Blogger: Mary Keeley
With so much competition for readers and still only 24 hours in a day, writers have to find ways to maximize their efforts to increase their name recognition and their book’s discoverability. I’m going to give you 3 tips to enhance your marketing efforts that don’t require a lot of extra time.
Understand how your book fits in your particular market—your genre.
Before you begin writing, find a niche that hasn’t been covered yet in other books in your genre. That niche is your unique angle, or in marketing terms, your competitive point of difference. As well-written as your book might be, you’ll have a hard time getting a contract if your book doesn’t have a fresh approach, because you’ll be competing with another published author for the same readers, and that author will have drawn them in already.
One of my clients went back and revised her completed manuscript when she heard about another author’s new release, which had too many similarities to hers. It saves time if you do your research to find your unique edge at concept stage, but in this instance she had no way of knowing back then. Imagine the frustration she must have felt. But was it worth the extra time and work? Absolutely, she made the right decision. A publisher wouldn’t have acquired her original manuscript because of the direct competition.
TIP: Highlight your book’s unique differences when talking about it in natural conversation on social media, including on your blog and when guest blogging if you have a casual opportunity to mention it. New writers may find this especially helpful in boosting the growth of their following.
Keep a healthy separation between the professional you and the personal you.
Social media, especially Facebook, is relational and women writers in particular can slip into chatting on too personal a level because we’re naturally relational. This is a mistake for several reasons:
1. Healthy boundaries around your personal life may be crossed,
2. You may create an impression that you and your writing aren’t polished and professional. Remember, agents visit author blogs if they have an interest in the author.
3. Perhaps most importantly, you lose the opportunity to reinforce your author brand.
TIP: Deliberately practice switching gears from personal to professional when you sign in to your social media or write your blog posts. Visualize your target audience as you learn to blend being relational with your professional author voice.
Learn from what other authors are doing.
Follow what other authors in your genre are doing to promote themselves and their books on social media. They’ll have a more robust following, but you may get ideas you can adapt to enhance your own social media strategy. New authors may get discouraged over a slow growth of followers, but this is one area in which they can benefit from those who’ve captured readers before them.
TIP: Look for published authors who write books similar to yours and follow them on social media. Learn from what they do in terms of marketing their book. Author personalities are different so identify what is working for them on the platforms you’re comfortable using and formulate your own ideas.
How well do you separate your professional you from your personal you on your author website, blog, and other social media? What ways have you found helpful to reinforce your brand?
These 3 tips to enhance your marketing efforts don’t require a lot of time. Click to Tweet.
Reinforce your author brand and social media following with these 3 tips. Click to Tweet.
Great post, and some really useful and practical tips – thanks!
Keeping boundaries is important, and they need to be quite high, because there are unbalanced people out there, and being stalked is no fun. I was, when I was tutoring in grad school – an unbalanced student showed up at my house several times, and when I asked him to stop, he pulled a knife. It was not the smartest thing he might have done.
Some further suggestions I’d make –
* Be magnanimous – be free in suggesting other authors’ books and social media platforms. It’s classy, and class counts.
* Understand the audience – look at other authors’ social media, and sift through comments from fans. What do they particularly like? Do they talk about anything they dislike? Keep a notebook when you do this – don’t just scan.
* Ask for feedback, and acknowledge it – if you have a blog, try to set up your posts so they’ll elicit a response. Same with FB postings. And when they do respond – respond back in a timely manner.
* Be an expert – take the time to be an expert in some aspect of your genre. This is especially important for historical fiction, since accurate details can make or break a book. If you’re writing about the antebellum South, learn about the most sought-after china patterns, or engraved “visiting cards”.
* Have a cause – again, if you’re writing about the antebellum South, use your platform to support historical preservation. If you’re writing about the navajo, suggest donations to a charity that supplies firewood for tribal elders. Be engaged beyond your own work, and show that engagement and enthusiasm; others will be caught up as well.
* Be 3-D – have a visible life beyond writing, but be careful. First, don’t make activities too identifiable in terms of places, time , or participants. Second, be sensitive to what your readers expect. If you’re writing about upper-class life in Edwardian Surrey, showing a delight in NASCAR is just a tad jarring. It may be true, but needn’t be shared.
