As the buds are popping brightly and birds are seeking new nesting places, this week’s blog post hopes to inspire our author friends to seek out new followers and uncover potential markets to spring your book into spring!
While most authors are hesitant to market themselves and their books, if this is your career, keep in perspective that your book is the product and all products require a marketing and sales strategy . . . no different than any other business. Marketing is an investment in your career.
The most important aspect of marketing and promoting your book (outside of knowing your audience) is to engage your audience, fans and readers. You can do this via a variety of platforms, many of which we’ve covered in this year’s blog posts and which we will touch on again here.
Who are your readers?
In today's digital world, if you want your book to stand out, you're going to have to step up and get involved in the promotion, which often means communicating directly with your target audience through a variety of channels (online and social media, in-person, through print media, etc.). Get to know your audience! Are they working moms, soccer dads, book clubbers, or glamorous literati? What are your readers reading? And what forums do they use to find new books? Use the intelligence you gather to target your marketing efforts and reach out to those segments.
You can use your established social media presence (even if that’s a Goodreads or Amazon Author Profile) to promote your title. Promotions such as giveaways (available for a fee on Goodreads) are available for FREE on your social media sites. You can setup a giveaway on Instagram or Facebook, for example, by asking your followers to tag your book page (or author page) in a post, follow you, and comment on an Instagram posting. Once they’ve done these things, put their name in a hat and at the end of your giveaway timeframe, send them a direct message and send them their book in exchange for a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.
Blogs & Reviews
You can work with a blog tour company (TLC Book Tours is one we love) to setup a blog tour for reviewers of your work. If you don’t want to pay a service for this help (which is well worth it, in our view, as you get guaranteed reviews and mentions), you can still compile a list of bloggers and book reviewers and email them asking them if they will review your book in exchange for a free copy. They will then usually post the review of your book on their blog, which has lots of followers – which in turn – can become your followers. As we mentioned in a recent blog post about writing for free, you can also contribute articles to relevant magazines or online blog sites, which is another way you can keep raising your author profile.
Find bloggers that will review your book. This can be as simple as googling reviewers based on your genre. Make a list of bloggers that you want to engage for a review and giveaway. For example, here’s a Google search for Historical Fiction Reviewers.
Publicity, author events, and media appearances can also generate awareness for you as an author and connect you with local readers. At each event, you may want to create a gift basket giveaway, with a signed copy of your book, bookmarks, and other merch, in exchange for collecting email addresses. Building a strong email list is a key component in building your followers and reaching your buyers over time. You may also want to consider hiring a publicist. There are lots of book marketing and publicity firms out there – you just need to take some time and look for local agencies in your area that specialize in book publicity. Here’s a great article by book marketing guru Jane Friedman that helps authors understand what to expect when working with a publicist.
Personal selling can be one of the most persuasive selling tools because it allows two-way communication. Consider the following markets:
If you are not familiar with networking, start with people you know: friends, family, co- workers, alumni, and neighbors. Then move on to less-familiar people. Again, avoid overtly selling to people in your network; instead, ask them for referrals and to spread the word about your book. When personally networking, begin by introducing yourself and mentioning who referred you.
Keep in mind that readers want to talk with the author. We talked about creating your own individual social media platforms (Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, etc.) and through these you can connect with everyone you know. In these posts, you can write about your book, give readers insider information, and even share other titles that you are reading and that inspired you or are of interest to you.
One great asset you have in your personal network is the ability to ask your contacts to provide reviews for online retailers for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, Kobo, iBooks, and Goodreads (or wherever they buy books). If you have professionals and industry experts in your network, offer to give them a book to review in exchange for a free copy. You can also consider paid reviewers such as ForeWord Clarion and Kirkus Indie to get a professional review of your book.
Relax and take stock.
Most importantly, take a break and take a breath. Building your audience is an experience to enjoy and share. It takes time and patience to build an audience as a new author. Word of mouth is the least cost and most effective way we’ve come across to do this, so keep at it. One reader at a time.
Once your book is published, it's critical to build your audience. This doesn't happen overnight, but rather one night (or day) at a time. We've highlighted several components of building an author brand in past blog posts: Building meta data into everything you do on your author platforms is a way to promote your book with every search; Taking one step at a time to build your author brand; Digging into the mechanics of creating an author website; Pumping up the volume on your social sites; and Strategies for marketing yourself as an author. A big part of continuing to build your author brand is to find new ways to connect with readers.
