Blogger: Mary Keeley
Several authors have commented recently that they wish they could just write and leave the marketing and promotion of their book to the publisher. It’s with gentle understanding that I repeat the reality: those days are gone. But there are ways to make that other half of your writing career less daunting if you think ahead. Today, I’ll give three tips that will help you develop ideas and organize them into a strategic plan.
Tip #1: Begin to develop your plan at concept stage of your book.
The ideal time is at the beginning when you’re forming the concept for your book. The best place to start is a quick analysis of your idea. Keep your target reader in focus as you develop the concept.
Tip #2: Plan your marketing campaign specific to you and your book.
It would save a lot of confusion if there were a standard formula to follow, but there isn’t and for good reason. It wouldn’t work. If all authors used the same template, none would stand out from the crowd. Each author and each book or series are unique. That’s why you need to personalize a plan that is most appropriate for you and your book with the best potential return on your investment. I’m going to give you several ideas to get your creative marketing thoughts started:
- Social media is the best way to get the word out about your book online. Like it or not, it’s your social media numbers that editors use to judge your book’s potential for sales when they discuss your proposal in their editorial board meetings. On which platforms are you most comfortable and successful in gaining followers? Concentrate your efforts on these. No one has time to do them all well. Buy ads close to your book’s release.
- Connect with people who live in the setting of your novel or who are closely involved or interested in the topic of your book. The earlier you begin , the more you’ll acquire. Identify potential influencers among those who are most enthusiastic about your book. Ask them to talk about your book within their spheres of influence, and show your gratitude with a small gift card from time to time, especially when your book is about to release. Aren’t we all motivated when we know we’re appreciated?
- Submit articles surrounding the topic of your book to appropriate magazines. It will not only grow interest in the topic or setting or characters in your book, but you’ll also increase your name recognition. And you may earn a little income in the process, which you can reinvest in your campaign.
- Join an online community of readers like Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, and BookLikes. Goodreads has the largest community. Each one has its unique advantages. Explore them and get involved. Some of them have sub-communities specific to a favorite genre. Join the one in which you write; get to know the members; and let them get to know you. They will enjoy hearing about your book in that friendly atmosphere.
- Start an in-person, word-of-mouth campaign. Word-of-mouth buzz continues to be the most effective marketing tool. Make in-person contacts with local groups, churches, and media early in the process of writing your book. When you tell them about your book, get them involved by asking for their reactions to a portion of your topic or what they would like to see your protagonist do in a given scene. Show your appreciation for their thoughts and discuss how you might or might not be able to use their idea. They’re bound to feel a personal connection to you and your book. When it’s close to your book’s release date, your personal connections ware established and ready for you to prime the pump for word-of-mouth buzz.
Tip #3: Identify your brand and know the difference between it and your product.
You have your product, which is your book, and your brand, which is you, the author. The concept of an author’s brand is often unfamiliar to new writers, but it is one of the first questions I ask writers about when I meet with them at conferences. Their answers tell me much about their readiness for representation. Brand is more than the genre you’ve chosen. It’s a combination of elements that are unique to you—your personality, your voice, your passions, and your style—those unique characteristics your readers will come to expect when they read your books. Assuming you will have written a compelling page-turner, your brand provides natural guidelines when talking about your book.
These 3 tips for your marketing campaign are starters to get your creative ideas flowing. How are you doing on developing your personalized plan? In what areas are you having the greatest success? The greatest struggle?
Three tips to get you started on your personalized marketing plan for your book. Click to Tweet.
Do you feel overwhelmed when it comes to marketing your book? Here are three helpful tips. Click to Tweet.
One further suggestion would be to take some time to survey what other authors are doing – see what hooks you in, and what either leaves you cold or actively repels you.
But, a caveat – not all things are seen the same way. I have a low tolerance for self-promotion, but many others aren’t bothered by a level of self-promotion which drives me away.
So, ask friends, and read others’ comments in social media. Check ‘like’ and ‘share’ numbers for other authors’ posts on FB, and see what kind of posts are most often favored in this way (over time, you have to know how many followers your author has for this to be meaningful).
In terms of brand, it might be a good idea to tip one’s hat to the late Maya Angelou, who said that people won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.
That’s what brand is all about. Authors provide a dependable ‘place’ in which a reader can find a certain experience, and if it’s an experience from which they draw a feeling about themselves or their world they want or need – they’ll come back.
The trick is to define the readers’ experience. It may be in stories through which challenges to faith are overcome, showing that God really does always have our back.
It may be in the stories that show that there’s still good in the world, and it’s worth fighting for, because those are the stories that stay with you. (There…Samwise Gamgee and Maya Angelou, quoted in the same comment.)
But whatever it is, your online presence and personality have to reflect both the core value(s) that draw people, and your respect for your readers or potential readers – respect that engenders trust.
Because, fundamentally, we shop brands we trust.
Andrew, your quote from Maya Angelou was my favorite. I was actually thinking on it as I was reading your words … then saw you included it! 🙂 How we make people feel … I think the closer we draw to God, He’ll seep out of us to move people. I love that old song, “God Still Moves.”