* Don’t fake it – if you really don’t like opera, don’t claim to be a fan. Again, you don’t have to share everything you like, but don’t try to curry favor by being something you’re not.
* Don’t be a Pharisee – be resolutely Christian in your outlook, but don’t wear it on your sleeve like a phylactery (ever wonder where “wearing it on your sleeve” came from?). Witness in what you do, not in what you proclaim – because it’s about His Glory shown through the work of your hands, not about yours shown in a public display of faith.
* Remember that not everyone will like you – so don’t get caught up in arguments on social media. Acknowledge a negative comment, and let it go, even to the point of not defending an unjust criticism. No one will remember it twenty minutes from now, unless you keep it alive.
* Be apolitical – don’t use your platform as a bully pulpit for political causes, no matter what they mean to you. There are other venues for that.
Andrew, your valuable suggestions put meat on the bones of any good marketing strategy. And may we always remember to “Witness in what [we] do, not in what [we] proclaim–because it’s about His Glory shown through the work of [our] hands, not about [ours] shown in a public display of faith.” That’s a good reminder for all of us in our industry, in a marketing approach and in daily conduct.
Love these helpful suggestions, Andrew.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I wouldn’t pull a knife on you, but if we were at that certain Mexican restaurant in Belen, I’d get Barbara to distract you wheile I stole your chicken fajita.
Don’t worry, I’d only steal the chicken. You could keep the lettuce.
At some point, this guy’s comments should be compiled for a wonderful guest post!
Wonderful points, Andrew. I always enjoy reading your comments.
Great advice here, Mary! Andrew nailed some key points in his comment as well. I recently started an author page on Facebook and have enjoyed sharing books I’ve read that my future readers would enjoy. To me, it removes the concept of “competition” and builds a sense of camaraderie. I love books and my future readers love books, so it’s a great way to build common ground and trust.
Sarah, that’s a great way to blend the professional you with valuable relationship building. They’ll get to know you and you’ll get to know your growing audience. It will reap a double benefit for you–and them.
Mary, thanks for these tips. I’m still figuring out how to use social media intentionally. Your third tip especially spoke to me. I need to study authors more. 🙂
I also agree with you about keeping healthy boundaries on social media. I try not to share things that are too personal. And I don’t share many specifics about my family, for their protection. It’s wise to not share too much. Facebook feels safer than it is.
Great post today!
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I remember begging you, Jeanne T, to blog. But you were cautious, which I totally understand.
Then I remember that you gave away ZERO about your private life, and you still impress me with how well you guard your privacy.
Over these many months and years, I have come to a place in which I consider your advice to be some of the most valuable I’ve ever received. I still can’t believe I am blessed enough to call you friend!!
Mary, your marketing posts are always helpful. In light of your comments about professional vs. personal, I’m examining my own posts and wondering if you (or anyone else) could give some concrete examples of what might be too personal. My blog has a homeschooling mom theme, and readers of those blogs generally expect some level of personal information. I’m careful (I hope!) not to share specifics, but I do post about mundane activities because my readers connect with that. For example, yesterday — “Four large-capacity loads of laundry later, I can see the bottom of the hamper. Victory! (For now….)” Too personal? Unprofessional? Yet, I had several more likes than I anticipated. I watch other authors, and, quite frankly, I enjoy the authors best who post a bit about their lives. Maybe that’s still professional? You’ve hit on an issue that’s been on my mind for a while. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.
Meghan, I am not a pro, but I think these kinds of posts are what women relate to and I find that posts like this actually grow my audience.
Angela, you bring up an interesting point for me – because I’m a guy, and women in the 35-60 age group are my core audience.
Not that men can’t relate to what I write, but my ‘pitch line’ that “love and marriage are the greatest adventures in this life” isn’t something with which most men immediately identify.
The social media demographics seem to be working out – most of the FB, Twitter, and blog followers are female.
It’s something I’m working through be staying more platform oriented – my blog is exclusively about Christian marriage, and FB and tweets either support the blog or give general life-affirmations – but if you have any suggestions on how someone in my position could be more ‘3-D’ without it looking contrived, I’d be grateful.
