There have been many good marketing strategies over the years. Take the all-time champion, the De Beers’ diamond campaign. That one company’s efforts led to the worldwide consumption of something that has no intrinsic value, but people now pay an arm and a leg for. There are many models available, and no end of experts happy to sell you their unique 7 step program or downloadable .pdf for $199.
I subscribe to a few simple rules.
Your work doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, but a well-written story is easier to market than a rushed second draft. The question is “Do you believe in your product?” If you don’t enjoy your work, what makes you think anyone else will? Sure you can go with quantity over quality, and to be fair that works for many people but you still need to get people to notice
Marketing is 1 part exposure, 2 parts content, and 1 part spam. There is no magic model (damn, I could charge 3 handy instalments of $39.95 to tell you that… padded out and with lots of jargon and some graphs. Guess I suck at marketing). So, sniff test, if it smells like BS, it probably is. Look at your own Inbox, your own reading material, your own town. What gets your attention, work out what stands out and do that. At the same time work out which sites send you so much spam you wish there was a ‘return to sender’ button that came with an automatic malware attachment. What ads annoy you, what campaigns insult your intelligence. Keep track of what they do that bugs you and don’t do it. In this business people tell you to target your material to your market, yet they fail to mention YOU are your own ideal reader. Your audience will be people who share your tastes and interests, so if something feels like BS to you, it will feel like BS to them. Unless you know your product is BS, and you’re okay with that… and plan to work with a good PR machine.
Made in America (or wherever you’re proud to be from). Once you pass the sniff test and design a product you believe in, you can begin. It doesn’t need to be perfect, and it’ll be better if you don’t try to make it perfect. Be comfortable with what you’ve written.
Is your prose solid, your copy-edit professional level, your cover something that makes you smile? If you believe in your product, others will too. You should have murdered all your darlings during drafting, but they can still be recycled to show off your clever use of language. The fat you trim from your story to streamline it for publication. You can polish these extracts and expand them to feed the returning fans hungry for more detail. Even that clunky exposition you cut can be blogged to bring joy to your legions, LEGIONS I TELL YOU, of die-hard fans.
Batteries not Included. Free extras are great. Serialised stories can be great. Leaving out chunks of stuff in the hope people will pay for them later is not. This is not video-game development, and even then you don’t make friends with DLC (Gaming term for downloadable content you buy AFTER you buy the game). The same goes for selling things that aren’t written yet. Coming soon, is no substitute for a known release date. Sure you can release content as you write it, but don’t charge. Sell your finished product, anything of lower quality will only harm your brand. That’s not to say you can’t pre-sell, but when you deliver it needs to be a finished product or you risk alienating your readers/fans.