Creating new content, like articles and short pieces, based on your book or variations on your books theme is a great way to do just that.
Everything you write has the potential to generate book sales. This could be as simple as a book review on Goodreads, a blog on your website, or converting your book (or pieces of your book) into short fiction or article-length pieces to pitch to magazines or online periodicals.
You can create these pieces and offer them for free to newspapers and websites in your specific area of expertise or that cover topics highlighted in your book. For example, a novel about an exotic location could be perfect for an article or excerpt in a travel magazine or blog. Newspapers, online sites, bloggers, and magazines are always looking for strong content - and you are a published author! So put that street cred to work for you. In the bio included after your piece, you have an opportunity to mention your book and your website, which may lead to new relationships online (and down the road, new buyers for your book).
This type of content marketing is sneaky - it helps you build relationships and promote your brand as a contributor and author, all while giving you the opportunity to mention who you are as an author and send readers to your social platforms to follow you and learn more.
So write for free . . . and watch it pay off in sales (and great new relationships to boot)!
Here's a SmartBlogger article about writing for online publications, but there are others, just search on Google and start submitting!
We discussed earlier this year how important building your brand as an author is. Strategy, content, and social media all come into play when building your own brand. Here, we will break down some practical ways to begin building your brand and give you a step-by-step guide for getting started!
1. Who Are You?
To begin, you have to figure out who you are as an author. Ask yourself, “Who am I?” When you’re answering this question, consider what you bring to the table as an author. Why are you different? Why is your book special? Why are people going to choose to support you as an author?
2. Who Are You Marketing To?
After you’ve figured out who you are as an author, you can figure out whom you are marketing to as an author. In other words, who is your target audience? Is it children? Young adults? Women? Men? When you figure out your target audience, you will be able to build a brand that markets directly to that audience.
3. Set Up Your Platform
When you’ve answered the questions of who you are as an author and who your target audience is, you can start to set up your actual author platform. First and foremost, you will need to set up your author website. For further instruction on how to best build your website, you can revisit our blog post on it.
4. Don’t Shy Away From Email
If you think of your email list as just another way to connect with your readers, like Twitter or Facebook, it becomes much less intimidating. If you can make a great first impression with your readers and create an easy form for them to use to subscribe to your email list, building your email list is completely doable. The important thing to remember when building your email list is that you shouldn’t wait to start. Begin building the list and develop it as you go, even if your website or book aren’t quite ready.
5. Get Active on Social Media
As we’ve mentioned in posts previously, social media is crucial to your brand. The beauty of social media is that you have the creative liberty to tailor it to exactly the way you want it. Keep in mind the Rule of Thirds that we mentioned in an earlier blog post and remember to use your social media as a way to connect with your audience. If you use it solely as a promotional tool for your book or even for yourself, your audience will not be drawn in as effectively. Keep in mind what your readers connect with about you, and use that often in your social media.
Remember to have patience with yourself as you build your brand and that, even using these practical steps, it will probably take some time. It’s okay to not get everything in order right away, as long as you are making progress!
When it comes to marketing yourself an author, you don’t have to wait until your book is finished and published to begin. The earlier you connect and begin to build familiarity and relationships with your readers, the better.
This becomes possible when you realize that you are marketing yourself more than you are marketing your book. At the end of the day, your name is a more important brand than your book’s title. The key is to build your own personal brand through which you can promote your books. We're launching a new blog series in 2019, dedicated to helping authors build their platforms and their brand. Here's a few things to get you started . . . maybe one or two will make it to your New Year's Resolution list!
If you've already started your online social media presence through Goodreads or other online social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, connect with your followers, like some of their posts, follow celebrities, groups, or other authors that you admire. Just start making online connections, one follow at a time.
For authors with books already published, we strongly suggest creating and keeping fresh your Goodreads Profile and Amazon.com Author Central profiles. Be sure to keep them fresh with weekly posts or link them to your existing blog.
Read more about Goodreads setup here. It's a powerful tool with a great return on investment of your time and energy.
We'll talk more in upcoming posts about creating a compelling social media presence but for now just make a start. Create a profile and bring the new YOU to the New Year!
You know you've done it. Walked through your favorite bookstore and picked up a book SOLELY because of the cover. It could be vintage and romantic, bold and graphic, movement and action, or classic and literary - but a good cover will draw you in. Next, you flip it over and review the back cover blurb. It has to catch your attention in the first couple sentences or the party's over. If it loses you, the book gets discarded and you move on to the next sparkly object.
