Posted On July 28, 2011 by Print This Post

How Writers Can Market Their Work Like a Business by Candice Hughes

Please help me welcome marketing guru Candice Hughes to RU! Author of Small Business Rocket Fuel: Marketing Tools to Boost Revenue, Candice will share her insights on how to make your small business financially successful.

Good morning, Candice!

Earn More from Your Writing with MBA Marketing

When you first decided you wanted to become a writer what plans did you have for your future? Did you want to earn money from your work as a professional writer? If you did, then guess what?  You’re running a small business.

One aspect of running a successful small business is marketing your products and your company. As a writer, your primary products are your books. Here we assume your books are knock-outs (marketing will not alter quality or improve sales if quality isn’t there). Your company brand is yourself (either you [“the author”], or your pen name or both).

“Hold it right there!” you shout. “My publisher and agent take care of all the business stuff. I just write.” Who cares the most about how much money you make? Your publisher? Your agent? Or you? Who cares the most about your career path, your image? I’m betting that you’re like me. I really, really care about making enough money to pay my bills. I also deeply care about where my career is headed. Publishers have lots of writers, as do agents. No matter how good they are, can they care as much as you? If you don’t care about how much you earn, how about having the power to decide what to write, when, and how to project your image? Money is power. Don’t give that power away to someone else. Take it. Use it.

Now that we’ve decided you are running a small business and you want to manage that business yourself because you care the most about your business (even if you are delegating some parts to others like publishers and agents), let’s get back to marketing.

Many people teach writers to market individual books. We know the drill, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, websites, etc. What I ask you to do is take a step back. You’re marketing more than one book. Before doing anything, develop a plan. Every business needs a marketing plan in writing. Why? Because if you don’t know where you’re headed, you’ll never get there. Developing a marketing plan is critically important and is usually left out of advice for writers. Your plan will be a step by step map that serves as a reality check. Without a plan there’s a tendency to either 1) do nothing from inertia (as in, “We’re all too busy writing. Who has time to market and sell?”) or 2) to go overboard and do everything in a scattershot approach. Neither of these strategies is good. Following either one will cause you to leave money on the table. Profits you could have had, but passed up.

As you develop your marketing plan, you want to ask yourself questions. “Who am I marketing to? Who is my true reader (a.k.a customer)? How am I going to reach my customers? What are the best tools to reach my customers? How much do the tools cost?” Most importantly, “How much should I spend?”

Whew! Tons of questions there. You may have considered some before. You may have a ready answer. That’s good. Write down your answer. But then dive deeper. So often we do the same things over and over without questioning what we’re doing. Even major companies put blinders on. To market well, you need to take a fresh look at every question. Research them. Talk to other people. Get new ideas. For example, a recent marketing trend is flash crowds where fans are quickly gathered to act out something slightly wacky like a pillow fight in Central Park. Would that engage your fans?

If you think planning and executing top marketing strategies takes too much time, consider this ̶  J.K. Rowling made $19.7 billion from marketing tie-ins. That figure doesn’t even include her book sales. That’s the power of marketing. Embrace it.

* * *

RU Crew, do you have a marketing plan? Care to share what has worked for you? For our readers out there…what marketing device normally catches your eye? Candice has generously agreed to answer any questions you may have about marketing. Ask away!

New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Brown is topping off this week of fabulous guests with a discussion on the power of first lines. Psst–she’ll be giving away prizes!

* * *

Candice M. Hughes, PhD has run and marketed her own small business for the past six years plus writes thrillers (with romance subplots). She is the author of “Small Business Rocket Fuel: Marketing Tools to Boost Revenue”.

Her “in the trenches” knowledge comes from working on a wide range of marketing programs, from product to department promotions, during her 20+ year business career that included 15 years in biotech/pharmaceutical communications agencies. In addition, she is currently concluding her first year in an MBA program at the Kelley School of Business (rated among the top handful of schools for marketing worldwide). She expects to graduate next year with much joy and celebration. Learn more at

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17 Responses to “How Writers Can Market Their Work Like a Business by Candice Hughes”

  1. Candice,

    Thank you so much for joining us today!

    One thing I’m struggling with right now is developing a marketing plan. What does it entail? What elements should I include?

    Do you have a good example of a fiction novel marketing plan?


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | July 28, 2011, 4:38 am
  2. I second Tracey’s question. I’d love to see a sample marketing plan, specifically for a Regency-set historical romance (in case the subgenre makes a difference!)

    Posted by Miar Marlowe | July 28, 2011, 6:14 am
  3. Hi Candice,

    Marketing has been my weakest point. I seemed to be spending money with little to no result. What is a ballpark budget figure?

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | July 28, 2011, 6:17 am
  4. Tracey,

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to join you at Romance University today!

    Before starting a marketing plan, it’s critical to have an overall business plan. Where do you want to be in 1 year? In 5 years?

    Your overall goal will influence everything including how you market yourself and your books.

    For your book marketing plan, there are certainly basics that everyone wants to hit such as strong use of social media (Twitter, Facebook, web site/blog, blog tours) combined with traditional media (press releases, radio appearances).

