Marketing Tips for Authors
Whether your book is still in a work in progress or you’ve got the final draft proofed and ready to roll, congratulations; you’re ready to take your brand to the next level. I know marketing is a daunting prospect. Believe me, I know. The good news is you already have all the tools you need, and can easily gain access to many more.
Make a Plan
As authors, we like to think we can do anything just by setting aside some time, sitting our butts down, and doing the work. That’ll only get you so far in marketing. There is very little success to be had by just posting when you feel like it.
How enthusiastic were you when you first started writing that book? How about half way in? And now, faced with entering the market and attempting to make your book stand out amongst millions? Have you ever had one of those days when you just aren’t feeling it, when you just know you suck, your book sucks, everything sucks? Can you dredge up some enthusiasm to write a Facebook post on those days?
That’s when a plan comes in handy. Even if you’re a panster, writing without an outline, a marketing plan is a must. When you have your story’s hook laid out-when you know who your protagonist is, what they want, and what’s stopping them-write your market copy. As you build your copy materials, a plan will naturally form. Actually, several ideas will pop up and you’ll feel brilliant. Write them all down, and then organize the ideas by practicality.
Log Line or Tag Line
Twitter’s 140 character limit is a thing of beauty for authors. #FP (Friday Phrases) especially teaches you how to write a compelling, concise log line or tag line. Good examples of compelling log lines are those featured on the New York Times best seller lists. These lines should be succinct and somewhat vague (a retired teacher, not Mrs. Candace Brown, for example) and include the protagonist, her goal, and her conflict.
Social Media Posts
You’ll use that log line repeatedly, especially in social media posts. Twitter has a character limit, so make sure you have a log line that allows space for a hashtag and a buy link as well. It’s okay to have multiple log lines, just make sure they are similar enough that they clearly represent the same book. If you use a retired teacher in one, use it in all of them, for example. Write several posts for each social media network you participate in, Facebook and Twitter being the most popular. Don’t spam these posts, though. The idea is to have a stock pile of six or seven for each platform and to post each one once a day at most. And if you write them while you’re still feeling enthusiastic about your book, it will show.
You’ll need a description for your book. Even if you’re publishing ebooks only, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords require a book description for your book’s page. This should be something similar to what you’d see on the back cover of a print copy. Read the terms and conditions of each retailer to ensure your copy adheres to their rules. Amazon’s KDP help page offers some advice on what to include in your book’s description, as well as what to avoid.
You should already have a bio, and it should be consistent across all platforms (social media, blogs, author pages, etc.). If that’s not the case, add this to your list of things to write. While this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do your book directly, your bio will be displayed on each of your book’s pages. The bio is your opportunity to give readers a glimpse of your voice, not just who you are. That bio can sell more books than you might imagine. Give it some personality and have it proofread; it matters.
Many people purchase ads with Goodreads or Facebook, for example. I’ve done so myself. However, many authors (including myself) have missed the point of those programs’ potential when setting the call to action, so conversion rates are dismal. Read up on the effectiveness of Goodreads or Facebook ads to sell books and you’ll see an overwhelming response of, “Don’t waste your money!” Here’s the thing, Facebook can get you friends, followers, and possibly newsletter subscribers; not book sales. A Goodreads ad can help get your book onto the virtual To Read bookshelves of thousands of its users; not sell your books. No matter which platform you’re using to advertise, make sure your call to action aligns with that platform’s purpose. Write your ads accordingly. Create three or four ads for each platform you plan to use, and be prepared to spend a month or so testing them to see which one gets the most clicks and the most conversions to sales. Editorial note: Get free Facebook ad lessons from author Mark Dawson.
I’m new to newsletter marketing, and learning by leaps and bounds. First things first, if you want people to sign up for your newsletter, show them what they’ll get if they do. Even better, give them a little something up front for signing up. For my editing site, I offer a free PDF for each subscriber, and clearly state what kind of e-mails they can expect to receive from me (editing tips).
