Are You a Swan? How to Overcome Book Marketing Overwhelm

by | Nov 6, 2017

By Belinda Griffin

I’m in Philadelphia today at the BookBaby Independent Author Conference, then flying back to California. In the meantime, haven’t we all, at one time or another, felt overwhelmed by the idea of marketing our books or building our author platform? In today’s guest post, book marketing coach Belinda Griffin breaks down how different kinds of authors can avoid book marketing overwhelm. I hope you find the article helpful.

Have you ever had so much to do you don’t feel able to do anything at all? Ever felt so busy with book marketing that your head starts to spin and you need to lie down? I can assure you, sleeping doesn’t help cross anything off the to do list, but it can temporarily still the mind.

It doesn’t matter whether you don’t know where to begin or you’re drowning in the number of tasks you’ve started. Any author learning to market their books can feel confused and like they’re running out of time, fighting fires and trying to keep a hundred plates spinning.

And why are you putting yourself through this torment? Because somewhere along the way you’ve been led to believe that if you don’t keep all those plates spinning your book will never sell.

Yes, book marketing is important. But overwhelm and burnout don’t need to be a part of the deal.

What kind of author are you?

As I see it, in simple terms, there are three types of authors when it comes to book marketing:

  1. The (not-so-blissfully) ignorant
  2. The swan
  3. The overwhelmed and burnt out

Let me explain each of these.

Type 1

Type 1 author has been living in a cave while busy writing their book. That’s okay, caves are great places to retreat to when you need to get the words down. But emerging with a completed manuscript and expecting it to sell itself, even if it is pure genius, is delusional.

There’s not a whole lot to be done about the ignorant author (and to be clear, I mean ignorant to the importance of book marketing, not generally ignorant). They will find us when they’re ready. If you happen to know one, be sure to give them a nudge and suggest they think about book marketing before they publish.

Type 2

Type 2, the swan, is the author who has book marketing all figured out. To the outsider everything they do seems effortless – the witty and thought-provoking posts on multiple social channels, the regularly updated blog, the frequent speaking engagements and bestselling books.

How do they do it? Well, those feet pedaling madly beneath the surface tell the true story. They may be organized, but marketing still requires plenty of effort and they probably didn’t always find it so easy. Be wary of comparing yourself to authors who are further along their journey and are therefore more experienced and remember you can never know another author’s personal challenges.

Type 3

Finally we come to type 3. This author is jumping from one marketing tactic to the next, juggling desperately in the hope of keeping up with All. The. Things. Unlike type 1 they know the success of their book depends on them getting a handle on marketing, but unlike type 2 it doesn’t fall into place, they simply don’t know what to focus on. Sound familiar? This author is seriously frazzled, but some simple action steps will help them overcome overwhelm.

The book marketing secret

If you are identifying strongly with the type 3 author, you are undoubtedly searching for the secrets seemingly known only to type 2 authors.

The truth is, there is no secret. The problem, in fact, comes from your desperate search for a shortcut.

Book marketing is a long game, but so many authors are looking for quick results. Marketing is about developing relationships with potential customers, and any sort of relationship takes time to grow and must be nurtured.

Unfortunately you don’t have to look far to be confronted with adverts that promise to teach you the trick that will 10x your Twitter following, or 100x your Facebook reach. Some people do see amazing success, but that success cannot always be replicated easily or cheaply.

So after marginal success on Facebook you join Twitter and tweet a few times, but when a whole lot of not much happens, you switch to Pinterest. After pinning a few book covers and receiving no re-pins, you go back to Facebook. By this time, any fans you had have lost interest. Without continued engagement, Facebook serves your posts to fewer and fewer followers. Sigh, should you give up now or yesterday?

Take stock and make a plan

Don’t give up. But do stop what you’re doing to take stock. Seriously, when you feel overwhelmed it’s important to stop doing everything so you can rest and recharge your brain before deciding on a plan to help you move forward.

