Books,  Guest Post

Lighting A Hundred Small Fires

Hey Guys!
So today I am introducing you to the brilliant Robert Downs, author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Detective
He has written a lovely guest post on marketing. I hope you find it as interesting and enlightening as I did!

I read in one of my writing magazines that you need to light a hundred small fires to be successful in the marketing of your novel, and nine months into the marketing of my debut MANfiction novel Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator, I’d say this is an accurate way to look at the novel marketing process. Why? There is no set formula in novel marketing, otherwise the publishers would all have an unlimited supply of bestsellers on their hands, and all authors would pull in six figure incomes. We’d write all day long, instead of spending quite a bit of time in the promotion of our work. So what’s wrong with the process? Nothing really. With 500,000 or more novels in a given year, consumers have an unlimited supply of products to choose from, a limited amount of disposable income, and only a limited amount of reading time. So we as authors need to attack this giant forest, light fires on every available twig we can find, and sit back and watch the fruits of our labor.

Unless you receive a bit of luck early in the publication process, or you’re a household name with a built-in audience, you need to start feeding the marketing machine like an overstuffed teddy bear. Whether you’re with one of the big six, an independent publisher, or you self-publish, the marketing machine is going to become your new best friend, and early on, it may be your only friend. Whether you like it or not, novels are sold based on buzz, or word-of-mouth. It’s a chain reaction. If you’ve taken your lighter with you everywhere you go, very quickly the chain can get out of control. And so we’re back to 100 fires again. Without initial luck, it’s all based on level of effort.

Since my day job involves finance, the analogy I keep coming back to is building a client base as a stockbroker. I’ve read articles on the topic, worked for a successful broker for an entire summer, and at one point in my life, even interviewed to be a broker. So what did I learn? For the first five years, being a stockbroker is the hardest job in the world. You’re building a client base from the ground up, literally from scratch. The term for it is cold calling. You remember how much you hate telemarketers, don’t you? Well, when you’re a brand new broker, that’s literally your job for your first several years of existence. You’re picking up the phone and talking to people who have absolutely no reason to talk to you, other than the fact that you discovered their name on some list, and you’re lighting so many fires that the days actually run together, and you have nightmares about people hanging up on you.

As it was explained to me by a good friend of mine, and former colleague, it’s a numbers game. You have to start with a really large number to actually find the one. In my case, he was talking about finding the one you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with. Well, I found her, and it wasn’t easy, and so it is with books and the brokerage business. But this same analogy about relationships and marriage can be used for brokers and authors. It is very much a numbers game, and you have to decide what your number is going to be. If you want to sell a thousand books, then you better plan on reaching 50,000 or more people. If you want to sell 100,000, that’s great. But you better plan on reaching 5 million people. And these are actually conservative estimates. In most cases, the numbers will actually be significantly higher.

How do you reach these people? You need to think creatively. You attacked that blank cursor that blinked at you mockingly with every fiber of your being, and so it goes with book promotion. As my dad told me: if you put in the hard work, you will eventually find success. If you don’t put in the effort, then you’re going to lose before you even start the game, or in the 100 fire analogy, you won’t have any fires to light.

Robert Downs is the author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator. A sample chapter of his MANfiction mystery debut, as well as other interesting information about the author, or his main character, can be located at his website.


Debut, hard-boiled mystery fiction for men. Stephen King’s son describes a fitting genre as MANfiction (the opposite of Chick lit).

Casey Holden, former cop, current PI in Virginia Beach, VA, screens his clients the way he screens his women, based on whichever drop-dead gorgeous woman happens to waltz through his door first and manages to hold his attention. So when Felicity Farren, widow-at-large, struts into his office asking him to solve the two-year-old murder of her husband Artis, she intrigues him. When Casey starts digging, he learns the murder isn’t what it seems to be and he doesn’t have a big enough shovel to unearth the truth. And to top it all off, his former rival at the police department, Greg Gilman, is determined to disrupt his investigation. Casey’s challenge is to learn what really happened to Artis, and why Gilman can’t seem to remove his head from his butt. And he’ll need all of his wits to complete the task.

One Comment

  • Terri Bruce

    Great post! As a debut author just getting ready to “step out the door” into the world of book marketing, I’m definately learning that success isn’t made through one, big splashy ad/event/opportunity – it’s the accumulation of a lot of continous, small efforts. Thank you for such a great article!

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