Monday, February 10, 2020

A Marketing Roadmap for Writers

Many things about the writing and publishing process stand to make a writer insecure, but none more so than marketing. A lot of writers can’t stand the term or its connotations. We are making art, and marketing is all about selling (ugh) a product (yuck). It feels sleazy and snake-oil-y and self-promotional in a way that leaves many creatives uncomfortable. 
But it’s also necessary. Because nobody’s going to do it for you before you’re published … and many authors find that the marketing funnel doesn’t exactly “click on” magically after their books come out, either. Even if a publisher is hands-on, the real burden falls to the creator to sell that book! Seasoned authors know this all too well. They have learned, maybe the hard way, that if their book didn’t “perform” to expectations, their future prospects and advances could be affected. Indie authors already know the necessity of marketing. Long gone is the era of “If you build it (or put it up on Kindle), they will come.” Self-published authors have to lead them, sometimes with paid tactics, if they hope to make a sale.

So how do we square art and commerce? The age-old question. Here are four marketing tips you can use now—no matter where you are in your journey—to start making headway with the necessary evil of book and self-promotion. 

Build your platform: You’re probably sick of hearing that you need to have a platform. Especially if you’re not published yet. What does an unpublished writer’s platform even look like? The bare minimum is a welcoming, clean, and simple website. A main page, an About Me page, a Contact page, and one for your projects (already released or in progress). Make sure you have a way to collect email addresses from fans (more on this later). As for what else you need? Some people will say that you’ll want to register with each platform (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.), oh, and start blogging. As if we all have unlimited time! I say, yes, you may want to investigate these platform-building social networks … eventually. For now, pick one that you can really dive into. Does Facebook make you nauseous, but you’re a highly visual person? Instagram and Pinterest are your friends. Post semi-frequently—to avoid burnout—and follow marketing best practices: share mostly content that your audience will find interesting, instead of megaphoning about yourself and your work.

Play the expert card: We live in a 24/7 news cycle, and the outlets looking for fresh content multiply seemingly every day. All of those websites, blogs, news outlets, and social media feed need stuff. (You know this well, as you try to fill your own feeds.) And they’d ideally like stuff from experts. Well, hang out your shingle. What’s your book about? If it’s nonfiction, this is a no-brainer. But if it’s fiction, is it set in a place? During a historical event? Is your protagonist working in a type of industry that you’ve researched. Well, why not call yourself an expert in that thing, event, place, or whatever? Do yourself a favor and sign up for HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Three times a day, you’ll receive a list of call-outs for sources from reporters working on stories. It’s a mixed bag. Some days, you will find absolutely nothing. Other days, you will find a reporter looking to speak to an expert in your field, and they will want to talk to you. This is a great way to attach some very legitimate media to your name and topic.

Give it away: Readers love free stuff. And I know that your words come to you painfully and are very valuable but … as you establish yourself, you’ll need to give some of them away. Readers will want to get to know you, your voice, your style, so write a special short story or clip the first few chapters of your book, throw this little teaser into a PDF and give it away. You may want to give it a nice cover and formatting, but otherwise, your investment in this piece of marketing will be low. All you want from your potential readers in return? Their email address. It’s very easy to send digital downloads as a response to someone signing up for your newsletter. A lot of powerful email marketing tools like Mailchimp are free or cheap for small lists. So reward people who want to know more about you by giving some of your writing away. You may win a reader for life, who will pay next time. This technique, or strategically making your ebook free on the Kindle store surrounding your next release, is called the “reader magnet” and is a powerful way of attracting readers. If you have ARCs or physical copies of your book available, run a giveaway on your social media channel of choice. You can stipulate that entrants need to share the giveaway or follow all of your social handles to be eligible.

Don’t toil alone: Some writers look around them in their Amazon genre or category, or on the indie bookstore shelves, and see competition. Instead, see opportunity. All of those writers are clearly doing something right, and all of them are working their own marketing. Team up. Not just for the social support of sharing tips or learning via others’ mistakes, but for strategic connections. If you write romance, my guess is that you’re targeting romance writers. And that the people around you on the shelves have the same readership. So run a joint giveaway. Promote one another’s releases. Ask to run interviews or guest posts in their email newsletters, and offer them the same in return. Writing is solitary. Stressing out about your social media platform is often done in isolation. But not all marketing efforts have to happen solo.

My goal here is to give you a few actionable tips for your own marketing. And I also hope I’ve done something a bit sneakier—inspired a mindset reset of sorts. Everyone has to market. Yes, your art should be good enough that it stands on its own … but even great art needs a boost. If you think of marketing as a supportive, holistic part of your writing career, maybe it becomes less intimidating or overwhelming or dirty. It’ll never become less important, so dive in. After all, as they say: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

Leave your marketing questions and strategies in the comments!

Connect with Mary Kole: Good Story Company: (writing and publishing children's books) (editorial and consulting services)

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WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction 
for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers 
from Writer's Digest Books! Amazon | Goodreads


nashvillecats2 said...

Excellent post and tips I will remember Lee. Thanks.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Teaming up is a great idea. Make friends and get help - and give help!
Great tips, Mary.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I really want to team up if I ever get published. I'm not so comfortable with the public presentations and I'd feel less insecure if I did it in a group.

Juneta key said...

Great post and tips.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Authors need to do all of those things as most of the marketing does fall to them.

Anne R. Allen said...

Great tips, Mary! Excellent overview.

Pat Hatt said...

Yep, comes back to the author in the end indeed. Teaming up is a good idea. And picking the social media you like best to really focus on does make it better.

cleemckenzie said...

Mary comes through with simple, effective tips! I'm really glad I teamed up with such a great group as this one.

Fundy Blue said...

Thanks for the great tips, Mary!

Tyrean Martinson said...

I like that saying you ended with about planting a tree. It seems pretty applicable to me at this moment in life.
Great tips on marketing. I shared a bit on Instagram for IWSG.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Thanks Mary! These are excellent tips...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee and Mary - what a great post ... thank you - I shall keep this around for reference purposes - cheers Hilary

Jack Rendon said...

Thank you so much for the tips on marketing. I’ve been getting more curious on how to put works out there to be noticed, but I’ve been unsure of the proper steps to take. I’m well-versed in using social media, but I haven’t been able to determine the best way to get my work noticed. Initially, I was uncertain about posting official work online for free, but I’ve come to understand that at the very least, it’s a viable way of being noticed. My biggest obstacle of marketing myself is being afraid that my work will be immediately panned, but I realize that it’s going to take courage if I ever want to be noticed, whether the reception is positive or negative.