Marketing Lessons from the World of Retail

Tracy Higley


Tracy (T.L.) Higley here, posting another marketing lesson I’ve learned from my years in online retail sales. As I’ve mentioned in previous months, I’m currently in the midst of an experimental year, applying principles from my retail business to the marketing of my fiction. If you’ve missed earlier posts, and would like a better explanation of my background and what these posts are about, please see Principles #1-#11 here.

So, on to Principle #12… The bottom line is that successful marketing is largely a mystery, and the very best marketing effort is to create a great product. OK, that’s a bit wordy for a principle, I know.  And it might seem to fly in the face of my previous posts.

We’ve spent the past eleven months looking at the principles that I’ve learned over my years in retail marketing. They’re good and valid principles, I’m convinced. But now that our year together is drawing to a close, I must, in good conscience, add a caveat to all that has come before.


The truth is this: Marketing is largely a mystery. We have all seen million-dollar campaigns for products that left us scratching our heads, wondering how the powers-that-be could have been convinced they would work. Perhaps they did work, perhaps not. In this past year I’ve seen low-budget marketing efforts become overnight sensations on YouTube with millions of page views – every marketer’s dream. Then seen those same companies report a decrease in sales for the product featured in those viral videos.  What’s that about?  The answer… no one really knows.

As authors, we have a strong tendency to look around at the highly successful authors among us and assume a cause-effect relationship between their marketing efforts and their sales.  We say, “Author X is doing Y and Z to market his books, and he’s selling like crazy. It must be that Y and Z are the marketing efforts that really pay off.”  Maybe. But maybe not. Perhaps that author’s sales have nothing to do with his or her marketing.

So, while we can and should base our efforts on sound marketing principles, we must always come back to the truth that marketing success is a mystery.  And we must remember that the best way to get people talking about our books, passing them around, recommending them to their friends, mentioning them in their blogs, etc., is to write books that have an exceptional impact on people.

(Note that I did not say “write exceptional books.” We have all seen mediocre books become immensely popular. Instead of grumbling about the comparative merits of those books to your own, take a lesson from what the author did right. He or she connected with an audience and made an impact.) The most creative and sound marketing efforts will not push a book to the bestseller list if the book does not have an impact on people.

So as we close out our year, I will leave you with these words… There is always more that can be done to market our books. But first and foremost, write a book that changes lives. Follow the sound principles of marketing we’ve discussed in the past year, but remember that marketing is a mystery. And do not allow yourself to miss out on the adventure of a life well-lived as you pursue success in your writing.

Thank you for letting me part of your marketing efforts for the past year. I’ll be launching some new marketing efforts myself in the months to come, and I hope you’ll join me at to see what’s happening there. I wish each of you the best as you pursue your own unique adventure in writing!