Most writers want to do just one thing: write our books. Few of us come from marketing backgrounds. Still fewer of us think of ourselves as entrepreneurs and business owners. In the old ages of traditional publishing, authors rarely had to be any of those things. We slaved away trying to get a publisher to notice our work and/or securing a literary agent who would pimp our work for us — for a fee — while we went off and kept writing.
Self-publishing and the digital age has changed that for both self-published and traditional publishers. Just as cigarette machines have gone by the wayside and Sherlock Holmes uses nicotine patches instead of smoking his pipe in response to smoking regulations in London, the days of in-house marketing and advertising for books by publishers are gone. Today authors must do most of the work themselves.
There are no shortage of marketing firms to delegate to, of course, but as I found out across the winter of 2014 when I hired 180Fusion, marketing firms too often care about getting the business — any way they can.
What this means is that marketing firms promise the sun and moon to you — if you hire them. 180Fusion promised to put me on the New York Times bestseller list within 30 days, using my natural optimism to augment their pitch. I, like most people, want to believe that people are telling me the truth. I have faith that everything works out. I have faith in the quality of my work. I know these books are well-written and reflect a lifetime of scholarship and dedication to my craft.
180Fusion took that and used that very positive quality against me with their pitch about what they can do with advertising on facebook.
Facebook advertising can and does work for some people. The essence of their work is to study the numbers to make facebook ads profitable, making adjustments until the ads result in sales. As Jonathan Gebauer points out, this actually is sound — but with one catch that was omitted from the pitch until I was ready to close my account: it takes time, often months and years for it to work.
This is not something that can be achieved in the 30 days promised to me back in December 2013 when I signed up. In fact it was only when I made a fuss about not getting results that I was told, quite condescendingly, that what they promised was actually not at all possible. Then they said I needed to give it more time. Just give it more time.
This was the truth in the lie. It takes time. Except they never told me this upfront, before I signed up. They told me when I was ready to cancel, when they knew my patience was at an end.
Now normally I am a very patient person. If this service had cost me $10 a month, odds are very good I would have stuck it out. Except it costs a minimum of $300 a month — when my budget was $10 a month! This was known from the onset. So they promised me the sun and moon and instant results. It didn’t matter that their service was many times more than my budget! Because I would re-coup what I spent with them very quickly.
It was a lie and they knew it! It was predatory, disrespectful, and sadly not atypical of far too many marketing firms.
Instead, their focus was on getting me to sign up; it didn’t matter that to pay for their service I would have to plop down hundreds to thousands of dollars on a high rate credit card; as long as they were getting paid, they really did not care about me or my books.
Most people have a word for that and it is not nice at all!
So what can we learn from this?
Number one: NO MARKETING STRATEGY GIVES INSTANT RESULTS. As Jonathan Gebaur puts it, “Marketing never comes with a red button. 90% of the time marketing means: Work… Frustration… Small Improvements. Working out the little details. Improving little things to improve our results just a little bit. Good results take a lot of sweat and tears.”
Number two: no matter what a pitch says, do not spend what you do not have in cash right now. Set your budget honestly and hold to it. If a company tells you that your budget doesn’t matter and you must spend more than that with them, they do not care about you; they care about getting your money.
Number three: choose carefully. Know that whatever do in terms of marketing and advertising will take several months to get results from. Don’t just throw money at things hoping they will work; approach this with a plan and a clear set of perimeters and goals. Pick one primary approach (like guest posting) and focus on that. Don’t try to make everything happen all at once from everywhere. Chaos works against you and ultimately robs you of your ability to focus, concentrate, and respond to your business and reader’s needs.
Marketing firms are out there to help you and should be used by independent authors. But as with so many things, the rule “buyer beware” applies. Ask questions, probe firms for answers, and if you see even a whiff of a hard sell or pressured pitch, run do not walk away. Any business who cannot respect your budget and your goals is not really interested in working for you; rather they just want your money.