Do you have a book marketing plan? Jumping from one tool to another with no clear idea of what you’re aiming for is not a plan. If you’re desperate for book sales and hopping on every suggestion you come across, that’s not a plan either.

Your book marketing plan doesn’t need to be detailed or stretch across the next six months, it could be just for the next week. The first step is understanding your book and who may want to read it. Use the World’s Shortest Book Marketing Plan to get you started.

After coming up with your short marketing plan, choose one thing to focus on, and by that I mean laser focus! What is your immediate goal? Rather than think, “I need to sell more books,” think of what you can do to get there. Is it book reviews, guest blogs or emailing your list?

Overwhelm happens when we think we need to do all of these things at once, but we don’t. Choose one thing that is likely to have the biggest impact and focus on doing that one thing really well. If it’s reviews, focus on getting three.

  • Who will you contact to help you out with those?
  • What emails do you need to send?
  • When will you sit and write those emails?

Take one task and break it down into all the steps it’s going to take to get it done. Everything else can wait.

Systemise everything you can. With so many free and low-cost tools available to help you with online marketing there’s really no excuse to not use them to maximise your effort.

  • Schedule some social media posts.
  • Write a batch of blogs when you’re in the mood for writing and schedule them to post over the next few weeks.
  • Set up auto mailings so that when your blogs go live your email list is automatically notified.

Taking time out to set up some systems will be time well spent.

Make time for book marketing

Do you have time set aside specifically for marketing? It’s a good idea to plan it into your schedule so you don’t feel you’re borrowing writing time, which will only lead you to resent marketing. Marketing can be fun (yes, really!) but only if you feel you have time for it. Accept that as a self-published author this is something you need to do and make time for it.

As part of your marketing time, look at what you have been doing that has worked well and what hasn’t had much impact. If you want to avoid book marketing overwhelm you’re going to have to simplify your marketing activity. But how do you know what to do less of and what to do more of if you’re not looking at your results?

Analytics, for your website and for your social media channels, are your new best friends! These can be daunting at first, but there are only a few numbers you really need to understand to get a good idea of who your readers are, where they come from and what content you post that they like most.

Reach out to others for support. This could be friends and family, a writers’ group or social media connections. Whether you need a hug or for someone to review your marketing plan, ask for the help you need to get you out of your paralysed state. We are so fortunate to be able to find people on social networks who share our passions and our struggles. If no one in your ‘real’ life understands what you’re trying to achieve, there are plenty online who do. Find your people and realise you’re not in this on your own.

Action steps to overcome book marketing overwhelm

The most debilitating side effect of overwhelm is inaction. Go ahead, walk away from it all for a day, have that lie down if you need it. But then roll up your sleeves and devise a plan to get yourself moving again. You only need to take small steps to keep travelling forward.

Here’s an action plan to help you overcome book marketing overwhelm and get you moving with a renewed sense of purpose:

  1. Take a day to switch off and recharge.
  2. Once rested, assess your current book marketing activities – what are you doing and what results are you getting?
  3. Look at your calendar and schedule time just for book marketing.
  4. Make a plan for the next week. What will be your ONE goal? What do you need to do to achieve it?
  5. Reach out to your support network (or build one if you feel you don’t currently have one). Overwhelm often happens when we feel we’re struggling by ourselves. Even if no one can take on tasks for you, being able to chat with someone who understands the struggle can make a huge difference to your state of mind.

When you are feeling less overwhelmed, take the following action steps. These will make it easier to prevent future overwhelm:

  1. Think about systemising some aspects of your book marketing, look into social media scheduling tools, for example.
  2. Learn more about analytics. The goal is to be able to see what marketing is working and what isn’t so you know what to do more of and what to ditch.

You can be the swan

Coming back to our author types, type 2, the swan, isn’t that difficult to achieve. All you need to do is take baby steps, take on one task at a time and only add another when you have perfected the first. Building up your book marketing in this way is entirely manageable and will eliminate overwhelm.

