For indie fiction authors, is it true that if one simply writes and publishes regularly, one will begin to see sales (as Dean Wesley Smith proclaims), and that book marketing/promotion is actually completely unnecessary?

Here is an example of an article that endorses this claim. According to Dean, the 'need for marketing' is simply a myth.

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    If you already have a big pre-existing fanbase (for example, through publishing excerpts in a popular blog) word of mouth might be enough. Otherwise, your target audience needs to somehow learn about the book.
    – Llewellyn
    Aug 5, 2020 at 16:49

7 Answers 7


No, marketing is not unnecessary. However frequent publishing can have a huge positive effect and for a writer it pays off to invest energy primarily in writing.

Before I start, I want to mention that the blog article, you have linked, is quite old. Things have changed a bit - think of influencer marketing.

Another problem, I have with the article, is that a few examples of successful people shall prove the theory of writing a lot will lead to success. No, a few examples is not nearly enough to justify such a claim. Maybe they were just lucky, or some other factor played a role.

Several failed attempts to market a book won't prove that marketing doesn't work. There is a lot you can do wrong, especially if you as a writer do all work by yourself, meaning the writing, publishing, accounting, marketing. It takes a lot of time to develop the skills for every job. Hence, I argue, the reason why marketing seems futile is simply that people do it wrongly. In the end a writer is primarily a writer and not a marketing expert. Also in the examples discussed in the blog article, it is actually proven that marketing works. One author changed the price of e-books to attract more readers and subsequently sales increased. The price is a critical aspect of marketing.

When you write frequently you practise a lot and will improve - a process that can be boosted by detailed feedback from readers. I have made this experience with publishing short stories on forums, the more I wrote, the better I got. I hear this all the time from all kinds of artists, be it musicians, photographers, movie makers, and of course writers. The more you practise, the better you usually get, and better works have a greater potential to be well received by the audience.

It is plausible that a person who choses to write with the aim to earn an income has also a certain passion about writing. Investing time for something you have passion for pays well. This needs naturally to the observation, that publishing frequently and thereby improving on quality, can increase sales. On the other hand, if you see marketing as a burden, you won't get a good return of investment here.

This means the writer should write and let somebody else do the marketing which is still needed. Today there are so many books or other media content out there - with no marketing it will be a game of luck for people to discover your work. And of course for some authors neglecting the marketing strategy works, that's almost a statistical certainty. And those lucky few sell their grand success story and advise everybody to follow their example, completely forgetting that this strategy will fail for most people.

The problem is finding a good marketing expert to hire. Publishers think often too old-school and aren't a great help either. However, if you find a publisher that suggests to send your book to YouTubers or podcast makers, so they might review it, you could give it a try as they embrace modern media. In the end, it's a bit of a dilemma, when you don't have the skill to do it yourself nor have the money to hire somebody. I don't have a good recipe for success either, and I think there is no universal one. In the end, not everybody can get to the very top.


I have self-published more than one novel (available on a major online outlet!). I engaged in no marketing.

It's been several years.

I have sold 0 copies.

Maybe my writing is terrible (but how would anyone know?), or maybe my lack of cover art damned the attempt...

Or maybe if no one knows your work exists, nobody will buy it?

"Marketing" primarily is making people aware that your work exists. You can have a pile of great novels (or better mousetraps) heaped up in you living room, but nobody who hasn't heard they are there will ever come to purchase them.


I wrote a non-fiction book and got a deal with a well-known publisher but beyond putting it on their website and in their annual catalogue of new titles for that year they really did very little. A couple of interviews with tame podcasters and that was it. They expected me to be full-time, all the time, promoting it myself, including flying to the US (I'm in the UK) to be at book dealer events and big educational conventions where I'd have to pay for flights, accommodation, meals and everything else myself in order to schill my book on their stand on the off chance I might get the odd speaking gig out of it. The relationship soured very quickly when I said no, and given that I was getting pence per book sold against a $25 rrp I'd have had to have sold literally 1000s of books just to cover costs. This isn't unusual in the fiction world either. I know lots of authors in the SF&F world who are expected to give up as much time as possible to be at signings or events or readings because, well, that's what you have to do to make a career out of it. Anyone who says you don't have to market your book, is trying to market something to you.


