I’m asked this a lot and I’m constantly amazed by the sheer number of writers who are about to release their first book, or have already released their first book, and have zero marketing in place. Nothing, nada, oftentimes less than zero. They remind me of the college kid who walks into a final with a hangover and a broken pencil, hoping to pull the answers out of their you know where.
Unless you are a genius and your work is the best book ever in the history of the entire world (and if you think it is, you need a lesson in humility), you need to market your work. Trouble is, most writers have absolutely no idea where to start. Here’s just a quick smattering of the questions I receive in a given week:
I could write a book on these few topics alone, but I’ll address these issues here now and give you some tips about where to start.
You do. I do. Everyone needs to and in all likelihood, you already are and don’t even realize it. Do you talk about your book? That creates anticipation and expectation, aka marketing tactics. Share quotes or teasers? Also marketing tactics.
Marketing has been around since people started selling things and it’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. What IS marketing anyway? By definition, marketing consists of the strategies and tactics used to identify, create and maintain satisfying relationships with customers that result in value for both the customer and the marketer (Source: KnowThis.com).
Where to start? Marketing seems like a huge world we’ve never visited before, an expansive desert full of landmines and tripwires, right? There’s no map, either. Where the heck does a newbie writer start?
Depends on who you ask. Nobody gives you a straight answer. It’s damn frustrating. It was for me, too, and I had over a decade and a half of Big Pharma sales and marketing experience behind me. So here’s what you do: research. (Writers, we’re good at that.)
Read books about book marketing. See what the authors you enjoy are doing. Read their blogs, social media, pay attention to their promotions and how they word things. Read my blog here (I share everything I’ve done — the good and the bad), come to my weekly #BookMarketingChat* (on Twitter, every Wednesday 6pm pst/9pm est) to learn from me (and people far smarter than me) who know a lot about book marketing and the publishing industry, and then start interacting and asking questions.
*If you can’t make it, we summarize every chat and post it on our public Facebook Page. All previous chats are posted in the Book Marketing Chat Notes Section for easy access. So your excuse that you aren’t on Twitter or you have class on Wednesday night is poof — blown. Go.
You don’t need a marketing or business degree, but you do need to spend time learning. If you don’t have the time, hire me or someone else who has been there (and is still here), walking through the fire. Know this, though: start early, even before your book is out. Six months before, at the very least (more below).
I shared a post this week from Seth Godin, ‘Seth’s Advice for Authors’ which he wrote in 2006. I shared it because, while the tech and numbers have changed dramatically, the concepts are still sound. A few highlights:
He has a ton of great nuggets in this one article (go, go now and read it), but the point is this: even without a book, you still have plenty of ways to connect with readers, book bloggers, and reviewers. You don’t need a product because YOU are the product and this is what most writers don’t get or completely reject flat out.
It doesn’t matter what your existential objections are: in publishing, we brand the author, not (only) the book.
Blogging helps to do this. Even if your book is YA Fantasy Sci-Fi Erotica, you can still blog about your cookie recipes or your divorce. Authenticity rocks, baby. Be you. People will connect with the you that you are, and when your book is available for purchase, they will purchase it to support the you they’ve come to know. Remember, you are creating value for your reader.
Plus, you know, the whole SEO visibility bringing traffic to your site with fresh content blah blah which I’ve discussed ad nauseam thing. So, there’s that.
(Yes. Blogging is important!)
You are right. It doesn’t. Where did you get the idea that it would? However, social media helps you build relationships that will help you sell books.
Social media is social. It’s not one way BUY MY BOOK link blasts. If that’s all you’re doing, stop it now. If that’s all you are seeing, then you are following too many authors, and not enough readers, book bloggers, and reviewers — the influencers you need to be connecting with, right?
It’s not social media’s fault you are following the wrong people, and those people are using social media incorrectly. That’s on you.
You have work to do.
You need to be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (businesspeople buy books, right?) and at least one more visual channel: Pinterest (the third largest search engine after Google and YouTube. Yes, really.) or Instagram (or even Snapchat, though with the ephemeral nature of it, I’m not sold on it yet as a book marketing tool). Think about where your audience is: if you write YA, you need to be on Insta and/or Snapchat, where your book-buying demographic hangs out.
Take a look at the latest Pew Research reports for the breakdown of demographics — ‘as of January 2014, 74% of online adults use social networking sites.’
Godin states that 58% of U.S. adults will never read another book after high school (wow, that’s depressing). That means you have 42% of the population that does read as your potential demographic…kinda. Now you have to break that down into the chunks that read your particular genre. Now you have to find them — and if 74% of them are online on social media sites…why on earth wouldn’t you be online with them?
Because you’ve decided, in your wisdom based on…what, exactly? — that it’s stupid. If you are following the right people and using social media correctly (to build relationships and interact with readers) — it’s anything but stupid.
Here’s a quick breakdown (Source: Pew Research) of adults (18+) as of January 2014 (numbers do not add up to 100):
Long before it’s out. As Godin says, three years before you release it. That doesn’t seem realistic to most, so I find six months usually is best. Most authors start marketing three months after it’s out, when they’re in that ‘freak out, oh my god, what have I just done?’ phase. Don’t be that author.
The trick to pre-marketing is understanding what you want people to know about you, your book, and your brand. (The suggestions below apply, whether or not your book is out.) The difference is that you have time to really build authentic relationships with readers, instead of freaking out in desperation for someone, anyone dear gawd please to notice you in the sea of thousands of other books out now.
What if you are in that mix right now? Is there any hope? Yes. Here is what you can do:
You’ve spent months, if not years, writing your book. Now you need to spend time learning how to market it. Book marketing isn’t an option – there’s no magic bullet, so stop looking for one and get to work. Remember, you likely won’t write only one book. It gets easier each time. So start.
The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge is NOW available on Amazon! Want to jump-start your book sales and learn how to market your book in a month? Go buy this book right now.
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All content © 2018 by BadRedhead Media aka Rachel Thompson, author, unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.
Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and two live Twitter chats: #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with TheRuralVA, Emilie Rabitoy) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with C. Streetlights and Judith Staff. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.
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