Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Want To Buy Some Snake Oil?

You've seen him in Westerns, the traveling medicine man with a magic elixir guaranteed to cure whatever ails you. Well, he's back. And he knows a sucker is born every minute.

I'm talking about people all over the Internet who claim they have the secret formula to selling books. What makes this offer so enticing is: 1) we all hope there really is a secret to success; and 2) we want someone else to do the hard work for us.

They will do the work but the price is high with no guarantee of success. I'm not going to say they prey on writers but the truth is, there is more money to be made by selling advice, services and promises than selling novels.

I'm looking at the stack of marketing books on my shelf. No, I didn't buy them, I actually won many of them or were “gifted” them by friends. They were outdated even when they were published because things change so fast in this industry. I didn't even bother to read them, to be honest. Now with the Internet, social media and e-publishing, these books are dinosaurs.

I'm more concerned with sites online that start out as blogs and turn into advertisements. It seems that once these bloggers get my trust, they go into sell mode. I understand they want a monetary reward for their advice but we're all struggling here to make a living off our writing.

The worst of it is, most of their advice is trite and repetitive. Because, bottom line, there is no magic formula, no one-method-fits-all. We are square pegs and they offer round holes. When we follow their instructions and fail, we blame ourselves. What did we do wrong?

Novices are the easy target. Their lack of knowledge and expertise in the publishing arena make them doubt themselves and trust all the “experts” out there. They shell out money for online seminars, book doctors, publicists and marketing books, always searching for the holy grail.

No stranger wanting to sell you snake oil is going to tailor strategy to fit you as an individual. Plus, if this same info is being passed out to everyone, what makes it so special?

I recently had an author ask me to do his marketing for him because he was “too busy writing.” Sure, I could probably do it, but what it would cost him would be more than he would profit by book sales. And failure would allow him to blame the person he handed all the checks to—me. This is a fail/fail situation for both of us. Besides, I have my own writing to do!

I say save your money and go on the Internet, cast about for info from peers and those of us in the trenches. Yes, it takes time and patience, but more than that, a strong curiosity. It takes imagination, which presumably we all have in spades. It means honing marketing skills the same way we hone writing skills. Learn by trial and error what works for you and concentrate your energy in that direction.

The daunting task holding you back might be where to start. Okay, here's my bottle of snake oil. I have something I call the Posse. Ask to be included and when I find something that has expanded my knowledge in promotion, I will pass it on to you. Free of charge. It's up to you to read these posts, absorb them and apply the medicine.


Posse members out there, feel free to weigh in on Sunny Frazier's Magic Marketing Elixer. Guaranteed to go down easily with the potential for success. Works on the brain, not the pocketbook!   

18 comments:

Liane Spicer said...

I'm reading one of 'those' books right now. It's written by a bevy of well-meaning bestselling indie and hybrid authors who all got rich in the ebook boom days--2010/2011/early 2012. What is pretty striking to me is how dated this book is just two years later. One of the writers acknowledges that the conditions under which the authors operated successfully have changed drastically.

As for the blog pundits: they give a piece of advice, tens of thousands of desperate authors rush to adopt it, thus changing market conditions in one fell swoop. These authors also fail to realize the pundits are in the position where they already have extensive backlists and/or extensive social media platforms. They have nothing in common with the typical new author.

Sunny Frazier said...

I have to agree. With time so limited to everyone, wasting it on bait-and-switch blogs is frustrating. I always hope my blogs are instructional or at least open up the conversation. When I have nothing fresh to offer, I'll just quit!

John Addiego said...

This is great advice. I fear that much more money is made selling ideas to writers than selling good writing, so we all need to be careful. I'm still trying to learn the biz, and your advice has been wonderful, Sunny!

Nancy LiPetri said...

I sure appreciate you sharing your elixir, thanks! Gulping away :)

Jim. Callan said...


Right on, Sunny. And there is a lot of money to made selling people on how to market without any work. The only problem is, there is no money-back offer. You pay your money and take your chances. The best advice I've gotten has always been free - and a lot of it from Ms. Frazier. Thanks.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I receive emails daily from men selling snake oil about how to get on Oprah, GMA and all the big networks. It always has a free teaser and then a paid webinar, which I am definitely not going to fall for.

Very timely message, Sunny.

Theresa Varela said...

Those snake oil posts are annoying but I wonder who really falls prey to the get rich quick scheme, not any writer I know. Yes, becoming an author and attracting interest is hard work but if you love to write it is enriching and not a chore in the least. Glad that I've been a posse member and have learned so much!

Lesley Diehl said...

I couldn't agree more. I have felt overwhelmed, depressed, studid, then annoyed, angered and irritated by all that "marketing advice" especially advice that asks me to "like" something on somone's X page as if that will sell a book to a potential reader. I don't need to take up time doing menial computer tasks that seem not to be related to what I'm trying to accomplish, i.e., get in touch with my readers and write good books. Rant over.

amreade said...

Hi, Sunny,
Thanks yet again for providing us with your sage advice and reminding us that it's hard work, imagination, and perseverance that sells books, not buying the services of people whose promises are too good to be true and who are only looking out for themselves instead of the authors they claim to serve.

Velda Brotherton said...

Sunny, as always you give good advice. I tend to agree with you almost all the time.
Whew, it's time consuming to keep up with things these days, but it doesn't take money to get the word out online. Who we are and what we like to do is what my readers appear to enjoy the most.

Augie said...

Wonderful information Sunny. You do lead the Posse to interesting sites, and its free.

Marja said...

Excellent post, Sunny! I've made plenty of mistakes and found that only a few things really help. I read one book, and only one, that offered a few suggestions that worked. I've wasted money trying new ideas, but thankfully I learned from my mistakes.

You always make a lot of sense and I hope you'll continue to share your thoughts with us.
Marja McGraw

debjulienne said...

Great post, wonderful information and very informative. Thanks!

Sunny Frazier said...

Right from the start, you Posse members jumped in feet first and I've watched your progress. Knowing we have shared experiences and freely share them if pretty comforting, right? I'm always learning alongside you. But, I believe so much can be done without an outlay of cash and some strategic efforts, both to keep your wallet safe and your time spent at a minimum. My trick? Make it look like you're everywhere and have a finger in every pie without overloading yourself. And, for goodness sake, have FUN!

Linda Thorne said...

Reading the recent bantering here is very interesting to me. My blog could be one of those waste-of-time things. I put it up recently and the only thing I could think of to talk about is how damn busy I am with a full-time job I wish I didn't have, but desperately need, and then asked how others might handle that if they had another job or other time-consuming issue. I'm going to Killer Nashville next weekend and I've looking into workshops on the market angle of writing. My blog is www.lindathorne.com/blog. If you think it's drippy, it's okay to tell me. I learn from criticism.

Jami Gray said...

Hey Sunny,
Great post. I'm one of those authors who sticks with the adage, "If you want more readers, write, write good books and keep going." For me personally, I've accept there is no fast track to "making it". Instead, I hold a day job to pay my bills and my writing is my creative outlet. I can't put out 8 bazillon books a year, so I'm sticking with my two a year strategy (one for each series) because that's what works for me. I try to stay active on social media and offer to guest post on numerous blogs and then reciprocate for other authors, because that's what writers do--we help each other and we write stories readers will enjoy.

Linda Thorne said...

To Jami. That is impressive that you have a day job a yet putting out two books a year. I can't imagine me doing that. Good going.

Linda Thorne said...

Jami, P.S. if you have any secrets to share on how you do that, I am very interested.