Meghan, posting about your victory over the laundry seems appropriate for your homeschooling blog, which I suspect is much more relational than professional. But unless your brand and your books revolve around homeschooling, your followers on this blog won’t necessarily be your readers. You may need to start another professional author blog, where you switch to professional gear and post about things having to do with writing and the settings and themes of your books. Invite your homeschooling followers over to your writer blog too.
Thanks for a very helpful post, Mary.
It shows me that with a well thought out plan, effective marketing is possible. Even for someone that struggles with it – like me.
Jim, if you’re struggling, perhaps the best model to follow is…wait for it…Jesus.
He combined boldness and confidence in His work (“Today you see before you the prophecies fulfilled…”) with humility that recognized whence He came (“I can do only what I’ve seen My Father do.”)
And, as shown by His washing the feet of the Apostles, He attended to the needs of His followers.
For a writer, that means confidence in your work, recognizing that you were the facilitating channel of that particular aspect of God’s love for us.
And it means understanding that, in social media, you are there to serve. You’re there to meet a need that your readers have, and you understand that they’ve placed a trust in you by coming to you with that need.
The greatest of all must be the servant of all. That’s writing, in a single sentence.
“You are there to serve” is just perfect, Andrew. It changes my mindset. When it comes to marketing, instead of focusing on what I’m looking to receive, I need to focus on what I am giving.
Lord willing, what I’m giving is a benefit to the reader.
When I first focused on “to whom much is given, much is required” the “much is required part made the responsibility seem to fall on me. I needed to reverse the verse to realize it’s all about Jesus.
“To whom much is required, much is given.”
I don’t advocate reversing scripture, but sometimes we need to look at things from another angle. 🙂
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Believe it or not, I have lines in social media that I will not cross.
My husband detests the limelight. Oh, he’s fine around a bunch of geneticists discussing naturally occuring 5 needle pine mutations …
Hey! Wake up, I’m still talking!
…ahem…as I was saying…but, he doesn’t even like posing for photos.
He is happy to stay in the shade while I bask in the sun. Me and my #60 SPF.
I keep my private life private. It’s not hard. Just keep a lid on things.
And although I know all kinds of people visit my blog, I write from the stand point of “can I show this to my mom?”
So, here’s how I keep my blog and my brand simple: I tell the truth, I write like *me* and, and I don’t heap shame upon the heads I love. Or show pictures of my kids when they cut their own hair.
In terms of marketing, I actually have a hard time separating “marketing” from the “I’m so excited that my friend has a new book out, so I’ll happily share it all over the place”-ing.
Good points about family – their privacy’ important, too.
You do a great job with FB and your blog, Jennifer (except that the subscription doesn’t tell me when new posts are up!). It’s personal, in the way to which most people can relate.
I think that’s the key – that a personal side has to offer a connection that breeds “fellow feeling”. If your life’s a bit obscure – say, you have 26 dogs and you’re looking for mental techniques to overcome incapacitating pain – it’s better to keep a lower personal profile and concentrate on thematic platform.
Andrew, do you think a thematic platform is less of a personal platform? Or can they merge seamlessly?
Jenni, that’s a good question.
A thematic platform is less personal in that it addresses values more in the abstract, without a personally experiential basis.
But at some level, they do have to merge seamlessly, because the thematic platform’s grounded in an author’s values. That merging can be implicit, but it has to be there.
Look at C.S. Lewis – his apologia is rooted in his conversion to Christianity, and the ‘fingerprints’ of God’s work on him are all over his books, but there’s really very little of Clive Staples in there. He’s the ‘house’, so to speak, in which we’re learning about our faith. And yet the places we sit, the light by which we read…that’s all him. (The exceptions are “Surprised By Joy”, and his book about his writings about his relationship with Joy Davidman.)
Contrast this with Norman Vincent Peale’s writing. Dr. Peale is always ‘there’, since so much of his platform was formed by his experience as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church. You get a very strong sense of his personality and values through his anecdotes (I remember well his ticking off a young lady who was ‘bored’ in her marriage and thinking of divorce…she left, in his word, ‘stunned’.)
