Book marketing is not optional for 21st century writers. The days of writing books and letting someone else handle all that messy stuff related to readers is long past. Writers often feel a steady but relentless tension between the responsibility to write and the obligation to represent their work to the world.
Authors are publishing 3,000 books every day in the States alone, which creates the problem of discoverability — authors can’t rely on traditional media or presence in a bookstore anymore to connect to readers. The readers are fragmented into different audiences, shopping and getting their information in different places, and thus writers have to adjust. However, that doesn’t mean that marketing is something you should dread. It’s not about self-promotion or trying to sell something — marketing by definition is the collection of things you do over time to build positive name recognition.
Three Things You Need to Know About Book Marketing
is a collection of
There’s no magic trick to ensure your long-term sales success. If you paid for a single ad or had one big national media interview or gave social media a try for a good solid week, that’s not going to be enough to solidify your reputation long-term and keep your book in front of people. Last week’s media hit or great blog review will barely affect your sales this week, let alone some event that you did a long time ago. That’s why keeping the long-term strategy idea in mind is important.
a reputation over time
You can’t build your reputation overnight, which is why efforts can’t be limited to book release season for an author. There’s a difference between marketing, which is a long-term strategy, and publicity, media outreach, or advertising, which happen specifically during that short time period when your book comes out. Marketing, on the other hand, starts as soon as you decide to publish and lasts as long as you want your book to be in front of other people.
positive name recognition
Marketing is not about making a book sale, but about gaining familiarity and trust, sharing with people, and building relationships. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for how this works. Marketing is determined by a lot of factors, some of which you can’t control, such as cultural trends, but there are a lot of things you can do.
Building Your Book Marketing Strategy
What your book is about?
What is the “hook” that makes your project something a stranger would want to read? Make sure you know what genre you’re writing in and what sets you apart from others as an author. The hook is one to two sentences about your work that leaves the listener wanting to know more.
Who is your core audience?
Your core audience is the first hundred strangers who will find your work and be drawn to it strictly by its content. Make sure you know what the reader is looking for and how your readers spend their leisure time.
What are you good at?
Take an honest inventory of your strengths and abilities. Marketing works best when you combine your talents with the places where your audience is. Make sure you know your own likes, dislikes, interests, and how they align with your core audience.
Your Author Platform
Knowing all these things will prepare you to make those smart strategic decisions about long-term marketing, which we refer to as your “platform” in publishing — long-term engagement with a target audience that establishes name recognition and trust. A platform is what you do publicly over time to increase the number of people who trust you and will be your long-term supporters. You can either use it to build your audience (readers) and/or reach influencers who can bring you their followers. Every author builds their platform in a slightly different way, which goes back to what you’re good at and where your audience is gathering. (Hint: you don’t have to tweet if you don’t want to, but it’s crucial to have at least a website so that you’re Google-able and there’s a place where people can come to find out more about you!)
Having an Author Website is Crucial
Make sure that your website is updated regularly
Your website should be something you can easily modify and update to keep track of your style and/or project changes. (The Authors Guild can help with this!)
Make sure it is based around your author presence
This is not a website about all of the different facets of who you are — it’s a website about things that your reader is looking for. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes.
Four Ways to Build Your Author Platform
Once you’ve established your platform, you can think about ways to grow it. Here are four popular, proven ways you can try:
Publish short pieces of work
Blogs, short stories, and articles build your respect as a writer, either on your website or in established news outlets or anthologies.
Fans, tweets, pins! Social media works for authors who are comfortable being social online, have the gift of natural engagement, and are great in small pockets of real-time. Ask yourself which social media channel your readers use and with which one you’re most comfortable before opting for the weapon of your choice. Try and follow the 80/20 rule, which says that 80% of your content should be of value to your audience, while 20% might be of value to you.
Look at your life to see if perhaps you’re already doing marketing that you’re not thinking about as marketing. Sign up at your local writers conference or be part of an authors community such as the Authors Guild and help other authors.
Speaking and teaching
You don’t need to address conference halls, but getting face to face with people can spread your message and build your credibility. If you’re a talker, look at community colleges’ enrichment programs, storytelling community groups, or opportunities at local conventions, conferences and community centers. Bring your mailing list to these events to increase your readership!
So, what about you? What are things you can commit to doing on a long-term basis to build relationships with your readers? Where are the places that would excite you to connect with them? Pick one or two and settle in! Remember that this is about building positive impressions and relationships and is not a scary or negative thing — marketing might just turn out to be something you actually enjoy!
For more detailed tips, information, and a Q&A section, watch the complete webinar, Long-Term Marketing Strategies for Authors, with book marketing expert Beth Jusino.
Beth Jusino is an award-winning writer, developmental editor, teacher, and publishing consultant with 20 of experience helping individuals share better stories.
Beth is the author of the award-winning The Author’s Guide to Marketing: Make a Plan That Attracts More Readers and Sells More Books (You Might Even Enjoy It)(Sharper Words Press, 2014) and the travel memoir Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago (Mountaineers Books, 2018).