Now is a weird time to promote your work as a creative person. Unless you’re wealthy and don’t need to worry about how to make a living, or you have a gig that’s unaffected by COVID-19, we still have stuff to sell. As authors, that means we still need to sell our books because we have bills to pay, too. The kink in the chain comes when buyers, in this case, readers, are also affected because they don’t have the disposable income they may usually have to spend on books.
On one hand, we don’t want to appear to be opportunistic with constant BUY MY BOOK! tweets and posts (and please, if you have learned anything from me, you really shouldn’t be doing that anyway). I mean, come on. People are sick and dying. This is a terrifying reality and not the time to be flaunting our wares.
On the other hand, we are writers. Storytellers. Artists. Books are a wonderful diversion from real life. And real life right now is anxiety-provoking and difficult.
What to do?
Far from devaluing our work as writers, going free for a limited time (e.g., via KDP Select or some other method) or offering our ebooks for 99c is a win/win because we share our work without worrying about profiting on misfortune, and our work is reaching a wider audience it may not have without these promotions.
Now is a great time to offer signed, print copies (or ARCs, if you’re close to launching) of our books, especially considering that most retailers (aka, Amazon) don’t see print books as ‘essential,’ so giving them away is especially generous. Add gift cards? Golden. For the author, having people go through various steps (e.g., follow me on Twitter, sign up for my newsletter, etc.) builds even more connections.
A Facebook Launch Party can be great for building connections with one’s demographic IF done properly and IF your expectations are realistic: that you’ll likely not sell a lot of books, yet you’ll connect with your readership, and build relationships and visibility for future sales. If you have a FB Street Team (more on that below), you’ll gain new membership and new followers on other channels and newsletter subscribers. Have realistic expectations with launch parties – I’ve yet to see a launch party sell a large number of books.
Now can be a great time to set up some kind of free course or summit. In my case, May 1-15th is year three of #NaNoProMo (National Novel Promotion Month) here on my website. NaNoProMo is a completely nonprofit event to help writers learn how to promote their books, where I bring in experts daily for those two weeks (via blog posts) and offer giveaways from the experts. If you’ve participated the last two years and won some of these amazing giveaways, you know exactly how beneficial these events are.
If an author doesn’t have a street team, now is a great time to create one, however, I caution any author to not jump into this unless they have a body of work behind them. I didn’t start my street team until I had published 4 books. Now I have 6 books out, and 2 more coming out this year. Street Teams are a great way to share insider info, create giveaways just for them, and you have a built-in group of beta and ARC – readers. That said, if your book is on a topic that readers can relate to or really get behind (e.g., a health issue, pets, cooking), or the author has a recognizable name already, it’s possible to create a Street Team and people will jump right in.
See if there’s a chat already on your topic – if so, participate in it yet don’t be a ‘know-it-all’ and be self-promotional – hosts hate that. If a topic doesn’t exist, create one. Be forewarned though, chats take coordination and commitment. I’ve created two weekly chats, #SexAbuseChat every Tuesday, 6 pm pst/9 pm est, and #BookMarketingChat, every Wednesday, 6 pm pst/9 pm est. I’ve been doing these chats every week for about 5-6 years. You need to pick a weekly topic, research it, invite guests, and share summaries (I also create blog posts from the chat). This can help immensely in your Twitter growth and author branding.
You can schedule these in your own Street Team, or coordinate with an author influencer on Instagram, FB, Twitter, or YouTube to do these live. Invite readers to attend and ask you questions about your inspirations, writing process, books, writing life, cats, etc.
Manage your time. That means both marketing and writing. Schedule in your social media using some kind of social media management tool. I’m a long-time user of both Hootsuite and Buffer. I prefer Hoot because I can reply and RT right from the dashboard, though I find Buffer’s analytics easier to use and prefer their mobile version. Both offer free trials so people can try them and see which they prefer.
Create a hashtag with a purpose. Example: I created #MondayBlogs about 8 years ago because I wanted writers to have a way to share our blog posts and get out of the book self-promo rut. Now, 10-15K people participate each week. Anyone can participate, not just writers – the goal is to share blog posts on Mondays. No book self-promo. It’s easy and people benefit from it. This helped brand me as that chick who helps other writers. Writers are my demographic. Win/win!
If you haven’t started email marketing, now is the time. More people read their email than read a spammy “Buy my book!” spammy DM, so spend your efforts connecting with readers through interesting, value-added emails. Again, now’s not the time to be shoving your book down their throat; instead, share how you’re coping, what you’re reading, watching, listening to.
The bottom line with all of these strategies: be authentic. We’re all human, and we’re all struggling to deal with this massive change to our daily lives. Want more ideas? Read this list from Constant Contact.
Keep in mind, this crisis will end sooner than later. Making a ton of money on your book sales might not be realistic and that’s okay. Take this ‘quiet’ time to write if you can AND do the marketing you say you don’t have time to do when you’re not stuck at home.
Read more of my tips on Jane Friedman’s latest Hot Sheet!
What are you doing to sell books right now? To connect with readers? Please share your experiences and ideas below. Have you signed up yet for my newsletter? If not, sign up now to receive my 10 free blogging tips!
*All of my eBooks are either 99c or $2.99 right now. My bestselling eBook, The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge, is only $2.99 (regular price: $7.99). Click here to download the updated 2020 edition!)
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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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