Email Marketing for Idiot Writers

First off, you’re probably not an idiot. So remind yourself of that often during your writing journey. Second, I wrote this while heavily intoxicated on a cocktail of binge-watching three seasons of House and then experiencing a total tech meltdown. Step into my cage of honesty and rage. You’ve been warned.

I’m a writer. That’s really all I want to do. Write my stories. And I want others to read my stories because only then will my characters come alive and not just live in my head. And they and their worlds will be known.

But hang on. Slow down, fella. You have to learn ten thousand other things in order to stay in step with the various tech and marketing aspects that will help you market your book. Or no one will read it.

I’m not kidding. You’re basically fucked. Strap in and learn. You got no choice. You could win the lotto or crack open your savings to hire someone to help you, but regardless if you get a publishing deal, (another herculean task and mountain to climb) those old-time, hand-holding publishers and agents of yore are gone. So however you’re published, you better get adept quickly and earn your BA in marketing, digital marketing, and the coding world in general. Algorithms? Learn them. Every different platform has a different algorithm and learning curve that – uh oh, may also affect your other platforms and choices. When that happens or something new appears or changes? Fuck off and re-learn it again.

And again.

Wait. Did you hear that? As soon as I type this, I better type it again. Ah, again. There’s always more to learn.

In the beginning, after finishing my first story, I innocently slipped on the ruby slippers and skipped down the yellow brick road with a cheering crowd behind my back. Live your dream, the gurus gleefully chanted! You can do it, your friends said. Be true to yourself, some of your family burbled. Go for it, the dog woofed.

Blech. I want to boke. (Watch Derry Girls for reference you animals).

There was so much I didn’t know. Such a long road stretched before me. And so many perils. But did I meet a friend? A scarecrow? Sure. I found a writing group and most of them were cool. Some—I won’t name names—were a little challenging to manage, but for the most part, I found the other writers interestingly similar in that they were all super curious people who listened and enjoyed a story – whether it be a short one told over coffee – or a full-length book. I did meet one guy at a mystery writer’s convention who said he didn’t need a website or any marketing plan. He gave me his card. It had his picture and phone number on it. Now that was interesting. And hey, maybe he’ll do fine. But his dilated pupils may have spoken more. Then again, there’s a story in that life too. And I really want to hear it.

A writer pokes their head out every so often like the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil. Am I ready to share my work? Should I go back to the storyboard and have character Evan kill character Bertram because he’s a loose end? Visualizing the tiles fall in some world-champion domino competition plinking down a corkscrew path, the writer watches the storyboard unravel as the plastic blocks fall – and then, boom. Everything changes. All chapters would need to be rewritten. Character motivations. Consequences. Fallout. Should I? Shouldn’t I?

What are you doing? Stop writing! Stop dreaming. That’s not your job. Wake up, writer. What happens when you finally type ‘The End’? Well, it’s not the end. Come on. Get out of the story. Look around at your life. Your messy house. The undone dishes. When was the last time you went to the grocery store? Why is there no food in the house and dust on every surface? Did you miss the recycling day again?

Time to grow up. Sure. Find an agent. A publishing deal. Good for you. But like I said, put those aspirations aside for a moment and relax your exuberant grip on the celebratory bottle of champagne that you’ll drink alone because no one understands the journey you’ve lived but you.

Because the dream has burst. It’s time to talk about marketing.

I hate you marketing! Shut up and watch a million seminars and videos. Get a brand. Oh . . . and Write. To. Genre.

Wait! I thought I could just write the story that bled from my heart, soul, and brain. No. You can’t do that, says the newly minted hotshot publicity group. You have to Write. To. Genre. Hit those content markers most interesting for a specific and particular audience. Otherwise, it’s not marketable. And in this world where everything is digital and Kindle Unlimited or free – no one will be interested, let alone get out their VISA and buy it. Even for two bucks. (FU woman on Facebook who was complaining about spending $3.99 on a book).

What? I whimper. Well, what do I do now that I’ve written a 100,000 word book from my heart? Well, let’s break it down. And it’s always best to start at the beginning. Burn what you’ve written and start again. It’s gotta be marketable.

You have to have a website. And own real estate on all social marketing platforms. You better learn how to use Tik Tok – or…. wait, will that be a waste of time? Will it be taken down? Read blogs about content. No wait – write blogs with content. I gotta write blogs now? Yes. Blog! Fucking do it. And for god’s sake use a filter when you shoot yourself on video. Yes, become an actor, film producer, and editor too.

Learn how to use Canva or some other digitally creative graphics place to make a coherent and strategically appealing brand look for Pinterest – cause those YouTube videos you watched of uber-successful people – most super pretty girls (hmm) of how important and hugely successful you can be if you use Pinterest and Instagram is real.

Be on social media everywhere. Engage, bitches.