Interesting perspective on an author’s brand, Andrew. Your brand should indeed express your own core values and passions. Readers who share those values, passions, and your style of expressing them in your writing will be drawn to your books again and again as long as they are a part of your writing. It’s what makes your writing unique. Your consistency in delivering that is your way of respecting your loyal readers and building their trust.
Andrea (Wood) Nell
I agree that the brand concept is hard for new writers to understand. But I think developing a brand is one of the less intimidating pieces of promotion. As a fiction writer I spend so much time developing my characters, but when the story is done, they are trapped between the pages of the story and I have to start the process all over. Developing a brand is a little like giving yourself a character profile. What makes me unique? What style will people recognize in my writing? How can I weave that flavor into my website, blog and social media interactions so people feel like they are getting to know parts of me they will recognize in my books?
“…so people feel like they’re getting to know the parts of me they will recognize in my books…”
Beautiful. Absolutely spot-on!
Well said, Andrea.
Couldn’t agree more with the importance of word of mouth. No one will guess you wrote a book – you need to tell them! 🙂
It’s awfully hard for a reserved person to do this – it feels like bragging, and that’s anathema to me.
How do you let people know in person, without it being self-consciously boastful?
Andrew, you aren’t alone in those feelings. But make it all about the reader. If you shift your focus to the readers you want to reach, who will benefit from your book either for pleasure or for improving their lives, word-of-mouth promotion can be viewed in a justly positive way.
And from a practical business perspective, word-of-mouth promotion results in the greatest percentage of actual sales. Good sales numbers are needed in order to get the next book contract.
That, I can do. Great perspective – thanks, Mary!
Amen to the importance of word of mouth promotion, Kathryn. I think one of the reasons it endures as the most effective way to promote your book is the personal connection between you, the author, and potential readers. Taking time to show personal interest in them as you talk about your book instills a sense of relationship with you that isn’t possible in other promotions efforts.
Mary, writers market their books these days … are they also expected to edit their book, too? I know we do our best and may pay to have it professionally edited. But will publishers give it a final edit?
Marketing … it’s such a humbling process for introverts. Those that get on board with enthusiasm are treasures forever. What a sweet idea to reward them some way!
Shelli, your complete manuscript should be as nearly publication-ready as possible when you first submit it to an agent. This is especially the case for new writers. Agents know this is the level of writing that can compete for a publishing contract.
When you turn in your final contracted manuscript to the publisher, editors will give it a final edit and copyedit and will tweak grammar and punctuation to conform to their own publishing house style guide. You will have an opportunity to respond to their editorial changes when you receive galleys and page proofs.
Mary, I was surprised to read that you recommend buying ads on social media. I’ve read writers who think it’s a waste of time and money. I’ve always thought that since the cost is so low ($25 I think?), a writer might as well try it. I also wonder if a paid advertisement might be met with more acceptance than the writer hogging up the newsfeed with their own promotion. That’s just my own speculation, though. I don’t have any numbers to back any of it up.
Another great list! Thank you.
Meghan … I didn’t have a good experience with this on Facebook. It attracted people with horrible names. Their names had bad words intertwined in “normal” sounding names. I was shocked. Maybe my experience was a rare one though.
Shelli, I don’t think I understand how the ads work if you’re seeing others’ names. I thought the advertisement just appeared in newsfeeds, like the direct mail Andrew referred to, and you only saw numbers of how many were reached?
Meghan, I used the advertisement to advertise my Facebook page, which also advertises my book. So … that may be the difference. The traffic that came my way was startling and totally unexpected. 🙂 But I haven’t used it any other way since that.
I did direct-mail advertisement for A/V products on Architectural History to universities for several years, and if there’s one thing I learned, it’s that effective advertising is truly a profession.
The old Madison Avenue rules for getting attention, and closing a sale still apply, perhaps even more so since the ad’s effective space and duration are so severely limited.
If I were going to go this way, I’d spend at least an hour with a specialist on social media ads. It would cost something, but at least there would be a baseline of acquired knowledge from which I might begin.
Excellent point, Andrew. Most of us scroll so quickly that an advertisement needs to grab our attention and then be pleasing to the eye.
Meghan, I’ve also heard some say it was a waste of time for them. If you reserve these purchases for the social media platform in which you have the greatest presence, that is, where you have the most name recognition, ads can be worthwhile. Goodreads and the other reader communities can be good places to place ads if you have made connections with readers who enjoy the kind of books you write. Andrew gave good advice to work with a specialist in timing and placing your ad. One of my clients recently raved about the customer service she received from a specialist on Goodreads.
I’ve always struggled with local word of mouth because these are people I know. I find it much easier to promote to strangers, which seems silly since it’s harder to get them to buy your work than someone you know.
I know exactly how you feel, Cheryl.