Obviously, this is platform-development-through-literary-body-of-work, but I think that it carries over to today’s working environment, in how we approach social media.
There’s no ‘right’ answer, except for the individual. C.S. Lewis’ ‘day job’ was as a professor of medieval literature, and it would not have contributed much to his platform in the way of personal perspective. His conversion did, and he wrote about it, but beyond that his platform was better served by more of a ‘third-person’ approach. And this was proper, since, as an apologist, he was dealing with the abstract, making a case for Christianity, and the last thing he could do was say, “You should believe it because it’s so real to ME!”
Peale’s early life and pastoral career served to flesh out the theme of his writing, and his eye for anecdote (and, sometimes, the absurd) gave warmth and color to his writing. It also gave pertinent examples, since he wrote books directed at helping people find their best potential in the context of a God-filled life.
It’s kind of like the difference between Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk; the cool logic, and the impetuous emotion. Both are needed on the bridge of the Enterprise, and both are needed in the service of the Lord.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Spock and CS Lewis. Dude, you blow me away.
You could actually take it further, and say that Kirk represents the active, and Spock the contemplative.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Kirk represents. The. Active. And Spock. The Contemplative?
See what I did there? Huh? Do ya?
(Who gets to kiss the cutie alien chick with the beehive hairdo?)
Sure. Consider the volcano scene in “Star Trek Into Darkness”.
Spock accepts the necessity of following the Prime Directive, whose implicit function is to prevent contamination of an ‘innocent’ culture with that of a ‘fallen’ world. He accepts his impending death, since there’s no way to rescue him without breaking the Directive, and assumes a physical and mental posture of both submission and hope – kneeling, arms to his sides, hands supinated.
meanwhile Kirk is going nuts trying to find a way to save his friend – which we, tending to the active, can more easily understand.
But ion that situation, who would not prefer Spock’s serenity? Death can’t be outdistanced, and in the end we would hope to meet it with composure and expectation.
As for who gets to kiss the alien chick with the beehive hairdo, I have no idea!
But my money would be on Scotty. Scotsmen may be economical of gesture, but they’re often profligate with passion (cf. Macbeth).
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Pretend I just smacked your shoulder.
You missed the Kirk Grammar!!!
But hey, great answer.
Once again, my morning meditation with Tozer’s “Pursuit of God” speaks to today’s blog topic. Regarding PRETENSE, Tozer says, “By this I mean not hypocrisy, but the common human desire to put the best foot forward and hide from the world our real inward poverty . . . There is hardly a man or woman who dares to be just what he or she is without doctoring up the impression.”
As a Christian, I want to be genuine. But I’m thinking Tozer was more about personal relationships than today’s social media. I confess to doctoring up some of the impressions I post on Facebook and editing out some of my inward poverty.
I do better in my non-fiction Christian life WIP, which I hope will someday be published. Sounds like I want people to pay to see my inward poverty. Sheesh!
Tozer’s right, but he’s wrong, too.
Think of the story of the prodigal son. When he came home, his father didn’t sit the boy down at the table in the clothes in which he arrived…no, he called for his best robes.
He did it so the boy could feel better about himself. So he’d feel loved, and worth more than he’d assumed for so long.
Yes, the “inward poverty” was still there; he was probably thin, and very likely had parasites. But when he put on the robes (and was undoubtedly bathed and perfumed) he became the model of the new man that it was his destiny to become.
So too, our inner poverty. It’s there, but putting our best foot forward can be consistent with putting on Christ. We know what we are, but we reach for what we can be…and that’s the example we want to show the world, what a Christian can be.
Kind of like the old couplet…
Two men looked through prison bars;
one saw mud, the other, stars.
Our poverty is our prison, but the stars await, if we take Jesus’ hand.
Thank you, Andrew, for your provocative perspective. Mentally, I’m walking around the track while your thoughts are running the hurdles–or per your couplet, my neurons are trudging through mud and yours are leaping toward the stars.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Shirlee, you pretty much nailed it for the vast majority of us.