Over to you, what are your top tips for overcoming book marketing overwhelm?

Belinda Griffin is a book marketing coach helping indie authors achieve greater book exposure and sales without experiencing overwhelm or burn out. A former journalist, content marketer and freelance writer, Belinda now runs SmartAuthorsLab where she helps self-published authors learn about book marketing, build their author platforms and make their books more visible, so readers can find them, buy them and read them. Grab her FREE guide Are you making these 10 book marketing mistakes to check your book marketing is on track. Follow her on Twitter @SmartAuthors.

Photo: BigStockPhoto

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  1. Wendy Percival

    I go through phases of being in control and having headless chicken moments!
    Deciding to focus on one thing at a time is definitely a good tool. Problem is having to make the decision as to which one to focus on first! And it can be tricky if the best idea, the one crying out as a great idea, is something that’s not quick to do and needs time to prepare it. The other issue is similar to what happens during the novel writing stage. A “better” idea comes to mind and once you’re convinced it is better, you just know you have to jump ship. In writing, that’s part of the creative process. Not sure how relevant it is in marketing!
    Great post, Belinda. Lots of really useful and reassuring advice! Thank you.

    • Belinda Griffin

      Hey Wendy, thanks for your comment! The thing to be wary of is ‘shiny object syndrome’ – jumping to a new idea that we think is much better but is actually only exciting because it’s new and different. This is particularly common with social media; it’s so easy to jump on a new network thinking that it will be the one to make all the difference. Sometimes it is a good idea to switch tactics, but we should always gut check why we’re switching and be sure we have really tried out the first one properly.

      • Wendy Percival

        Yes, “shiny & new” can be compelling, can’t it? But I think I’ve just had a eureka moment about the answer to something I’ve been pondering over for a while…. If it comes off, I’ll let you know, Belinda!

        • Belinda Griffin

          Sounds exciting! Good luck with whatever it is, Wendy :)

  2. Marnie Somers

    I am certainly suffering from self-inflicted overwhelm. I am about to launch my first self-published book and I’m simultaneously trying launch two former traditionally published back- list books, so I can offer more than one book to purchase. I am crazy busy trying to figure out what to do next? Very much feeling like I have too many “spinning plates” on the go.

    So, I really appreciate this post that advises to pick that one most important thing and focus on it for up to a week until I get it right, then move to the next most important thing to do. Thank you for helping me to see the light!

    • Belinda Griffin

      Hi Marnie, wow, you are certainly busy! I’m so pleased the post has helped you realise you need to focus on just one thing at a time. Sometimes we will have a lot on at once, particularly around the time of a launch, but the best way to cope is to focus on the one most urgent thing and then move on to the next. Slow & steady wins the race :) Good luck with your launches, remember to take time to celebrate afterwards too!

  3. LInda Maye Adams

    I attended the Bookbaby conference, too! Truthfully, I expected it to be like some of the business training, where the real purpose of the training is to sell you stuff. So I was pleasantly surprised.

    And overwhelmed by the amount of information that I got. Some I didn’t agree with, and some I was going, “Yeah, I should do that.” I was looking for a new annual goal and “writing 4 books” in a year wasn’t really cutting it. During the conference, I wrote down “Annual Goal: Discoverability.”

    And I started thinking about the time management side, because I have a crazy job. The productivity session suggested that maybe “vacation writing” and “weekend writing” would be better for me. If I go in that direction, I can do some time on the marketing during the week. So I’m experimenting with it … and writing about the experiments on my blog:

    • Belinda Griffin

      Hey Linda! You’re absolutely right that Discoverability should be your big goal. To ensure you are making progress on that goal, each week ask yourself, what have I done this week to help my discoverbility? Another good question is, how am I stopping myself from achieving my goal? These two questions alone can help prevent overwhelm and ensure you keep moving forward. Good luck!



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