I understand that, Cheryl, because you have a relationship with the local people. You go to church together, see them at the grocery store, watch fireworks on the Fourth of July at the same park. But it’s not necessarily the sort of forgiving relationship you have with some family and friends. I wouldn’t want to be avoided as I walk through the library because someone’s afraid I’m going to try to sell them my book. (I don’t have a book published…yet…so I’m just thinking aloud.) I would guess there’s a delicate balance. Tell them, enthusiastically, but just like on FB, don’t overdo it. So, all that just to say, I don’t think it’s silly. 🙂
That is understandable, Cheryl. Who wants to put yourself or friends and family members in the awkward position of you promoting yourself to them. Try giving a few of them an advanced reader copy or published copy. Be strategic about choosing one or two in each of your social circles. Ask them to tell others about your book if they like it. That’s a softer approach, and you’re gifting them rather than asking them for a favor to purchase your book. Those who become excited about your book can become your best influencers because they know you well.
Good point about not being the person everyone wants to avoid!
But turn it around…developing word-of-mouth might be a great way to broaden your own circle.
One thought might be to look for groups in the local community, through church outreach, to whom your book might appeal.
If you write about a character with PTSD, for instance, look to those who support the wives and families of veterans with that affliction, and just say, “Hey, I wrote this – maybe it’ll help.”
Don’t be shy about having a free copy to give out,in these circumstances, and if you SP, give a coupon code that allows a free download.
Building word-of-mouth is advertising, and free distribution of samples is the investment you make.
Not sure how that strategy would work for Amish vampires, though. Could play it for a laugh through a blood-donor drive…free copies at the church, for those who donated?
And just pray. I had an old high school friend approach me recently. She was dealing with the same hardship as I had … got my book … and said she was going to pass it to everyone she knew going through the same struggle. I just had to thank the good Lord, because I would have never approached her. I didn’t know her struggles and, even if I had, I would have been afraid of offending her. You just never know where people are in their acceptance of their issues in life. We weren’t good friends way back then, she was older, but I have a feeling we’ll be life-long friends now.
How do you always time your posts so perfectly, Mary? I was just getting ready to brush up the marketing section of my proposal. 🙂
The biggest challenge for me is not so much the idea stage — I love coming up with unique ideas that fit my book’s theme and message. But when it comes to reaching out to those people or organizations, I get serious cold feet. I like your advice in the comments to focus on what you offer the reader. It all goes back to Reader Benefits (which you posted on a couple weeks ago). If our books offer nothing to enrich someone’s life–whether inspiration or humor or knowledge or simply an escape–it’ll be a tough sell all around.
Sarah, you’re absolutely right. Well said. If you are confident you’ve provided benefits for readers of your book, you can feel good about talking to people about it.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I’ll be sort of off the grid a weeee bit when it comes to marketing, because I’ll be promoting to the average CBA reader, and then to a vastly untapped market of Native American readers, as well.
To be honest, I know what to do, but I’m also a bit of a nervous wreck because it’ll be basically taking a one-way nuclear rocket straight out of my comfort zone.
It’s nice to have the experiences of pubbed writer friends to give advice all along the way. THAT is priceless.
I think you may also find that there are a lot of secular readers who are hungry for Navajo-themed fiction. The success of Hillerman’s mysteries, and the interest in the code talkers, would seem to indicate this.
You might look to those who are interested in Navajo pottery and weavings, for a start. Generally, these people want to make a connection with a life and people that embody values that are missing in Anglo culture. There’s an couple in my town who make quite a good living buying from Navajo artisans and selling to the Anglo community, mainly through a client list that they’ve developed over the years.
Douglas Preston’s book about Coronado’s journeys, “Cities of Gold”, still has a huge following, even though it was published twenty years ago. Find out where it’s being discussed, and put your oar in there, as well.
Finally, when you get author’s copies, you might consider donating these to museums, for sale in the gift shops.
My feeling about what you’re written is that you can effectively touch those who feel that we’ve treated the Navajo shabbily – while they can’t do anything concrete about it, they can at least learn, and read a cracking good story at the same time.
Yes, yours will be a two-pronged marketing campaign, Jennifer, because you’re dealing with two cultures, with different mores. Fortunately, you know both cultures well and are a natural people person that others connect with easily.
Social Media will sell your book – but only if you don’t use Social Media to sell your book.
If you don’t use Social Media to sell your book – then Social Media will sell your book.
A restaurant’s menu that only lists items available at other restaurants – is like writing a blog that reviews only books written by other authors.
That’s it in a nutshell. Thanks Donnie.
I love the idea of connecting with people who live in the setting of your novel.
Thank you for being frank about the writer’s role and responsibility for promoting their work, and offering industry standard advice to help us swallow the hard truth that new writers face today.
I wish I could acquiesce with fervour, but at the moment, I have a lump in my throat. It sounds wonderful in theory, yet seems less than practical to undertake these two different vocations. Rarely do you find a marketer/promoter who is also a good writer of novels.
Social media is many things, and at one time was a fascinating channel to watch, but now, everything is so five minutes ago. Bombarding friends with a barrage of ‘please-review-like-and-shares, is not not my cup of candor, and unreservedly, not my brand.
For an editor and publisher, with all of their might and experience, (and please forgive the lump in my throat), to judge a writer’s worth for representation, based on the height of their platforms and the width of their hat, seems illogical, when they most desire to discover new, raw, and fresh writing talent.
I wish I was that person, who could do both well, but alas there are no platforms or wide-brimmed hats in my closet, at least not at the moment.