Ninie Hammon’s Blog for Writers

Driftwood Marketing: A Newbie's Guide to Selling Books

Posted: March 23, 2014, 3:54PM


In last week's post, I said that what I’ve dubbed “Driftwood Marketing” is a method of chopping book marketing into bite-sized pieces.

Don’t believe it. I lied.

Unless your mouth opens wider than the San Andreas Fault, none of these pieces are bite-sized. Gut check here. Properly marketing a book requires thousands of small steps. The next obvious question, of course, is: Do you have to do all the steps? If you do, I will never write another novel. Instead, I will spend every waking moment for the remainder of my days marketing the seven I’ve already written. I did the math. Though there’s a slight margin for error here, I calculated that it would take roughly 137 hours and 42 minutes a day to perform every task that all the different marketing gurus say I absolutely have to do to successfully market a book. Then I multiplied that number by seven.

Before you go looking for a razor blade or a cyanide pill, let me help you along to the conclusion I reached early in my marketing study. You can’t do it all. In case you missed that, let me say it again, louder: YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL. Every writer must design a marketing plan unique to her and unique to each book she writes, with no guarantees that what sent one book zinging up the charts won’t doom the next to the Amazon sub-basement.

Having said all that, I’ve come to believe that whether they use these terms or not, every writer’s marketing plan will involve elements of Product, Store, Promotion and Sales. That makes your job two-fold.

First, you must understand the four broad categories and what are considered best practices in each. (Along with picking up a few tricks and a long-shot scheme or two that worked with a handful of writers and who knows, you might get lucky.)

And second, you must decide where you’ll concentrate your time and energy within each category and what tasks you will ignore—at least for the time being.

Remember, if this were easy, everybody’d be doing it.

Here’s an overview of Driftwood Marketing. I’ll get into more detail about each element in future blogs.


Your product is the book you’ve written. (I told you this isn’t brain surgery.) As an author, you look at that precious little bookie-book the way a mother looks at a newborn baby, and you love it unconditionally just the way it is. As a marketer, you’ll have to acknowledge that all newborns look like W.C. Fields and that in all likelihood Junior is so ugly his yo-yo won’t come back up the string.

That’s ok, though. You can fix it—with hard work and a little cash. And you MUST fix it. You make us all look bad when you palm off on unsuspecting readers a book you wrote over a weekend when you were snowed in and the internet went out—a book with a cover you designed using a Comic Life program, then “edited” by reading it over once before you paid your drunk geek roommate $25 to format and upload it to Amazon.

In the Product element of Driftwood Marketing, you’ll have a checklist stretching to Seattle and back that covers story, copy and line editing, layout and cover design, a title that sings, a first chapter that grabs the reader by the throat and links in the back that sell your other books.


Even if the hardcopies of your book occupy prime real estate on front tables and line the shelves of traditional bricks-and-mortar bookstores, the ePub version of it resides in an online store where there are no tables or shelves. How much do you know about survival in the belly of the beast, deep in the bowels of the 800-pound gorilla appropriately named Amazon? Mark it down: no one will ever buy your book there because no one will ever find it unless you select the category and keywords that make Amazon spiders happy—keywords you’ve scattered like feed to chickens throughout your book title and description and all over Author Central. You’ll have to understand Amazon lists, too, that can put your book in front of thousands of eager readers or leave it behind in the Dungeon of Book Obscurity, a floor below the Amazon sub-basement.


Do you have a—drum roll, please!—platform? If you do, do you know how to use it to market your book? If you don’t, do you know how to get one? What are the techniques to grow an audience in all these virtual realms Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest Goodreads/Google+/LinkdIn?

How can you use public speaking, paid advertising, media attention, book signings, blog tours, email blasts and a website to promote sales? (And the bigger question, in my opinion, is how do you escape from the padded room with a padded door in St. Somebody’s Home for the Bewildered after you’ve done all this?)


How much will you charge for your book? What’s it worth? How do you decide? How do you launch a book? (Or seven of them!) When and how do you do price pulsing? How can you leverage “free?” You can make those decisions by consulting your Magic Eight Ball … “reply hazy, try again.” Or you can dig in and find out how professionals use pricing to sell books.

And at the end of the day, after all this mind-numbing labor, how can you be sure you’ve done the right things? You can’t. The fifth and final element of Driftwood Marketing really ought to be LUCK, only there are no lists of best practices available for that. A huge element of serendipity, of blind chance determines which books are wildly successful and which take up permanent residence in the catacombs beneath the Dungeon of Book Obscurity.

Folks, I write. It’s all I’ve ever done, has been my profession since the day decades ago that I first stuck a Reporter’s Notepad into my purse and ventured out into the wide world in search of someone with a tale to tell. God designed me for it, planted in my heart an abiding passion to wrap truth in great stories—stories that make you feel something, about people who matter to you. Stories that speak to your soul. I want to spend my time writing! And I know I speak for thousands of my comrades in arms when I cry out from the depths of anguished frustration that I don’t want to spend hours and hours every day studying SEO, price pulsing and Amazon algorithms!

But I will. Because my books matter.

So do yours. Meet you back here for Part III.


George Davidson Greenly Jr. March 24, 2014, 11:58AM |

Patiently waiting for Part II. I'm up to my eyeballs in alligators when my prime objective is to drain the swamp, i.e., I'm lost in the labyrinth of marketing my first novel "Revelations". Like you lass, I want to spend my time writing.   Reply

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