Auto DMs are typically viewed with disdain. Automatic e-mails, sent only to users who have given you permission to do so, are a gift from the internet gods. I use MailChimp, but there are many programs to choose from. Research the features of your preferred program and find out how to set up an automatic e-mail to be sent to new subscribers so you can thank them and deliver the content as promised.
Remember there are people on the other end of those e-mails: talk to them as though you were sitting with them having coffee. Remember what you promised them, that’s the whole reason they gave you permission to e-mail them in the first place. You’re not just sending out a carefully crafted, painstakingly designed newsletter, you’re communicating with potential clients, readers, or even collaborators.
Don’t spam anyone’s inbox with a flux of random e-mails. A thank you e-mail is okay, even better if it contains a freebie if you’ve promised one (or even if you haven’t). A followup and “getting to know you” e-mail after a few days have passed is great, too. As a reader, I like those myself. If you’ll be sending e-mails weekly, let your subscribers know to expect frequent messages. If you only plan to e-mail them monthly or quarterly, let them know. The point is to make your intentions clear in the beginning, and continue to meet your subscribers’ expectations.
Networking (Guest Blog Posts/Blog Tours)
Many authors swear by blog tours, but I have little experience with those. Our very own Kate Tilton, however, is the bees knees with this sort of thing. Another of my favorite resources for all things book tour friendly is the author of the End of Days series Meg Collett. Yet another of my writing/blogging besties who’s really great at this is transgressive author Pavarti K. Tyler. If you’re like me and not so great with blog tours and Facebook events and such, follow one of these women on social media and watch the magic they weave. Learn from the pros.
For blog tours, there are countless blogs that accept authors as guests, and countless ways each blogger features an author. The trick (or the only one I’ve learned so far) is to find blogs that are a good match for you, bloggers who share your target audience.
Facebook events can be great fun for those who plan ahead. These events generally take place over a short period of time (about an hour), but can last for days. While they’re going on, it’s all you can do to keep up with the comments if there’s a good turn out. Scheduling your posts in a program like Hootsuite ahead of time can be a huge help. These events are all about having a good time and getting to know the community of folks who showed up. Great prizes are a bonus, and it doesn’t have to be just book swag.
Guest blog posts can be included in blog tours, but that term is typically reserved for “takeovers”, interviews, and book reviews. For those like me (I’m shy. No, really.), a guest blog post can be just the thing we need to reach out to a whole different kind of community. Just make sure you read and reply to the comments made on your post, and maybe even read a few other posts on the site and leave comments on those posts as well.
Just as you would with the blog tours, seek out guest blogging opportunities for blogs with an audience who wants to read what you plan to share. Some bloggers only offer interviews. With those blogs, I’ve found the interviews to be much more satisfying because the questions are tailored to each author, not copied and pasted from one to the next.
Read a few posts to get an idea of the blogger’s tone. You wouldn’t want to guest post your YA excerpt at an XXX rated blog, would you? On one hand, your YA book isn’t what XXX readers go there for. On the other, your YA readers really shouldn’t be scoping out an XXX rated blog.
Hire Help (Marketing Manager)
If all of this sounds like a bit too much work, there’s no shame in admitting you can’t do it all. Books take work. A lot of work. There’s the writing, editing, rewriting, re-editing, revising, and proofreading. Then there’s the cover, the interior design, the formatting and reformatting and reformatting until you can’t see straight. And then there’s all this to do with marketing.
None of us can do it all. When we try, some areas (if not all) will suffer. I see it every day, and I’m still fairly new to this industry. What’s worse, you can’t even see where you’ve fallen short because you’re too close to the project. That’s why we hire editors to spot mistakes we can’t see, and proofreaders to ensure the highest degree of accuracy possibly. Those of us who aren’t artistically inclined (like me) hire cover artists or designers to help us out in that area. Marketing managers do for marketing what editors do for our manuscripts: they make sure that the most compelling points of your books (the selling points) are on display in the prime (virtual and real) locations.
This all sounds like a lot to do, but start simply, with the log line, and go from there. You really do have all the tools you need to market your book, and can easily gain additional tools to do so more effectively. Help is available if it’s too much work for you personally and you just want to write the darn books. Either way, congratulations on taking the next step into marketing.