Guest Post: Indie Marketing is a Marathon

September 18, 2012

David LeRoy, Sept 18th, 2012
Author of The Siren of Paris.

Have you ever run a Marathon? There are usually two responses to this question. One is yes, or I have always wanted to run one. The other is to question the sanity of the person asking the question. I suppose there is a third, and that is to ignore the question and change the topic.

Traditional publishers usually view marketing the way sprinters approach the 50-yard dash. The effort is intense, all out, for a very specific distance and short period of time. For the author of a major release, press releases, interviews, reviews of the book, guest appearances, and signing are all coordinated into a short window of time. The goal is to get as much exposure as soon as possible, and this “launches the book.” The target market is reached and the copies are sold, sometimes.

Or sometimes not. Like sentence fragments, there are mistakes.

For the self published author, or ‘indie author,” this approach to marketing can produce complete burn out and exhaustion. First, few people who choose to self publish a book today, through Amazon, Smashwords, or Nook, can afford to bankroll this kind of marketing effort. Second, there is a considerable amount of dedicated time required for this kind of push. Finally, there can be a problem of keeping the campaign organized.

I have run several half marathons, one marathon, and then one ultra marathon, because the marathon alone was not enough to convince me that I was crazy. People will often start the race sprinting, or running at a pace which they can never sustain for the entire race, and then somewhere around mile 18 you jog past them as they are walking.

You must know your pace to stay in this race.

When the start gun goes off, and runners start to pass you up, your ego or critical voice will notice that you are not running as fast as this person, or that runner. It is natural for us to compare our own performance to others and then make some kind of judgment.

I am not as fast as that one! I can’t even run as fast as that guy! I should be running faster! I could be much better! Maybe… I should not be here?

The first challenge is to tune out all this critical negative self-talk, comparing yourself to others, and focus instead upon your own pace, which you know you can sustain for the next 26.2 miles. It is not easy by the way, but essential if you want to finish this race. Here is what that voice sounds like for the self-published author: “I am not selling as many books as this other author. I can’t even keep up with this author. I should be selling more book.s but I am not. Maybe…I should just pull down this book and rewrite it to be more like what is selling?”

By comparing yourself to someone else, and beating yourself up with “shoulds,” you are losing your pace and trying to run faster than your training prepared you to run. And just like in a marathon, there is this magical point where your body runs out of fuel, and it refuses to continue to run at that pace. Plus, if you throw in a few critical reviews along the way, that call out your ego, it gets even worse. It is called THE WALL. After a few races where I had managed my fuel well, and kept going past the wall, I became a little too confident and lazy on the next race. Then, I hit the wall and hit it hard.

The wall is not fun. Between various minor hallucinations, my entire foundation of motivation collapsed, replaced by the most negative psychology I had ever experienced in my life, full of self-judgment, criticism, and doubt. I became obsessed with the idea that I was the very last runner on the trail and everyone was just going to laugh at me as I crossed the finish line in humiliation. Walking had replaced running, and I even had to pace my walking because the urge to just sit down and stop blared inside my head like a fire engine siren.

Self-published authors are on their own in terms of effort. There is no marketing department or editor to reach out to for encouragement. Your nonexistent agent is not going to send flowers and chocolate to you after a negative review. So, in order to sustain the long-term self-motivation required to promote your work, you must know your goal, the distance, and the pace.

If you do too much, too soon and for too long, you will stop. Most people fail to succeed because they do stop; unaware of just how close they were to reaching their goal if they had only kept going.

Back to the starting line please. The gun has fired, and the race is now on. What you did not know before is that many of these runners have not entered a marathon, but a half marathon, so they are only going half the distance you are running. And a few others are in the starter group for a 10k, and some for a 5k. There are also runners who have never finished a marathon, and this is the fifth or maybe even sixth try, because in the past they have dropped out or injured themselves.

We never know those things in real life. Instead, we look out and make up some story in our heads, judging ourselves against something that’s usually not true. My advice to you about marketing, my dear reader, is to learn to focus upon your pace, distance and goal and tune out the others. You are not running their race, but your own. It does not matter how many more books they have sold, or what how their rankings at Amazon compare to your own. What’s important is that you stay in the race until you reach your goal.


David Leroy did extensive research on the German occupation of France for his debut novel The Siren of Paris. This historical novel follows the journey of one American from medical student, to artist, to political prisoner at Buchenwald Concentration Camp during World War Two.

Marc, a French born American student, never suspected that he would become trapped in German occupied France when he came to Paris in the summer of 1939 to study art. While smuggling a downed airman out of the American Hospital, through the Paris resistance underground, his life is plunged into total darkness when someone he trusts becomes a collaborator agent for the Gestapo. Marc then must fight to save his soul when he is banished to the “Fog and the Night” of Buchenwald, where he struggles with guilt over the consequences of having his trust betrayed.

You can purchase The Siren of Paris in Kindle e-book format from Amazon and learn more about this author and novel at

For more information about this virtual book tour, please visit —

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  • Janette FullerSeptember 18, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I have never run a marathon (or a half marathon) because I have a couple of metal plates in my knee. I do enjoy walking and try to walk at least 3 miles a day.
    I really enjoyed this analogy between the marathon and indie marketing. The indie author who builds a platform and is persistent in his efforts will win the race.
    Great article!

  • MikeSeptember 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    David, thank you so much for sharing this piece with us. As someone currently trying to run a similar race myself, I found your words encouraging and enlightening. I hadn’t thought of book marketing as a marathon before, but you are absolutely right.

    I started out my race determined to fire off all cylinders at once, only to find that I quickly ran out of ammo…and cylinders. It makes much more sense to stay the course, run at a pace you are comfortable with and reach for the finishing line, no matter how far ahead it may be. Besides, it’s much more fruitful for us Indies to keep a steady trickle of exposure going rather than relying on a blast at the beginning.

    I’ll be taking a lot away from this. Thanks again, and good luck with The Siren Of Paris, which looks like a fantastic book.


  • Richard SuttonSeptember 20, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Nice analogy, but PLEASE mention that while finding one’s pace, sending out tweet barrages of ten to fifteen blurbs about your great, new book daily, is no way to attract followers or readers. Spam is spam, no matter the venue. Repetition can be useful, but consistency and content rule!

    • Zohar - Man of la BookSeptember 20, 2012 at 9:07 am

      Good point Richard. I think that authors should tweet about anything BUT a sales pitch.

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