Three weeks ago, on May 22, 2018, I officially published my debut novel. Writing and publishing The Reluctant Coroner was a frenetic, messy, wonderful process, and I learned a whole lot—especially the way writing and publishing a book correlates to B2B marketing. This is the fourth of five lessons about what I learned during the writing of The Reluctant Coroner.
Lesson 4: Products and marketing require a team effort.
The publishing world has changed; traditional publishers are spending less on marketing, and many experts believe the “mid-list”—writers who make a living, but aren’t millionaires—is being abandoned. As a result, more authors than ever are flocking to “indie authorship” for the opportunity to have more control over all aspects of their books, instead of leaving it to the publishers to edit, proofread, market, and distribute their works.
Many indie authors focus only on their writing, however, and once a draft is done and they’re happy with it, they throw it over the wall to Amazon. Beyond the first draft, they do everything themselves: they edit and proofread on their own, they design the cover, they write the blurb, they upload their document to Amazon. And a few months later, they’re amazed that they haven’t cracked the New York Times bestseller list.
The truth is, you can write the best novel in the world and have it sell absolutely nothing. There are so many aspects that go into making a book successful: professional edits, professional cover design, professional layout for the inside of the book, professional marketing, professional ad campaigns. And no one person can do it by themselves. Sure, if they’re lucky, they might have one or two of those skills. I started my career as a graphic layout artist, so I felt comfortable enough to do the layout for the interior pages of my paperback, for example. But I’m not a good enough designer to do an eye-catching cover that conforms to the expectations of a mystery reader. That’s why I hired Ziad Ezzat. I think I could probably edit somebody else’s book pretty well, especially in the mystery genre, but I don’t trust myself editing my own work. That’s why I hired Britt Gravesstud (even though she has a better mystery writer name than I do). That great photo on my Amazon page and the back of my paperback? That wasn’t a selfie, that was Studio KYK. And my social media marketing and ads are done by Cheryl Shoults. Sure, there’s no guarantee I’ll make money on this novel, but I’ve dramatically increased my chances by hiring people who are better than me, especially in areas that are important to my readers.
In the same way, some organizations have blinders on when it comes to certain aspects of their businesses. I see this all the time with B2B marketing. It’s both alarming and not surprising at all to see the huge number of programmers, engineers, accountants, or business strategists who looks at the challenges of marketing their wares to a larger audience, shrug their shoulders and think, “Eh, how hard could it be?”
A story from my past: a business leader at a former employer was put in charge of product marketing. He had no formal training in marketing, but he loved data. The product marketers could do nothing but run Excel spreadsheets. One of their products was launched without a product name because the leader didn’t have enough data on the naming conventions. Let me repeat: the product was launched without a name! (That's Dean Koontz-level horror right there.)
Just like a bestselling novel, B2B business success is a team effort.