Get a website! Pay a bunch for it or develop it yourself. Code? Step closer to the glass, Clarice. I’m waiting for you.

Find subscribers. To do that – give your work away for free then watch people take and take and take and never hear a word from them in return. See posts where people gleefully brag about their bloated TBR (to be read) pile. But you’ve got to give them something so they’ll come back for more – in case, just in case, they’ll be interested in your work. Just in case, with a sliver of hope in your wee little heart – they’ll like your story. And live with the characters that you breathed. And then . . . gulp. Will they come back for more? Will they tell someone else about your book? Will they (pipe dream) leave a review? I’m begging you to hear and believe these words young, naïve, susceptible, and mentally intact author – your friends and family will disappoint you. Even when you ask them for help. They won’t get it. “I’ll show you apples,” they’ll say as you wince from the invisible wounds created by their resounding silence and hurtful inaction. But never let it show! What are you gonna do? Scold them?

Okay, so you got subscribers. (Real ones? Takers? Taker/Unsubscribers? Sorry, I’ll get a drink, or two, and calm down).

So there’s a long list of ways to find subscribers. But then you absolutely have to have a newsletter. Or a way to engage with them and interact. But how often do you send it? What about podcasts? What? There are thousands  – wait  – millions of podcasts all vying for people to listen to. But I have actual reader’s email address – I can just email them and get their attention. Because I’ll give them something of value! No. Not your words – swag. That’s what the experts-on-every-corner will advise!

Whip out that VISA. Get the swag going – along with the free copies of your books. Hey, have you ever been to a book festival? Don’t go if you’re depressed. Because there will be rows and rows of what? Authors and their books and just a few nervous-as-cats humans parading down aisles of anxious yet-oh-so-chill authors eyeballing them as the meat-readers troll the aisles and browse. Or to grab some free swag – or candy – while their freshly face-painted kids (funded by the author’s entrance fees) skip along to their next give-me give-me sticky-fingered moment of their day.

But I digress. What? Have you seen that pattern? Take a deep breath, stretch, kegel, then throw back a shot.

Okay, so you subscribe ($$) to an email marketing platform so you can get a digital template to fill with wonderful, click-baiting and swag-filled content, the template tech building a google-filled, tutorial driven, no customer support, crying in the dark with no answers, soul building? experience.

But you got this thing! This email. It’s got content, baby. And you tackled the meta shit, and SEO, and keywords, and google analytics, and understood and instigated the integration until one day . .  . one day, you get to press send.

And what happens? Do you feel alone? How many stars are there in the universe? Two hundred billion trillion. Don’t worry though. I’m sure your email got through.

You’re an idiot. Did you validate your domain? Did you authenticate your domain? Wait – did you align your domain? What the fuck is that? Better check it out. Turns out, your newsletter won’t even be successfully delivered to your own email address. No matter how many tricks you use. It’s all spam baby.

But they will take your money. They being tons of platforms authors have to use to take the “necessary” and “basic” steps to market their work. And beware. Everyone will try to sell you something. A marketing strategy. A campaign. An email flood to bona fide readers. A tool. An upgrade. Pay per click. Amazon ads. Facebook ads. Graphics design. Thousands of dollars spent on what? Marketing. Not the money you were more or less happy to spend on professionally editing your story. Or on quality cover design. Or proofreading. Or interior design. To get your story out.

Because you – once long, long ago, were in Kansas and believed in your story. And you, and you . . . and you, were there.

Go back to that safe place, writer. It’s your refuge. Your comforting weighted blanket. Your beautifully creative world.

And if no one sees your work? Well then,

the cursor blinks . . blinks . . . and blinks . . . and blinks . . .

please remember to love yourself.

3 thoughts on “Email Marketing for Idiot Writers

  1. Yes, yes, and yes. I get it all. And SEO? I’ve looked into it and I’m sure they are speaking in English, but it’s a specialized vocabulary. Today, the big distraction–a SEMRUSH AUDIT. Oh mercy! (And I’m not even an author!) I’ve looked at this stuff–how many times? No title longer than 75 characters. No H1 headings other than the title–I don’t use H1 headings–thought that WAS the title and I still have how many hundred pages to fix? Where do you find that “nofollow” thing? I’ve looked. How many hours did I spend today just trying to read and follow the results? I’d have to quit writing the blog to go back (how many years?) and fix all those errors–some of which carry WARNINGS! What are you drinking? Have enough to share?

  2. Taking a quick look at your blogs. This one really gets me. I have found “promoting and marketing” my last novel – released this last May – an exercise in mind numbing, brain farting futility. How can you effectively use social media when you’ve always made a point of avoiding social media? I am like a toddler trying to cross a mine field and the mines are people/websites asking you for money. You are certainly doing a better job of it than I am. Your website is terrific.

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