Saturday, July 07, 2012

Guest blogger: The 5 reasons why I am a failed writer

This week's guest blogger is marketing marvel Jens-Petter, owner of the SlyMarketing blog and company and author of Make Google Love You. He's writing not only about the best and worst he's ever done as a writer, he's giving us some really useful tips on how to market your books. Following is some of the best, most practical advice I've ever read. Over to you, Jens-Petter!

I say that I'm a failed writer because I can't seem to finish what I'm writing.

I am a solo entrepreneur with a marketing business, and I have written a novel and a short story for the Kindle. I am fairly successful in business with several big clients and a popular blog, but I still haven't published my novel or the short story.

I love writing, but my first hurdle was to choose the right language. I write in Norwegian and in English. I am a better writer in Norwegian, because I am Norwegian, but I have a much bigger audience when I write in English. And that's why I started my marketing blog in English.

I am still not sure if it's such a good idea to keep writing in two different languages or if I should focus on one. But since I believe that one of my strengths in marketing and writing is experimenting and I'm not really in a hurry to get things published, I've decided to keep writing in both languages for now.

The 5 reasons I am a failed writer

I have been thinking a lot about why I haven't been able to publish my novel or the short story. I've come up with five main reasons. Let me just tell you the reasons first, and then I'll tell you how I will market my novel and short story.


1. I don't have a goal

I write because I love to write. I want people to read what I have written, and I love feedback. And I work to become a better writer. But I don't have a goal when I write.

I am telling a story. I want it to be entertaining, but do I want my readers to cry, to learn something, or to never forget about the main character?The truth is that I don't know. I just write without having a single goal for the story or how my readers should

I believe writers should have a main goal with everything they write. Do you agree?


2. I don't focus

When I started writing my novel, I thought that I wouldn't do anything but write for a year. I believed that was what authors do. I'd lock myself inside my office and just write.

I did write for a long time, but I kept doing so many other things that were not part of my main projects. And I kept creating new projects, instead of writing and finishing the novel and the short story.

I believe that writers should focus on one project at a time, and finish it before starting new projects. Do you agree?


3. I am terrible at editing

I write from the beginning of the first sentence until I'm finished. That's it. I know that as soon as I've finished writing, I will be really just at the beginning. Most of the time it's all about the editing. And the first draft is more or less just the foundation of the story. But I am having a hard time to remove anything from the story. I can add a lot, but since I have a hard time removing anything, the story becomes more and more complex.

I have come to realize the importance of editing, but removing is still a huge obstacle for me. I'd love your thoughts on this — what part of editing do you struggle with?


4. I write alone

I love the solitude of writing and I love the social part of the online world. My marketing experience is mostly part of the social world, where I have teamed up with lots of brilliant people who are helping me out. I get the experience of people from all over the world, and we share marketing advice. This has been all positive, and I wouldn't have been able to start my business if I didn't have this team of supporters behind me.

I believe that I shouldn't have been doing all my writing alone. I should have teamed up with other writers and I should have told them about my projects, and we should have shared opinions and experience. I am sure it's a myth that authors should be all by themselves when they write. I do my best work when I get feedback and when I am having conversations with people. If I could start all over again, I would find a mentor and a team of like-minded people to help me out. I understand the power of collaboration and I would have done my share.

Do you write alone, or have you teamed up with other writers? I'd love to know if other people are part of your writing process.


5. I write what I love, not what people will buy

One of my friends is a painter. I believe he is a brilliant painter. I love the way he paints, but the reason he doesn't sell any of his paintings is that he only paints what he loves to paint. And at the time I am writing this, he loves to paint aliens and blood. I believe that if he would have looked more at what people are interested in buying rather than what he loves to paint, he would be making a career as a successful painter.

I am not saying that he should only look at the market, but the market should be part of what he's doing. And the same goes for my writing. It took me a long time to adjust my first novel from a story that I wanted to write, because I thought that it would be an interesting project, to a story that would actually sell. I have added elements of both.

Adjusting to the market is important if you're going to make any money from writing. I know that money isn't really the issue, but if we're going to be able to write every single day and make writing part of who we are and what we do, we need buyers. And that brings me to my last point.

