Marketing Tips: Things You Won't Believe You're Doing Wrong

So, I thought I would write a a guide here on marketing, and what you're probably doing wrong. My background/day job is a copywriter/digital marketer for an arts organization, and so I've picked added a few tricks to my arsenal that have worked for me/I have noticed have been successful on Royal Road.

So without further ado, let's start with some common mistakes I see users make on here.

Mistake #1: Assuming Readers Will Naturally be Interested in Your Book.

This is by far the biggest mistake I see people make, and the other mistakes listed below are oftentimes symptoms of this mistake. 

"I have a really interesting story idea about an isekai'd walrus named Dave who learns litRPG cultivation, and people are here to read stories. Clearly they're already interested in my book."

The first rule of marketing is that people are not interested in your product, and your job is to make them interested. Yes, people are here to read stories, that's great. This means you'll have a more receptive audience than it typical for a marketer. However, it does not mean people are interested in your story...yet. This means, if your goal is to get a bunch of readers, everything you do related to your fiction should be done with the intention to hook potential readers. If you are not dropping your ego to figure out how to most effectively do this, then you have already made a major mistake (from a marketing perspective). This leads me to the other mistakes that are super common.

Mistake #2: Your Cover Doesn't Sell Me on Your Book

The most valuable tool you have in marketing a new book at someone, is your cover. It is the only visual aspect of your product, and it needs to communicate to a potential reader a few things: Genre, Tone, and Quality. It is also the first thing people see when they look for new books, so it is the most important part of your pitch. It gets people to click your book in the first place. So, you absolutely need a cover, so we need to understand what makes a good one. Let's take a look at a bad cover first, and talk about its merits (and lack there-of)
Vague synopsis: It's a sci-fi comedy about a spaceship crew, revolving around a possibly-prophetic priest. This is my hiatus'd book that I am uncertain I will return to.

Back to our checklist, let's see what we have and what we don't.
Genre: Sort of expressed here, the Sci-Fi box is strong. However, it is entirely lacking in comedy.
Tone: Again, does not indicate any of the comedy
Quality: This is clearly a poorly-done photoshop image. While the basic elements of a cover are here, there is not consistency at all to this cover. It does not indicate to me a level of quality I might expect compared to a book with a better cover.

Conclusion: I am less likely to be interested in this story because it fails display genre, tone, and quality.

Now, onto a good cover.

A Travelling Mage's Almanac
Vague Synopsis: A polite small-town centaur goes on a quest and learns some magic.

Quality: Right off the bat, superb. The lettering is nice, and the character art is fantastic! She has a ~~sheep~~ Gryphon on her dress! Gosh I love this art. This makes me assume the author has put time and money into production, so I will be more receptive to giving it a click.
Tone: Delivers on a lighthearted, but grounded tone quite well.
Genre: Genre is very clearly defined. Fantasy town-hopping. She's wandering through a field. She has a wizard hat and a spell book. We are very clearly getting all of these things in this story (if the cover is to be believed).

Conclusion: I am more likely to be interested in this story. (It's on my "to-read" list. Gosh I love this cover art so much).

Mistake #2: Your Blurb Doesn't Sell Me On Your Book, Because...

Alright, so you've gotten your book, Dave the Isekai'd Walrus LITRPG Cultivator: Harem Wars, a nice cover done by a lovely artist. So, now what? You need a blurb.

People also make a lot of mistakes in their blurb. What's a blurb? It's that text that goes next to a story's cover on the story page. The point of this text is to bring your reader from your fiction page, into the fiction. This means you have about two sentences to convince people

2A) Because Your Synopsis isn't about pitching your book
This mistake is pretty common. Let's just give an example of this.

Quote:Hey everyone this is my story, Dave the Isekai'd Walrus LITRPG Cultivator: Harem Wars

It follows Dave the Walrus. It includes elements of isekai, comedy, dark fantasy, forbidden love, mecha, harem, litrpg, base builidng, and kaiju. 

Updates every seven weeks, at 2AM EST, but only if it's not raining.
Besides there not being enough content here, this isn't a pitch at all. It just throws some labels on the cover, and hopes they stick. A reader is much less likely to jump through to the story, because they don't really know what to expect. While they've been convinced by your cover to give your story a chance, your blurb is the piece that carries them through to chapter 1.

2B) Because Your Synopsis is afraid of spoiling your book in the pitch

This is a very common mistake, and it is closely related to the mistake of assuming people are already interested in your book.

Quote:The World is Forever Changed When a Young Walrus is hopefully chosen to become a Cultivation Master

Dave the Walrus has trained his whole life for one moment: to become a LITRPG Cultivation Master. I can't tell you if he is chosen, but in his journey he might fight some monsters. Read as Dave considers maybe trying to ascend!
While this is obviously a satirical example, I think it does highlight a common practice among newer authors: they are afraid to spoil certain factors in their blurb. Let's look at a good blurb, that actually includes some spoilers.