Interestingly, I found this response to the article in question:

This is a rather bizarre article. It makes an assertion and then uses as its sole example a case that blatantly contradicts the very assertion! Did it never occur to the writer of the article that the rigorous advertisement that that author, Erin, had initially done for her book may have played a very important role in allowing the book’s sales to take off once the price was reduced? What if she had never promoted it at all and had simply put it online without any ads? Would she have seen any sales even if she had placed it online at a low price? Based on my experience, I very much doubt that she would have.

It is very telling that neither the author of this article nor the Dean Wesley Smith fellow that she quotes could produce a single example of someone who has actually become successful self-publishing without any marketing or promotion whatsoever. They cannot provide a single case study to support their assertions. And if neither of them is able to find any such examples, why don’t they simply demonstrate it themselves? Especially, why doesn’t Dean Wesley Smith (who likes to boast how prolifically he churns out books) create a fake name and then proceed to publish a series of independent novels on Amazon under that fake name without doing any promotion whatsoever? And then let’s see if the books sell. Isn’t it interesting that Dean Wesley Smith has never done such an experiment even if it’s just to show that what he claims is true?

Also, it is astonishing that many people, including the author of this article, fail to notice that this handwaving quote by Dean Wesley Smith is a blatant self-contradiction:

“Keep writing and learning and writing and learning and writing and learning.

There will be enough time down the road for promotion of the right book.”

Think about what that quote is saying. It is basically saying that once your writing is good enough, then you will be at the point where you can start promoting. But isn’t the point of his message and this article that promotion is not necessary and all you have to do is just write and publish? Why is he now suddenly saying that you will “promote the right book”? If the book is already “right”, i.e. good quality, then why on earth do you need to promote it?? Can’t it just sell itself? Isn’t that precisely what he is supposed to be claiming?

Besides, who the hell is talking about “learning”? Why does there have to be an assumption that the writer is a novice? What if we are talking about a good writer who just wants to make money off his or her skill? What if one already has “right books”? Isn’t that the real issue? Why do you have to assume it is a poor writer?

You can see how confusing and self-contradictory this non-sequitur of an article is.


We need to distinguish between "marketing" and "promoting" your book. Traditional "marketing" doesn't play a huge role in publishing --when was the last time you read a book because of an advertisement? However, even successful authors often spend a great deal of time "promoting" their books.

If you are self-published, you need to be prepared to sell all copies of your book yourself, and that involves promotion. For successful self-publishers of physical books, this typically comes in the form of constant speaking tours, author visits or book-signings --the book becomes part of the "merch" sold after the event. For online self-publishers, promotion usually equates to a ton of networking, often initially taking place within niche communities. Even those publishing traditionally, however, do promotion. The initial "promotion" work is selling your book to a publisher. After that, you'll be expected do interviews and book-signings. (Yes, these are not perks of being famous, but rather a part of the job --a form of self-marketing.)

With all that said, there is real value to this advice. The most effective "marketing" for books is word of mouth. Given that, publishing strong material regularly is actually the best "promotion" work for an established writer, because each new work "promotes" all the others. Conversely, most marketing efforts pushed on independent authors are nothing but money-grabs that won't do anything except make them poorer. The only real gray area is for people just getting their start. Even here, you're better off focusing primarily on your craft rather than your marketing --unless you really want to be someone who is best-known as a producer of well-promoted crap.


If you don't promote your book, how will people know about it? Even indie presses often market promote books. You don't necessarily have to go traditional routes, but a book that isn't put out there is unlikely to get much attention. It's certainly going to go to the bottom of the Amazon pile until you're lucky enough to attract enough attention of people buying it. If your book makes it to book shelves, you might be lucky enough that some people are interested in your book, but there's no guarantee. Keep in mind that even good writers that market and promote (or don't) are unlikely to earn enough to earn a living.


If you ask me, writing a book and hoping that it would be picked up and read by many without publicity is like sending an SOS message in a bottle floating at sea and hoping that multiple ships will immediately respond to your call and make a beeline to rescue you.

The fact is, it's an ocean out there. There are hundreds, if not thousands of authors out there who are self-publishing their books and hoping that their work will become the #1 bestseller. And that simply ain't gonna happen. Why? Because the universe just doesn't care.

Conversely, all it takes is one good book for your other books to sell. The trick is to not give up and continue writing. Yes, publicity is the prime factor in selling a book. Only if the world is aware about your book, will the world condescend to buy it.

Established authors too spend a pile in publicity for their works in the form of book launches, giveaways, 3d trailers etc. So if the biggies don't think twice about publicity, then how can we mere mortals think that our book will sell without it?

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