    But, following a templated plan is only going to get you part of the way there. To really market well, you need to develop individualized plans. It takes more thought and work to make a unique plan, but you will have greater success.

    Posted by Candice Hughes | July 28, 2011, 6:50 am
  5. Miar,

    Regency romance gives you a lot of great opportunities to market your novels. There are many fans of the Regency period whom you could connect with online.

    For example, some people are in love with the clothing. You can find blogs and web sites devoted to that. Here is one on Facebook:

    There are also many Jane Austen fans who might also like your novels.

    What you can do is be present on these sites. Chat with people. When an opportunity arises, mention your books.

    The mistake many writers make is overtly and insensitively promoting their book. This isn’t effective.

    “New Marketing” involves conversing with fans/potential customers on their terms.

    Posted by Candice Hughes | July 28, 2011, 7:04 am
    • Ha- I am going to edit myself here.

      What I meant to say was “many newer writers” can over promote their books.

      Amazon had such a problem that they recently moved all their writers to a separate forum and banned any promotion from the customer forum.

      Posted by Candice Hughes | July 28, 2011, 7:17 am
  6. Mary Jo,

    There are 2 areas where you might be able to make changes to get the results you want.

    First- are you marketing to the right people? If not, you are spending money that isn’t going to increase your sales.

    Second- Are you using marketing tactics that communicate with your fans (target market) in the way that best connects with them? Again, if not, you are spending money that won’t improve the bottom line.

    As far as how much money to spend, I suggest a ballpark figure of 3 to 5% of your revenue. But, again this really depends on your business goals.

    Posted by Candice Hughes | July 28, 2011, 7:12 am
  7. Morning Candice…

    Thanks for posting with us today! In your post about Amazon, you mention they were inundated with “buy my book” and I see a ton of people like that on twitter and FB, and that’s alllllll they do! How can you promote without being overly obnoxious about it, especially when it seems everyone else is doing the exact same thing you are?


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | July 28, 2011, 7:33 am
  8. Hi Candice! Thanks for beign with us today.

    My question is whether I need to start a marketing plan if I don’t currently have a book contract and what I should consider as a pre-published author. Am I just marketing myself at this point? Does it matter?


    Posted by Robin Covington | July 28, 2011, 8:01 am
    • Great question, Robin!

      Candice – is this–pre-publication–the time to do market research? Also – how do you use “fans of Author XYZ would be the target market for my books” in your marketing plan.

      Thanks so much!

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | July 28, 2011, 8:53 am
  9. Carrie,

    I know exactly how you feel. I go on these sites and I see tons of posts about “buy my fabulous book” and I wonder, “Am I doing all I can?” Or sometimes, “If they’re doing it, why shouldn’t I?”

    Then I take a deep breath and remind myself just because the lemmings are jumping over the cliff (to use a well worn cliche), I don’t have to go along.

    Put your reader’s hat on and then look at those posts. Do they make you want to buy the book? Or are you totally turned off?

    Marketing is no longer “Mad Men”. Now it’s how can you integrate yourself into your customer’s life. What benefit are you offering them (besides your product?) Most critical- do they like you? Do they consider you a friend? (albeit a somewhat more distant one than their best girlfriend)

    Posted by Candice Hughes | July 28, 2011, 9:18 am
    • Here’s an example:

      Instead of “buy my book about elves in medieval Ireland”, find a place online where fantasy readers gather. Then chat with them. Ask them who is their favorite elf and why. Tell them who your favorite (famous) elf is (NOT yours). Converse with them as you would your friend. When there is a chance, you can offer hints, such as “yes, I admire Tolkein’s work too and I made my hero tall and fair-haired like his.” You get the idea.

      Posted by Candice Hughes | July 28, 2011, 9:37 am
  10. Robin and Kelsey,

    Absolutely, you should think about and start some marketing work ahead of publishing your book.

    First, if you have an area of interest that coincides with what your books will be about (and you will if you follow the “write what you know” advice) then you can start building a platform for yourself in that area.

    For example, say you like quilting. You are writing a mystery series on quilting (but haven’t published yet). You can make a website about quilting and join quilting groups. You are building a platform in quilting that will have a strong foundation when you’re ready to publish.

    Even if you are already published, you can do the above to communicate with fans if you haven’t done so.

    If you know that your books are similar to a published author, you can investigate where that author is present online or offline. That will help point you to where his/her fans are. Also try to think about what exactly it is that is a common link between yourself and the other author. Do you both have a special ops heroine? Then look for spaces online where fans of special ops gather.

    Posted by Candice Hughes | July 28, 2011, 9:30 am
  11. Thanks again for having me today! Lots of great questions. I wish everyone much success in marketing their books and writing businesses.

    Posted by Candice Hughes | July 28, 2011, 8:16 pm
  12. Candice–

    Thanks so much for chatting with us today!


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | July 28, 2011, 9:22 pm
  13. Great post, Candice – so sorry I’m late!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | July 29, 2011, 7:49 am


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