As a writer, you offer your reading audience a variety of things. As a fiction writer, you offer the stories you tell, the characters and worlds you create, the plots and sub-plots you devise, your pacing and timing, and the influence of your worldview. As a nonfiction writer, you offer the information you learn, the tone and passion you bring to your work, the effectiveness of your communications, the people you know and interview, the research you do, the stories you collect, and the influence of your worldview.
In both cases, you also offer yourself. As a writer, you have a voice that is uniquely yours. You have a style of writing. You have the words you use, and all the things you do with them. This is all part of your total package, the sum of what you are offering.
Whether you write to entertain or inform, you are part of your writing, just as your writing is part of you. The best marketing shows readers who you are, so they can experience a sample of what they’re going to get from your work.
This is probably my biggest criticism of traditional publishing. True, most writers don’t know how to market their work effectively. True, many writers can benefit from the expertise of a professional marketer. And true, most traditional publishing companies have a greater understanding of how to go about marketing books than their writers do.
BUT it seems most of these marketers create their materials without having met or conversed with the writers they market. If you’ve ever looked at the advertising and marketing created by a single publishing company for their stable of authors, you’ll see that the advertising and marketing conveys the flavor and taste and essence of the publisher, not their writers.
There is some sense to this. Readers come to trust publishers, or to distrust them. While I’m not going to name names, there is one publishing company that I gravitate to when it comes to fantasy fiction. I’ve met some pretty wonderful authors through this company and have come to trust the ways their books are marketed, because they so often deliver on the promises made. There is another publishing company that I avoid unless the writer is someone I know and trust to tell a good story, because I’ve gotten burned more than once by false promises and poor editing. So, marketing that favors the publishing house makes a certain amount of sense.
BUT it is the writer whose essence is in the book, so it is the writer’s essence that must be communicated in the promise made by the book’s marketing and advertising. The publisher is the “plus one” that’s brought to the party by the book the writer wrote.
Whatever you write, however you bring it to market, you and your team need to ensure that your marketing promises what you’re delivering, including your own essence, voice, and style. Promise me fast-paced action with your short, clipped sentences. Promise me exquisite detail with your graceful, poetic words. But don’t promise me one, then deliver the other.