Author Etiquette - Active Versus Passive Marketing

by Jennifer 26. May 2018 11:39

Many authors are going to take one look at the title of this post and think ick, I don’t want to deal with marketing. It’s an understandable reaction. Authors have stories to write, lives to live, and various jobs to do. Marketing of any sort isn’t on most author’s list of favorite things to do. But it should be.


As we’ve discussed before, it is the author’s responsibility to keep their works in the eyes of the public. Publishers are only going to do so much for so long. Even if a book series is doing well, without reminders, many readers may not see your books. Considering there are thousands of books released yearly on many different platforms, it’s sometimes a wonder that readers find you at all.


That’s where marketing comes in. A smart marketing plan allows you to be visible before, during, and after a book release. Some parts are very time intensive—such as creating and posting ads and social media posts. But others, once set up, are stable touchstones that people can find at anytime. These actions are called active and passive marketing.


What’s the difference?

Active and Passive Marketing differs in the amount of energy you have to put in to pursuing your objective. (I’m using objective here as marketing isn’t always about sales.) Active marketing is all about engagement. Engagement takes energy, usually a constant amount, and sometimes more than you think you have to give. Passive, on the other hand, could take a fair amount of energy to set up, but once it’s going, there’s little energy expended. It’s often more focused on information.


Active Marketing

Active marketing can take many shapes and forms, but it isn’t always “buy my book.” That word we used above—engagement?—that’s the key to active marketing. It means you interact with people. Engagement can be in many different forms. Conversations are one of the best ones, but even shares, likes, and signal boosting counts as engagement. It can be online, in person, or via chat. And it’s not one sided either. If you are having conversations, responses, and people are responding favorably, you are participating in active marketing—even if it isn’t about your book.


One of the best examples of author active marketing is conventions. Whether you run a booth, participate in panels, or are just hanging out, you should be engaging with people there. Sure, there’s a lot of “buy my book” going on, but there are many other conversations going on. Introduce yourself, tell people what you do, hand out business cards, sit in the lounge and talk. These are all active marketing techniques. You may feel exhausted, but in the end, you will gain more friends and fans. Other active marketing activities also include posting regularly on social media, in person readings, attending writing groups, mentoring, etc.


Passive Marketing

Passive marketing, on the other hand, doesn’t expect you to expend a lot of energy for a long period. It’s main focus is information. The initial setup for various things might take time and a lot of energy or money but once it’s finished, you don’t have to maintain that level of energy. Passive marketing techniques often look for long term results, rather than short term like many active marketing actions.


Your website is the perfect example of passive marketing (and a very important point of contact for every author). Yes, a lot of energy is spent in creating, maintaining, and updating, but a vast majority of authors do not have active engagement on their website. (Yes there are exceptions we know.) Mostly, once the site is set up it’s a place for people to find out more about you, your work, and what’s coming up next. Other forms or passive marketing includes newsletters, guest posts, interviews, new releases, and other forms of communication.


Why not use just one?

By using only one form of marketing an author is basically hopping around on one foot. You can’t get very far or fast without using both legs. Marketing, and an author’s career in general, should always be thought of as a strange, very long race. At times the course will be hilly, active and energy intensive, but often only for short times. Other times it will be long and flat with occasional highs and lows. You have to run it all. You can’t just go for the parts you like best.


Many authors succumb to the idea that having a website is all they need. A few posts on updating their works, a nice author photo, bibliography, all should be good right? When the fans don’t show and their works do not get noticed they wonder what they did wrong.


On the other hand, there are some authors who go full-out engagement. They spend hours on their social media streams connecting with fans. Their sales are hot and fast, but not sustainable. Often these authors tend to burn out quickly.


The most successful authors might lean one way or another, but they have a strong presence in both worlds.



Each author must find their balance in how to market their work. An author might be more comfortable with one or the other, but in order to create and sustain a long term career, an author MUST use both. Build a nice website (it doesn’t have to be expensive), learn to use social media, attend conventions, readings and signings, and be sure to respond to guest post invites. All of these things help you as an author build your audience and fan base.


But most of all, be yourself. That’s the most important thing. Stretch your limits but don’t lose sight on what you are.


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