid writers for me. Many of those physicians are still friends to this day.

Personally, I’m put off by some total stranger who blasts me with their links and expects something in return before they’ve even followed me. Back the truck up, puppy. What’s your plan? Who’s your demographic? Are you just bombing everyone to buy your book? Is everyone on Twitter, on all of social media, in the entire world, your ideal reader?

No. So relax, take a moment to create a damn plan, and figure out how to market to your readers.


How many of you have created a marketing plan for your book release? If you have one, raise your hand. I would bet that nine out of ten of you do not, and that’s very common. You may now go sit with this very popular group of non-planners, because we’re about to have a talk.

Do You Have a Plan?  If you’ve been in Corporate America, or even owned a small business, you know all about having a marketing plan…and you probably hate them. I dreaded our quarterly district meetings where we’d sit for three days (when I could have been out making calls and not sitting in a freezing room wearing a suit drinking cold coffee and hot water) discussing all the plans the geniuses in the home office came up with, no doubt having spent millions to create another pretty, bright sales aid, maybe a new pen, this time with a plastic cap. Woohoo!

Seriously, despite the ridiculousness of these corporate puppet meetings, I did learn that creating a plan for each quarter, having set goals, was extremely helpful. Drilling down the enormous amount of data they gave us into bite-size chunks and activities gave my counterpart and I a plan: we knew when we walked out of that room into the fresh air exactly what we needed to do to meet our sales goals.

Book marketing is no different. I know what I need to do to sell books. I have a marketing plan. I change it up, I try new things, but I still have a basic groundwork that I create for each and every book. Do you?

Do You Have Marketing. Well, you will now. Here’s a great example of Joanna Penn’s (aka The Creative Penn) award-winning marketing plan for a book titled How to Enjoy Your Job. It’s FREE and you need to download it right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

This is a wonderful template for your own book(s). I’ve used it several times for my own work. It’s not going to be a perfect fit, and that’s fine — work around what works and toss what doesn’t. Or find a blank template. Shoot, I’ve written marketing plans on a bar napkin after too many vodkas. Just write it down.


Focus. Once you have a plan, you have created the ability for yourself to prioritize and focus your efforts. A plan makes you look at what you have and what you don’t. Research what you don’t know. School is in session. Instead of asking those popular kids who doesn’t have a plan, become one of the nerds who does.

  • Do you have a budget?
  • Time constraints?
  • Limited resources?
  • Figure out how much of each of these you realistically have: time, effort, budget, resources to create your plan and then make it work within those constraints.
  • Make it realistic for you.

See, here’s the thing: you don’t need a background in sales and marketing like I have, or an advanced business degree to market your work. Why? Because you know how to read. You can research. You can put to work the tips in my articles, the articles here at IndieReader, and from people who are WAY smarter and more successful than me to make it happen.

But you have to DO it. So, go.

10 replies
  1. avatar
    Barb Drozdowich says:

    Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing! I’m off to have another look at my plan and absorb some pearls of wisdom from Joanna Penn!

  2. avatar
    Ian McAllister says:

    I’m still learning my craft as a writer and I find the marketing minefield hugely daunting. Having been a follower of Rachel Thompson for a while now, I’m beginning to realise that I need to get on top of this if the current sci-fi project is to become a success. I can work through “daunting”, but it might take time!

    • avatar
      Rachel Thompson says:

      Baby steps, Ian. Fifteen minutes a day before the book comes out will reap huge benefits when it comes to having built those relationships and knowing who your demo is. Most authors wait, release the book, and are lost.

      You can do it. I promise.

  3. avatar
    Melissa Flickinger says:

    Whenever I see posts like this, I grab my notebook and pen! I totally agree with you. Start with a basic marketing plan and keep researching and adding new ideas. Formulate a schedule: At the first of the month, update your marketing plan with long term goals. On a weekly or biweekly basis, write out your action plan with short term goals. It’s all a matter of organizing a plan and following through.

    • avatar
      Rachel Thompson says:

      That’s brilliant, Melissa! The updating is what gets away from so many of us (me included, sometimes). I think many people think the plan is a one-time thing — one and done, if they do it at all. Most shoot from the hip or depend on others and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this business — it’s up to the author to get it done. Help is great! But ultimately, nobody knows our books like we do.

  4. avatar
    Dale Reierson says:

    I came into the world of Branding with very little knowledge. The key to
    successful Branding is not about what you think it would be. Rachel Thompson
    is a brilliant strategist and marketing engineer. If you want to have a
    chance at making it in this business then you need to start reading
    what she has to say.

    • avatar
      Rachel Thompson says:

      Thank you so much, Dale! You’re too kind. I’m just happy to be here :).

      Truthfully, I share what has worked and what hasn’t. It’s really simple when you break it down. Thanks for reading and commenting.


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