I hope you enjoyed the previous mini-series on Amazon Advertising (drop me a line if you didn’t get it and I’ll send it to you) — and that it’s given you some tools and ideas to improve your Amazon Advertising game!
Now, I’m going to dedicate the Reedsy marketing newsletter this week to an evergreen debate in the author community (drum-roll 🥁): the question of writing the next book vs marketing your backlist.
See, as an author, there are two main things you could be doing to increase the revenue you make from your writing activities:Create more intellectual property, i.e. write the next book; andIncrease your revenue on your existing intellectual property, i.e market your existing catalogue and develop new revenue streams (e.g. translation, audio, etc).Unfortunately, you only have one finite resource to achieve both: time. So every author has to decide how to allocate their time between writing and marketing in the most efficient way possible.
“Just write the next book”In the early days of self-publishing, one of the most prevalent pieces of advice when it came to marketing was: “Just write the next book.” And back then, that was often enough to start gaining a foothold in the market. In today’s competitive landscape, however, we all know that writing is not enough.
With all that said, I do believe that writing the next book is still one of the top things you can do to further your career.
That might sound obvious, but with the amount of marketing advice and discussion out there, it’s still worth highlighting. All the more since, in my experience, it’s very hard to predict what will work and what will not. Most of the full-time indie authors I know have several series out there, often in the same genre — or adjacent ones. And yet they’ll generally all have one or two series that vastly outperform the others.
Sometimes, this can be explained rationally: those books have the best covers, or they were written more carefully. But most of the time, it can’t — there’s just one series that outperforms the others no matter what the marketing channel (Facebook ads, Amazon ads, promos, etc). Which means: the success of your books is not something you can predict with 100% accuracy before you release them out there.
The same goes for traditional publishers: they can’t predict which of their new frontlist titles will become the next blockbuster… otherwise, they’d only publish those. Instead, they acquire a great number of titles every year, in the hopes that one or two among them will become the next literary sensation.
That’s why “writing the next book” is so powerful. Not only does it build out your catalogue, give you something else to sell to your existing readers (which, in turn, boosts immediate revenue), and create new gateways to your author brand — but it also increases your chances of getting that one book or series that just takes off on its own, where your previous ones may have faltered.
Finding the right balanceOf course, this isn’t to mean that you should just forget entirely about marketing and focus solely on writing the next book.
The truth is that books don’t sell themselves nowadays. You should always be marketing your backlist, preparing the launches of your upcoming books, and seeking to broaden your overall knowledge of book marketing. After all, that’s why you’re signed up to this book marketing newsletter, right?
But my point is: don’t get hung up on trying to lift a dead weight. If you’ve tried everything to push an existing book or series of yours — rebranding the covers, re-re-re-writing the blurbs, running price promotions, running Amazon ads, etc. — and nothing has worked, don’t be afraid to move on. It can be costly (both literally and emotionally) to focus your efforts on marketing a backlist that just can’t sell, when your time would be better invested in writing the next book.
All in all, it’s all about finding the right balance between writing and marketing. In an ideal world, we’d be able to easily find that balance and naturally switch from one activity to the other based on where we feel the most pressing need lies.
But in the real world, that rarely is the case.
For one, most of us authors tend to prefer one activity over the other, leading us to procrastinate on the other. More importantly, both activities use different parts of the brain (creative vs analytical), so switching from one to the other can actually be much more difficult than it sounds.
This is why most authors I know tend to separate the two activities, based on when they feel they’re most efficient. Some, for example, write in the morning — because that’s when they feel the most creative — and dedicate the afternoon to marketing. Others might write when the kids are at school, so as not to interrupt their creative flow. The trick is figuring out the right balance and routine for you, sticking to it, and not letting yourself get hung up on one activity or the other.
If you’re struggling to write — for whatever reason — stop and switch to planning the launch, marketing your backlist, or building out your business skills. And vice-versa! If you’re at the point where you don’t know what to do anymore to market your book, write the next one.
Happy writing, happy marketing — and happy balance!Ricardo
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