How to market fiction books

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. I think of marketing fiction books in the same way: it's a three-step process.

The beginning

 Research who your audience is. Find out where they are, and what you should be doing to reach them. It's usually not that hard.
Do a pre-launch phase. Think of how movies are marketed: they've got trailers and movie previews at the movie theatres. Create book trailers and add them to your blog, to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The point is that you should build expectations. It's not hard at all. You can hire a brilliant person to do it on Fiverr for only $5. Add some text, and she'll add the effects and the audio.

Use the trailer to drive traffic to your blog, and build an email list of people who are eager to read your book. Let them know that they'll get it before other people, or make a promise that they'll get it cheaper. The pre-launch phase should be no less than 30 days. It takes time to build expectations.

The middle 

 When you're launching your book, you should first send emails to the people on your list. They should be waiting for your book. Write guest posts on related blogs, the blogs your audience reads (which you learned during the research part of the pre-launch phase). You should write many guest posts, and they should be about the process of writing your book. Add things about your new book (you could do this during the pre-launch phase as well). Create press releases and submit them to the local press (it's fairly easy to get reviews in the local press) and to the large PR sites (such as?).

You should get testimonials from people who've read your book. Publish all the testimonials to your blog — the more the better. Ask your readers to publish the testimonials on sites like, which will give your book a higher ranking.

The end

The last part of the launch should be about building relationships with your readers. Relationships are one of the most important parts of marketing. Ask your readers for feedback, and get more testimonials. Build a community. Let them know about you. Tell them how you write, give them more background on the story, and why you wrote it and what your inspiration is.

It's important that you add to your blog regularly, and that you build your newsletter email list. Communicate with your fans and they will spread the word about your awesome books.

Jens P. Berget is a Norwegian author and entrepreneur. He is currently writing his first novel, and he has started his own marketing business, while he continues to live off his passion.

Jens' blog,, will host my guest blog, as well. Check it out!


  1. Hi Scott,

    Thank you so much for publishing my guest article. I hope you enjoyed it :)

  2. Hi Jens, You have some really interesting ideas about marketing books. As far as what I want from a story, I want to feel. I may laugh, cry or both, but at the minimum I want to feel deeply.

    As far as writing for an audience goes, I have to say that I am not convinced you should write for an audience. If you look at Harry Potter or 50 Shades of Grey, those books far exceeded their intended audience because of the power of their stories.

    I love the Fiverr idea of making a trailer for your book. Brilliant!

  3. Agreed to all five. The first manuscript I wrote was a very quiet sort of fantasy novel set in a matriarchal, early-agricultural society. Obviously not very marketable. I'll probably never sell it, but I learned so many wonderful lessons while writing that story, and I discovered my voice. Now I'm writing paranormal romance, which is much more marketable. I'm still writing books with heart from the heart, but I'm learning to balance thinking about market and reader expectations with my own passions and interests.

  4. Hi Jens - I don't think you need a goal when writing your novel in the sense of who will read it. The only goal you need is to write a good story and let the cards fall where they may as far as it's popularity is concerned. Of course, the novel needs to have a chance at success, and that's where marketing comes in. It sounds to me from reading your description of your writing methods that you could benefit from reading a good book on the subject of plotting a novel. You say you just keep adding stuff to the story but never seem to get to the end. I recommend "Plotting and Structure" by James Scott Bell.

  5. Anonymous8:13 AM

    Great article. Makes me take a look at my writing style and why I'm writing. Thanks!

  6. Reading your blog does not seems that you are bad writer :)
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  7. Thank you for sharing! I'm wondering about how you get set up to write? Do you start with a good outline, or just go for it? Also, since you are asking for other writers to share what works for them, I will tell you what I do, to help with the editing. If writing from start to finish isn't working for you, then try something different. My goal is to write by chapter. (I start with a very thorough outline) Then, at the end of each chapter, I re-read it twice, making any needed corrections. Then...I print it out, because that is the best way for me to edit. I read it again, making corrections. Then, I move on. This not only makes editing later on easier, but it also slows me down and makes me think more about the story and where it's headed. It has helped me a great deal with my more complex stories. Good luck in finishing one!!!