Nixia: Dungeon Devotee

Quote:Through all of Linaria, no dungeon holds such a grip on the dreams of men as the Eternal Depths.  Hundreds throw themselves against its trials each day.  Dozens survive, walking away with power and wealth beyond their wildest dreams… until they go back for more.  One way or another, they all eventually feed the Depths.

Edmund Montgomery Ahab has sworn to destroy it.

Underleveled, undertrained, and underprepared, Edmund steps into the maw of the world’s greatest predator, a sword in his hand and vengeance on his mind.  At first his task seems impossible, but with every level he earns, every piece of loot that drops, every secret he uncovers, and especially every bit of power he can squeeze from his mysterious connection to the Aspect of Madness, Edmund crawls closer to accomplishing that insurmountable feat.

With nothing else to lose, Edmund has already given the Depths his life.  All that remains to be seen is whether he takes the dungeon’s right back.

Again we return to some aspects of marketing we talked about in cover: tone, quality, and genre. Nixia clearly indicates genre, and tone right off the bat. This is a story about a man bent on vengeance against a dungeon. More importantly, Nixia actually includes a spoiler: Edmund has a mysterious connection to the Aspect of Madness. Also, Edmund is (almost certainly) going to kill the dungeon.

Now I'm interested! Let's go figure out what the Aspect of Madness is! Two spoilers, and it's #4 on RR. Keep in mind, two very interesting spoilers.

The one thing Nixia could have included, which is common, is a tagline. Take for example an excerpt from the blurb of my book, The Slightly Late Show.

Quote:A kobold learns about the art of late night television and the world is never the same.

Clckja’djzx was your average kobold - cowardly, loyal to his abusive dragon master, a lifelong union member, etc...[copy continues on]

A tagline is really common in modern copy. Typically bolded, it is used to catch the reader's attention. It's the elevator pitch that you give to someone if you have exactly one sentence to sell them on it. People are usually subconsciously skimming ad copy (such as your blurb), and so usually the only thing they will end up reading is your first sentence or your tagline.

tl;dr: Do not be afraid to spoil aspects of your book in your blurb. Probably use a tagline

Mistake #3: Your Idea May Be Original and Unique, but a potential reader doesn't care until it is a consistent product that exists.

The last big mistake/tips I'd like to give is regarding original ideas. You may have an original and unique idea, but people are going to be less willing to commit to it until a few things have been proven to a potential reader on RR: You release consistently, quality is consistent, and they can be assured that their experience is what they signed up for.

What does this mean for you? It means, realistically, you're not going to get readers until you have lots of pages. It means that if people see your release schedule as a six month hiatus, they are probably not going to sub. It means if you release 2 chapters on one day, and 20 on the next, they are actually less likely to subscribe

Sure, you can go into the forum all you want, and constantly beg people to read your story. But all of this time and energy could be better spent writing, or improving your cover and blurb.

Your special and unique story, Dave the Isekai'd Walrus LITRPG Cultivator: Harem Wars, isn't going to feel special and unique for a while. You're going to have 10 followers for 20 chapters/200 pages. And that's okay. A factor you can control, is releasing consistently, and being a predictable product. Eventually, the guy who has passed up reading your story for 4 weeks is going to see that you're on chapter 25 and think "well, I do like Walruses. The Cover is Good. The blurb gives me some intrigue. Sure, I'll try it." 

And you will have gotten a new reader, because of the work you did to improve story. Which brings me to my final mistake.

Mistake #4: Because You Don't Want Help from Other People

Do not assume you have good taste in art, covers, lettering on covers (yes, you should find a typographer. It helps.), blurbs, and titles.

There are many, many great resources on Royal Road where you can get a fun new cover, get help with your blurb, and learn how to better market your story.

There are the blurbs and cover arts of many fantastic stories on this site, these are also a resource for you.

So, go out and learn more stuff, I guess. Thanks for reading.

Re: Marketing Tips: Things You Won't Believe You're Doing Wrong

JMWebb Wrote:
mythdefiant Wrote:
JMWebb Wrote: She has a sheep on her dress!
Actually, it's a gryphon! Do you see that wing? Plus, it has the beaked face, clawed front feet, and lion paws + tail for the rump. It's amazing--even more majestic than sheep!  peoeyesparkle
Oh dang! I missed that! Gosh, what a great cover.
Whenever I see talk about What Makes a Great Cover, or a question that asks Do You Like My Cover?, all I think about is the Rule of Thirds and The Diagonal Line.

If you guys want I could eloquate. 🐿️