In the previous posts in this series, we talked about the various distribution channels the indie author has to pursue in order to get his product in the hands of customers, using every tool available to him ‘getting his books to market’. Or not. Big box bookstores, indie books stores, on-line distributors, direct from the printer, direct from the trunk of your car, book fairs and church bazaars all need to be explored. Despite popular misconception, direct sales is the only way the author can hope to make decent margins – everyone else takes a cut leaving precious little for the author himself. Regardless of which channels to market you use, getting people to find your outlet and your product is up to you. You have to drive customers to the stores via various methods: your own website complete with effective seo (search engine optimization) capability, newsletters, social media posts, creative videos on TikTok, advertising (sm advertising such as Facebook, even print media – I’ve thought of that too but it’s prohibitively expensive); the speakers circuit; use of cattle prods is frowned upon.
Marketing one’s books is a long-term endeavour; and it takes staying power. Hope springs eternal of course but beware the gambler’s dilemma – recognizing when it’s time to quit. It’s unreasonable to believe the next turn of the wheel will hit the jackpot. Or foolishly failing to heed Einstein’s famous quote about insanity.
Despite the risk to his mental health if an author wants to have any sort of career success he or she has to stick to it – promoting his books – for years. You can’t be that guy who drops his books off at the indie bookstore hoping they will sell themselves, and never comes back.
But sustaining one’s drive in marketing books is hard. Being a successful author, even if less than a ‘best-selling author’, means you have to think of yourself as a business. You’re not just a creative genius toiling away in your study, you’re also the marketing and sales department. This is foreign territory for most writers: they’re not businessmen or women.
Preferring sanity, or merely avoidance, many authors [most?] get discouraged and give up, or at least their efforts wane. Authors need help. As an aspiring, even emerging author myself, I see their point.
Having an MBA – though specializing in Human Resources and Labour Relations – and managing my own consulting business for 30 years, meant I had some sense of business management, including the imperative of effective marketing and distribution. So applied this wisdom to my book business: I did some research, I developed plans, I made calls. I made progress. But not enough. I needed help. I joined the Canadian Authors Association.
I’m not sure what I thought ‘Canadian Authors’ could do for me but a friend of mine, a member of the National Capital Region Chapter, encouraged me to sign up. Writers Helping Writers it said on their website. Writers helping writers do what I thought. Well mostly the members thought it meant writers helping writers write, but I figured I already knew how to write and what I needed help with was marketing and promotion. It wasn’t obvious the CAA did that. I joined anyway.
I went to NCR Chapter meetings. I held myself back. Most of the other attendees seemed to hold themselves back too. ‘Are all authors introverts?’, I thought to myself. Usually a guest speaker would come in and talk about writing, or finding an agent, or social media, and, marketing. I took notes.
Canadian Authors, as they’re want to call themselves, is not a publisher, nor a distribution house, not a book expo, nor any channel to market for members and their books. Hmmm.
But I didn’t stop there; I got actively involved (thus diffusing my energies from marketing my books).
Well, to be honest, I wasn’t that proactive – it took the very persuasive Chair of Canadian Authors to draw me in, first to help them put together a new Strategic Plan, and then, to come on the Board to help them with the implementation of this plan.
I soon discovered the Canadian Authors Association needed help themselves. This venerable organization, national in scope and long in history, was mostly preoccupied with helping writers write and defending copyright. They had little in the way of helping members penetrate the labyrinthine world of marketing and selling books. It seemed obvious to me, but maybe that’s just my bias, that the CAA needed to do a lot more to help aspiring and emerging authors find their way through this marketing and distribution maze.
The more I dug into the CAA with all its history and failings, its capabilities and potential, the more I found myself referring to Canadian Authors not as they but we. We needed to put in place more aggressive and robust mechanisms to help Members negotiate the world of publishing – and especially self-publishing – and help create opportunities to bring their books to market.
The CAA already has an on-line book catalogue of Members’ books, (you can find my books listed there) but we need to expand this capability and promote our catalogue to the wider public. We need to set up a book review section on our catalogue to encourage reluctant browsers.
We already support many book fairs and festivals across the country, mostly at the chapter level (it’s a big country), e.g., WOTS and Vancouver Writers Festival, but we are investigating a vehicle for organizing and delivering book fairs across the country under the CAA label and brand. (For this we will need a lot more volunteer members in communities across the country.)
We need to build stronger active links with publishers (The Association of Canadian Publishers) and booksellers. Canadian Authors already has some liaison with Canadian Independent Book Sellers Association but connecting our Members with individual stores is intricate. Perhaps there is a role to play for Canadian Authors with establishing a Canadian version of the bookshop.org concept.
We need to investigate and lobby Canadian Governments to find novel ways to support Canadian authors with selling their books and finding a foothold in this creative career in the Canadian cultural arts – perhaps through some sort of tax credit to purchasers for each book sold in Canada by Canadian authors.
The Canadian Authors Association can do a lot for aspiring and emerging authors to find their market but there is a lot of work to be done yet. The CAA has to help itself before it can do much more to help members. As an aspiring and emerging writer, you can help the CAA, and yourself, find your market. Consider joining today.
Canadian Authors may be able to help Canadian authors market and promote their books. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the struggling indie author can’t avoid doing a lot of the promotional work himself.
Doug Jordan, reporting to you from Kanata, Canada
© Douglas Jordan & AFS Publishing
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