“Marketing is so haaaard.” is the collective whine of so many grown-ups that have chosen the unfortunate career of author.
Here’s the deal, people. You’re thinking about it all wrong. Marketing isn’t something you do to sell your book. It’s not a pain in the butt that takes away from your writing time. Marketing is writing, and you’re a writer.
It’s an opportunity to practice your craft, just in a different format. As Hemingway said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” If you’re marketing is failing, chances are you’re not bleeding quite enough outside the pages of your book.
So here’s the deal. Stop “marketing your book” and start connecting with your readers. Write non-book content that people will enjoy reading. Do a podcast or video posts that invite new and old readers alike into your world. True fans are the ones who like you and your outlook on the world. It’s great to sell books in a blitz, but not at the expense of true audience building.
Case in point: John Green didn’t grow his fan base by posting on Twitter that his book was for sale. He did it by keeping a video blog with his brother for years. It was something he clearly loved doing, and a lot of other people loved it too. The videos weren’t promotional material, but he sold a whole lot of books because of them.
So let’s talk nuts and bolts on how to get that strategy in order. This is where a little bit of time being business-y goes a long way. So make a few decisions, make a list or two, and stick to them. The categories outlined below should get you started:
Decide how often you’re going to post and write it down. This is a schedule for every single day, all year, not just the day before your book comes out. Remember, don’t market your book, connect with your readers.
A good basic schedule is:
- 5 short posts on social media every day
- 1 blog post a week
- 1 toss-up (this can be a video, a guest post, a short story, a piece of fan fiction…whatever your heart desires)
Social: give it 30-45 minutes a day. Post 1 or 2 things of your own, and use the other 3 posts to share things from your community.
Blog: One post a week can do wonders for your sales. It keeps you top-of-mind with your readers, and gives you something to talk about on your social networks.
A note on blogging: A blog to help your book sales needs to be focused on your readers, not other authors, so while it’s great to share tips and personal writing experiences, make sure that you’re also writing about the things that you personally love, and that you write about. At AuthorRise, we call this “complimentary content.” If you’re a romance novelist, this could look like writing about your views on modern romance, love, etc. If you’re a non-fiction writer, it’s even easier, just share your research and process. Simple!
Toss-up: Treat it like a blog post, do something once a week or once every other week. This is your chance to explore new mediums, help out fellow authors, and take risks with your writing that you wouldn’t take in a book.
Which channels you use will depend on your experience, your subject matter, and your personality. The important thing is to make a conscious decision and stick to it. So, what’s your combination?
Ideally, you’re working with a subset of:
- social media
- personal website
- in-person work
If you’re just getting started, pick two: a few social media outlets, and your blog. Why do you need to pick your channels and stick to them? Because if you’re jumping from Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest every week, or giving up on something too quickly, chances are you didn’t give it enough time to learn the ropes, grow your audience, and evaluate your progress. Before you switch from podcasting to Youtube videos, give it at least six months of focused effort.
Picking your content categories
This is a big one, and a tough one. If you want to create great non-book writing, you need to pick a few things that you’re going to write about. These are 3-5 big topics that form the foundation of all of your marketing. It’s important enough that if you can, write them down really big on a piece of paper, and put it up by your desk.
So what’s a content category? It’s a deep well of content that resonates with you personally, is appealing to your readers, and is something you can keep coming back to rather than having to decide every day “what am I going to write about?”
An example will help here: Say you write historical adventure novels. Your categories might be:
- Interesting tidbits and facts picked up in research
- True stories of real-life adventurers
- Profiles of modern-day adventurers
These three categories alone should provide enough material for at least a year of blogging, and most importantly, are just the kind of thing that readers love when they need something quick to read.
Finally we come to tracking. This one’s the most business-y of them all, but it’s also one of the most important. Set a few simple goals for yourself, and then keep track of how well you’re meeting them. If you don’t honestly measure your performance, how can you hope to improve?
Three basic goals that we always encourage with our members at AuthorRise are “posts per day,” “audience growth per week,” and “reader engagement.” (reader engagement is a measure of how many of your posts your readers are re-sharing or commenting on)
These three basic stats are easy to track and help you stay committed to doing a little bit every day rather than a big push at the last moment. And if you’re looking for a place to track all of that in one place, I can’t help but shamelessly plug my company AuthorRise!
Rinse and Repeat
Phew! We covered a lot of ground in a little space here, but the overall message is a simple one. Putting together a strategy for how you’ll grow takes a little bit of work, but doing the work to meet those goals every day adds up, just like your back-catalog. So keep at it, think long-term, and get busy!
Chris Weber, CEO, AuthorRise