Q&A: Anne Janzer on effective marketing, the self-publishing model, and writing better emails

Welcome to Expert’s Corner, our interview series with makers, thinkers, and entrepreneurs in the core industries we serve: e-commerce, mobile gaming, marketing, and publishing.

While PickFu is your platform for getting detailed feedback on a specific project or product, Expert’s Corner is where you’ll find insights and inspiration relevant to your industry and the business world at large.

In this Corner: award-winning author Anne Janzer. Via her blog, books, and online courses, Anne helps other writers find publishing success.

You’re a book author and a writing coach. You’ve also done marketing for B2B tech firms. So are you a writer or a marketer? What’s the difference?

First, let’s agree that all authors benefit from understanding marketing. While my B2B marketing consulting days are behind me now, I use my marketing skills nearly every day as an author: positioning my books in crowded markets, running occasional promotions, helping nonfiction authors build marketing plans, and more. Even experience with A/B testing has come in handy!

Marketing, at its core, is about getting something into the hands of the people who need it. That’s what we hope to do with our books.

Second, marketing today demands great writing — witness the whole field of content marketing. Many marketers are skilled writers, adept at shaping words that earn attention, inform opinions, and explain complicated topics. Writing and marketing complement each other like peanut butter and jelly!

Tell us how your first book, Subscription Marketing, now in its third edition, came to be.

Back in 2015, I was frustrated by the way that marketing organizations (my clients) kept chasing the next new sale, without focusing on existing customers. In a subscription-based business, most of your revenues come from existing customers. Marketers should sit up and pay attention to that.

I wrote the book to evangelize the many ways that marketers could use their skills to enhance the customer experience — and hence improve retention and revenues.

Back in 2015, people didn’t appreciate the seismic shifts of the subscription model in many industries. Now they do; the latest edition spends less time explaining subscription trends and more time applying the practices to different business models.

Your latest book is 33 Ways Not to Screw Up Your Business Emails. Why do we keep screwing up emails? What are we getting wrong?

When writing this book, I collected “email failure” stories as research. Some were positively cringe-inducing. Most share a common theme — haste. We toss something off in a moment, eager to get on with our day. And in doing so, we perpetuate email chaos.

When we throw our emails together too quickly or don’t take that extra moment to set up a sensible process, we risk wasting everyone’s time — our own included!

No one wants to spend a lot of time on email. But if you put a few practices in place and give a moment’s thought to the recipient’s needs, you can write emails that more people read and respond to.

Aspiring authors have many options today, even under the “self-publishing” umbrella.

If you have a strong sense of the audience you want to serve and the purpose of your book, you may want the control that comes from being the book’s publisher. You decide pricing, distribution, updates, timing, and more.

If you choose this indie path, I’d challenge you to try to publish something that is virtually indistinguishable from books from traditional publishers. (How many readers examine the publisher’s imprint?)

To do that, you’ll need to work with professionals — editors, designers, proofreaders. You’ll also need to think carefully about distribution and promotion.

In this model, you bear the upfront costs: time and money. You also reap the rewards if the book does well.

If this sounds like too much effort, many hybrid presses and professional services can help. Make sure you understand the business model of any agreement you make about publishing.

What else should first-time authors know about book marketing these days to succeed?

No one has all the answers! Every book is different, and your publishing path matters as well. Many of the things that others say you “should” do may not make sense for you or your audience. Book promotion is a long game, so find a strategy that fits you well.

Here’s the secret: bring as much creativity and curiosity to book promotion as you did to writing your book. If you play it right, it can be fun. I have found great meaning and joy in supporting a community of writers on my email list — something I started only after my writing-related books were out in the world.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Janet Rausa Fuller (she/her) is the content marketing manager at PickFu. She could live without dark chocolate, but she’d rather not.