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 What does an unpublished writer’s platform even look like?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:
https://goodstorycompany.com Good Story Company:
www.kidlit.com (writing and publishing children's books)
www.marykole.com (editorial and consulting services)
WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction
for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers