Marketing. Within the author community, it’s a dirty word. Within the reading community too, by the way. Marketing doesn’t have to be a dirty word, and here’s why.
Writers just want to write, readers just want to read, so why can’t we leave it at that? Well, because without marketing, readers wouldn’t find the books they want to read and writers would give up writing because there wouldn’t be any money coming in to pay the mortgage with.
Not marketing your book is like cutting down a tree in the middle of the forest: you spent all that energy and time doing an awesome job and no one will know about it. Unless you tell people the tree fell, where it fell, and how to get there, no one is going to come look. There might be the odd hiker who really likes to stroll through thousands of (fallen, in this analogy, but work with me) trees who just so happens to stumble upon your handiwork, but those instances are going to be few and far between.
Books are an industry. As an author, you are more than a writer, you are a business. If you have a publisher, you are part of a business; if you self-publish, you are a business of one. Businesses create products and then they market those products to make sure people who might want the product, know it’s out there. Every single company does this, not just the companies you see ads from on TV and in magazines.
“If you have a publisher, you
are part of a business; if you self-
publish, you are a business of one.”
I studied marketing and corporate communication in college. Graduated in it too, actually. It’s also how I pay my mortgage. I’ll tell you the one secret I’ve learned about marketing over the last ten years or so: There is no secret knowledge to glean. There are only two things you need to market anything, namely time and patience.
Of course, that is not entirely true; there are tips and tricks to marketing. Different social media channels have different uses, (unwritten) rules, and guidelines. Some strategies to engage users work better than others. Some content draws more attention to your website or profile than others do. The difficult part is discovering what works for your particular brand.
That’s right, ladies, gentlefolk, and everyone non-binary: if you are an author, you are also in charge of your brand! A brand is: “A name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer.” In other words, a brand is something unique to you that people distinguish you and your work by. A brand requires a lot of time and energy to foster. To stick with the forest analogy: your brand starts of as a tiny shoot, poking out of the soil and you are in charge of its growth.
“Your brand starts of as a tiny
shoot, poking out of the soil and
you are in charge of its growth.“
Building an audience literally takes years of steady investment. Yes, you can buy likes on any social media platform, but that’s just fluff. What you want is an audience who engages you, who buys your books, reads them, and preferably leaves a review too. You can’t buy that, that’s one hundred percent hard work.
Marketing is the full-time job of a lot of people and for good reason. As authors, we don’t have that much time to spend, but we can do what we can. There will be more posts about marketing a book, but I wanted to give you some general pointers. These should get you on your way and also show you what I mean with time and energy.
Some pointers for budding marketeers (in the order in which they came to me):
- Have a professional looking website; it makes you look more professional too
- Readers are (mostly) on Facebook and Instagram, so be there
- Fellow writers are mostly on twitter; be there too
- Google+ is shit but Google loves it; share your posts and other website content on it to get a higher ranking on Google searches
- Join Goodreads and get your author account set up
- Set up a newsletter; people can miss things on social media, not in their inbox
- Build your social media presence on your books, not your person
- Add flair to your presence by being you
- Always be professional
- Present yourself as someone who makes a living out of writing, even if you don’t
- Be nice!
- Post regularly, not just often
- Don’t spam your followers
- Post content that generates traffic, preferably to your website
- Stay on point; your social media channels should not be about anything but your book, writing, or the themes in your book
- Create buzz by inviting people to “events” (a launch party, for example, even if it’s online)
- Uploading teasers, readings, and trailers to get readers excited
- Know your audience and seek them out; until you become famous enough to pull people to you, you are going to have to pull them in
- Support other authors in your genre(s); they’ll support you in turn and there is enough audience for all
- Experiment with paid advertisement, merchandise and other ideas that require financial investment up front; most won’t work, but what if you find one that does?
- If you have a publisher, they are the best thing since sliced bread; make sure you mention that on social media
- Once your book is out or almost out, arrange for interviews or blog swaps on blogs followed by your audience; link back to your website and social media
- Never do a giveaway until a month after release; if people feel they have a chance to get something free, they won’t buy it unless they really like you
- Discounts start a few months after release
- Ask readers to review your work, never make them feel like they have to
- Remember: be nice and don’t spam!