Book covers are the most important marketing tool an author or publisher has at their disposal. Think of them as mini-movie posters, it's the same concept. You have ten seconds TOPS to draw in your reader or viewer and convince them they want, no need, to read your book or watch your movie.
Celebrities help, flashy review blurbs help. But those aren't always available to new authors. So what's a writer (or publisher) to do? Hit 'em with your best shot. When working with a publisher, it's important to have a concept ready for what visually represents your book. You're the creator, you know your book intimately. Think about what images floated through your head while you were writing the book. What one or two key images or action sequences rise to the top?
Although publishers will work with professional designers and artists on your cover, many of them (like us) are interested in your visual concepts and ideas for the cover. There are even times when authors have a special artistic talent and can contribute graphical elements to the story that they've created.
Covers, like a book's positioning in the market and genre/theme, follow trends. Search for titles that are similar to yours. Check out the best-sellers and their covers. Note the ideas, themes, colors, design and look and feel elements that you like. You can share these with your publisher to give them an idea of what you feel represents your book.
Romance titles, for example, have gone from the Fabio-clinch days to more love-based visuals to chick-lit high heels...and back again. Read more about romance cover evolution in this illuminating Publisher's Weekly article. Regardless of genre, each cover must distinguish itself from the competition but still work within a brand aesthetic—all while enticing readers to give something new a try, but still represent the story readers expect. Whew!
All this is to say - you don't have to be an artist or designer to have a great idea for an eye-catching book cover. All you have to do is close your eyes and let the images speak for themselves.
Short stories, novellas, and other forms of short fiction are getting a makeover with the prolific access to publishing channels and innovative marketing campaigns. Short stories, the backbone of short fiction, prevails with short story contests and award-winning anthologies. Traditionally defined as stories in length from 1000-4000 words (some go longer, though, up to 20,000), short stories have been the entrée for many an author to get noticed. Many short stories have been adapted into plays, films, and other media. Check out the Goodread's list of all time bests.
The novella, once out of fashion in the publishing world (even though many classic novels, like Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, and The Metamorphosis, could be considered novellas based on lengths from 20,000 - 50,000) are breathing new life marketed under new names. James Patterson and Harper Collins' recent foray into the short novel - they call them "Book Shots" - focus on short, genre fiction, no more than 150 pages (about 30-40,000 words or so). Released this month, the author's first two releases came out strong with sales of 30,000 copies in the first week or so! These new short novels can be read quickly and feel like watching a film. Expect other publishers to pursue this rebirth of short fiction. They'll be looking for content, content, content...a great opportunity for writers to get in the game.
If you want to go even shorter and really flex your word-efficiency, you can write flash fiction - defined as a few hundred words (or shorter). These are fun tidbits from any genre that tell a story or evoke a mood...and can be read in minutes. Read some of the genre's top flash fiction at Flash Fiction Online. You can learn about the format and submit to their literary magazine.
At the micro end of the short fiction scale, #twitterfiction, allows writers to create the most creative narrative, tweeting as adopted personas, or tweeting a story from multiple characters' points of view. Check it out if you have a few seconds.
Whatever form your short fiction takes, there's a home for it these days. So get in the game...and keep it short!
We often get questions from prospective authors about what we will do to market their titles. And while even the best publishing company for new authors has a vested interest in selling books, marketing is truly a team sport. We view marketing as a partnership with our authors, and it really doesn’t work any other way. Many times, authors believe that being published is all you need…but there’s way more to it than that. Yes, publishing companies offer wide and broad distribution, making your title available across the internet, to local retailers, and across the world. But bringing the title to life for your specific readers…garnering your specific following and followers (social media, anyone?)…and spending time developing your own personal brand as an author are key to successfully selling your titles. There are lots of ways to skin this cat and simple keyword searches will lead you to easy-to-use website builders with awesome templates that will allow you quickly put up a simple but effective site. As an author, all you need is a voice – and you already have that. Just remember, simple is best. You may already use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for your personal life. If so, it’s not a big leap to create a second presence for your author persona. Register a new email address, keep the content informative, educational, and personal to you and your unique brand, and you will gain followers. All of this is to say that while a publishing company can and should be helping to sell your titles, it doesn’t work without your committed involvement as an author. So get out there and sing your own praises!