There are many writers and creators who think that marketing is the act of getting in someone’s way. Of tricking someone to subscribe to a newsletter by giving them a freebie; using a hashtag to game the social media algorithm to share your work; or posting a random meme to social media to get any kind of attention for your book. But the opposite is what is true.
Great marketing is giving people something that they want to be a part of, and that they want to share with others.
I watch a lot of YouTube channels in my downtime, and one of them is a video game streamer. So this person’s profession is to play video games, and more than 1,000 people will tune in live to watch him do it because he’s really good, and they just like his personality. One day, someone asked him about his sponsor, which is Red Bull. The person asked if Red Bull requires the streamer to wear their logo on hats, sweatshirts, etc. Here’s what the streamer said:
“Am I contracted to wear Red Bull merch as part of my contract? I’ll be real, Red Bull does not have any sort of rules or regulations for me at all. They absolutely prefer if I wear their hats when I’m doing things. But what Red Bull does to get around requiring you to wear any of their stuff, is they send you a lot of their stuff that’s all such high quality; these hats are physically better than New Era hats. I also have unlimited access to it.”
I had to look it up, New Era hats go for around $30-50 each, and they are the official hat company for Major League Baseball. But I just loved this idea… of not making a streamer feel locked into having to wear something. Why? Because personal style matters to people, including to someone who earns a living sitting in front of their screen all day playing video games.
Good marketing isn’t tricking people. Instead it is connecting with their passions, their needs, their goals, their challenges. It is them feeling seen for the first time, of feeling connected with something — or someone — who deeply resonates.
When you consider how you share your creative work, how you will approach developing your platform, or launching your book, I encourage you to keep this in mind. This is not about you “putting on your marketing hat,” it is not “now I have to become a marketer,” and it is not “Ugh, people are going to think I’m a marketer now.” The act of marketing is about understanding your ideal reader. It is connecting with them in a way that is meaningful to them. It is sharing something that they want to participate in. It is them talking about it because they truly want to.
When you look around at author events, authors on podcasts, #booktok, Instagram, literary festivals and the like, watch for this. The people who show up to hear and support these authors — aren’t they doing so out of enthusiasm? Don’t they seem to love it? Connecting with books, authors, and other readers. Is this a moment where they feel “tricked by marketing,” or is it the one moment in their day where they feel filled with joy, purpose, and connection?
I would encourage you to think of the purpose of marketing in this manner: to give people the opportunity to be a part of something that truly matters to them.