Art or Business? You need both.

Amazon asked me (and a couple of other successful self-published authors) to speak on a panel at the London Book Fair this year. It was a fun event; there was a large crowd in the room to hear us give our opinions on indie publishing, and then we were swamped on the KDP booth afterwards as writers came up to ask us questions.

mark dawson blog post art or business

One writer was particularly persistent. She was very interested to understand how my working day panned out. How much time, she asked, did I dedicate to writing? I said that I wrote for about half of the day until my creative energy was spent. I told her that I spent the rest of the day running my business: marketing, advertising, and generally getting the word out about my books.

Aha, she said, as if she had been waiting for a chance to trip me up. So you’re not a full-time writer, then.

I had to catch myself.

Not a full-time writer?


It’s a pretty stupid point of view, but it's one that I have heard many times.

I explained to her that, much as I would like it to be otherwise, my books aren't going to sell themselves. I told her how much stock I set in my mailing list, and the effort I go to in order to find new readers. None of it cut any ice with her, and she left, completely unpersuaded, and thinking, I suspect, that I wasn’t a real writer.

Never mind.

Her loss.

Our gain.

There are 3.5m books on the Kindle platform at the time of writing. I am convinced that the next Great American/British novel has been written in the last couple of years and uploaded. Amazing romances. Heart-stopping thrillers. Fantastically helpful non-fiction. It's all there. I am also convinced that, unless those writers are prepared to invest some time (and perhaps some money) into promoting their books, no-one will ever find them and they will never be read.

If you’re already thinking about how to market your books, perhaps by signing up to my mailing list and free mini course, you are immediately several orders of magnitude more likely to succeed in this business than people who think it is all about the art, with no interest in the business. You are ahead of that woman I spoke to at the LBF, for sure. Art and business go hand in hand, and the most successful writers in this exciting new marketplace are able to swap hats as required.

Writer and businessperson. You need to be both.

Take advertising in particular. Our industry is no different to any other. There's a reason billions of dollars are spent on advertising every year. Put simply: advertising generates revenue. It sells things, and books are no different to cars or holidays, cans of soup or pet food. It's one of the most important levers we have to help us find readers and increase the sales of our books. I spend upwards of $400 a day on ads. That sounds like a lot of money - it is a lot of money - but it's cast in a different light when I say that I typically make the investment back and at least half on top again.

Think about that for a minute. Whatever other investment could I make that would generate that kind of return?

Ten years ago, the idea that we could advertise more effectively than traditional publishers would have been disregarded as the ravings of a lunatic. But today, that's true. I don't particularly care about billboards on the subway. I don't want a TV campaign or ads in the newspapers. I would rather create ads that I have tested to destruction, knowing that they will perform just as I want them to, and then serve those ads to the precise audience who I know will be interested in the books I have to sell.

A billboard is shotgun advertising. Creating as big a bang as possible in the hope that the person who likes, say, romantic suspense, will hear the signal through the noise and buy the book.

Social media ads are laser targeted. Minimal wastage. High performance.

When I see people turn up their noses at Facebook and the other platforms, I shake my head.

Again, it's their loss and our gain.

You probably know that I have a full course on Facebook advertising. It was open earlier this year and was amazingly successful. We enrolled 453 students. Their results have been excellent, with students exploding their mailing lists and their sales.

In fact, I got this screen grab yesterday from one of my students. Her name is Sela and she writes romantic and erotic suspense. You can see where she started to apply the lessons in the course about advertising for paid sales.


I love seeing these kind of results.

Sela is an outlier. She does even better with ads than I do (her genre is more responsive and easier to target than mine).

I am going to re-open the course to new students at the end of October. Before then, I’m going to deliver a blog post each week that will, I hope, provide a lot of actionable and valuable content for you. I’m going to look at the kinds of images we can use in our ads, and how we can get them; tips for writing highly coverting ad copy; whether we should advertise on mobile or desktop (or both); tips for putting together a video ad without breaking the bank; and a lot more.

I'm also going to demonstrate exactly how I advertise, with a weekly video breakdown of my expenditure and revenue, together with the ads that are working and the ads that have been duds. I've never done an income report like this before, and I hope you find it helpful. You can find the first one by clicking below.


But that's enough for now. I hope the writing is going well. I'll be back soon with a post that will use my most recent launch to show how an email list - and nothing else - got me to #102 in the whole of the store at

It's an amazing time to be a writer, right?