But I could still beat him in Scrabble.
Shirlee, in your comments here, you come across as warm, faith-filled, and nothing if not genuine.
Reading what you contribute is always a treat.
And Jennifer…yeah, you probably could beat me at Scrabble.
But I can still smile while (oops!) scratching an itch on my nose with the hot end of a welding rod.
Yeah. Did it again…
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Excellent post, Mary. I love talking marketing and am always looking to improve what I do. For a long time I was great about keeping my professional life and personal life separate, but the way the country is going, I’m having a harder and harder time remaining publicly quiet about my concerns. I actually stood out for a local candidate this election cycle because of her support for a key issue.
What I still do, however, is keep my blog more professional than personal. I give a hint of what I’m about and the things that are important to me, but mostly I’m sharing my regular Bible reading, Sunday school lessons I’ve created, vacation Bible school ideas, and youth ministry resources.
I admire people who are publicly political. I am very personal on my blog, but never political, even on my private Facebook. I have no problem posting about my faith and beliefs, but I cringe when it comes to politics. I just feel I’m not knowledgeable enough and I dread being dragged into a debate.
I think you hit an important point. Sharing potentially divisive beliefs (like things that aren’t essential, just denomination-specific) or polarizing political viewpoints may turn some readers away. Which is fine if you have that kind of ministry, but if you’re a fiction writer hoping to reach a wide variety of audiences, it might be best to avoid those kinds of posts.
Of course, that never applies when it comes to the gospel, no matter what our genre is. Talk about divisive, but absolutely essential!
My blog and Facebook are pretty personal, but that is how readers know me. It would be weird to change to a professional voice all of a sudden. I don’t share intimate details, but my voice is very casual and I am honest about my life and struggles. I share pictures of my messy laundry room and admit that I was put into surgical menopause last year and I’m still carrying the 15 pounds I gained as a result.
Maybe this is because I started off with a personal blog and I am transitioning into being a fiction writer. But some of my favorite writers that I follow are very personal and it works for them.
However, I do have lines I don’t cross. I may share my struggles or bad habits I’m working on, but I don’t discuss anything negative about anyone else. My husband and kids get approval of anything I post regarding them before I post it. They have veto power and have used it! Especially with photos!
I think there is a way of being personal, but still being professional and it’s worth looking into. And, like you said above, watching those writers I think are doing it well!
Angela, it sounds like you and the writers you follow may have found that good blend of personal and professional. Having drawn a line of privacy for your family, consider how an agent might respond before you decide to post something personal. And haven’t you noticed subtle differences in the way you write to friends and family and the tone, sentence construction, and word choices of your professional writing? That is reflected in your blog posts as well.
All great points, Mary–especially number one. We need to know and understand our genre if we want to be competitive in it, and gain new readers. There is a fine balance between “fitting in” and “standing out.” With so many great authors out there, we don’t want to be overlooked. There is a risk involved for readers when investing time and money in a new author. If an author doesn’t hook them with a unique angle, why would they take a chance with their investment? The extra work it takes to be unique is well worth the effort.
I loved your idea of watching other authors in our genre on social media to see what they’re doing well. I instantly thought of a couple that I really enjoy following. They have a great balance between being relatable and professional. They share their passion for history, their faith, and their families–but they do it in a way that is respectful to all three. Just like we need to give breadcrumbs when we share backstory in our manuscripts, we also need to give little breadcrumbs of our personal lives. Don’t give people enough to feast on (to our detriment)!
Well stated from both vantage points, Gabrielle.
Branding: It’s a marathon not a sprint.
So, for gosh sakes ladies, wear the right shoes!
Unless the lady in question is Zola Budd, who ran distance events barefoot…
So, for that matter, did Abebe Bikila, who won the men’s 1960 Olympic marathon in Rome.
Some very helpful tips, thanks. 🙂
I try very hard to keep my professional me separate from my personal me. Sometimes this is a fine line. I try to blend the themes of my books into parts of my personal life without going over the top. The secret is to be aware of how far I’m crossing over in the blend and knowing when to stop. Often it means stepping back and looking at my posts from a readers point of view.