Now that I’m an author as well as a publicist, I know why everybody groans when the word ‘marketing’ comes up. It’s a hungry monster with a never-ending appetite. How do you know what to feed it? And how do you plan meal times so that it doesn’t take up every minute of your writing, leisure and family time? The key is to not give in to demand feeding.
The strategies I am outlining work for backlist titles too, but since it is really important to get a book off to a good start, I’m focusing on new releases. If you’re a trad author, make sure you keep your publisher up-to-speed on your plans, so you don’t double up anywhere.
How much time should you spend on marketing? How long is a piece of string? The less well known you are, the more marketing you have to do. If you have a great author brand with a strong mailing list of tens of thousands, you only need to do the basics. If you are still building your brand and your mailing list, you need to do as much as is realistically possible.
- Don’t rush to publication at the expense of a marketing plan. The world will not end if your book goes out in July rather than May. Likewise, your readers will not abandon you if you are two months late. Every single month on the calendar is a competitive publication month. Publishing without a plan just makes things harder on you and your book.
- Current readers are your most important priority. New readers are the lifeblood of an author’s career. That sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t. You need a strategy to focus on both. Communicate with current readers via newsletters and social media, for example Facebook groups and GoodReads. Attract new readers by getting your book onto appropriate genre lists on GoodReads, guest blogging, highlighting reviews and making a splash on social media. Marketing and advertising industry wisdom is that new ‘customers’ have to see a ‘product’ six times before they buy.
- Play to your strengths. Every author needs a newsletter and, in my opinion, a website. After that you can pick and choose your platforms. You need a minimum of two from Bookbub, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Blogging, and YouTube, Snapchat is another option if you have a YA audience.
- It is worth the time invested to set up a Bookbub account and get people to follow you. You don’t have to advertise with Bookbub. However, if you have an account with them, every time you publish a new book, all your followers will be notified. It’s like having an extra newsletter at your disposal.
- Facebook is still a major player. Despite the love/hate thing going on between the platform and users, it is still a major player, especially now that it owns Instagram. It’s also your cheapest advertising option AND you can target your ads to a niche. You want an author page because otherwise you can’t advertise. Don’t be afraid to post or share the same thing to your author and personal page. Unless someone is stalking you, the chances are good they won’t see both posts.
- Posting: the perceived wisdom is twice a day on Facebook and Instagram and up to thirty times per day on Pinterest and Twitter. You don’t post on Bookbub although you can do recommendations and reviews. Same with GoodReads. It’s a good idea to update at least monthly, weekly if you can find the time. Monthly newsletters are good; weekly is okay; daily is stalking your reader and is likely to result in you ending in their junk mail or them unsubscribing. You can get more great advice here: https://louisem.com/144557/often-post-social-media.
- Remember to invest your personality into your online activities. An author brand is not just your books, and, indeed, doesn’t have to be the same as your books. Readers want to know who you are. We all prefer to support businesses we like.
- Don’t forget reviews. Depending on who you to talk to, you need between 10 and 50 to make Amazon sit up and take notice of your book. Ask people in your reading group/ writing group/ industry association (like RWA) if they would like an ARC to review. You can also use a reviewer website like Netgalley (expensive) or Book Sprout. Shop around until you find one that suits your purposes and your pocket. Never worry about bad reviews. A little variety in your star ratings is more realistic and believable than a perfect five-star record.
- Treat bricks and mortar events with caution. If there’s no cost to you, go for it. They are an opportunity to meet readers. If you have to pay, think twice. Most authors will not make back in sales what they spend on an event.
Coming up in forthcoming posts: why you need a brand; everyday marketing; what you can learn from a rejection; identifying your sub-genre; publishing trends; paperback vs ebook sales; defining success, and more.
Laura Boon Russell
Laura is a bookaholic and tennis tragic. She became entangled in publishing after reading Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades and ‘stealing’ The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss from her father’s bookshelves as a teenager. She has worked as a bookseller, sales rep, publicist and freelance editor. In 2006, Frontrunner Publishing released her DIY guide to publicity for small business, Make the Media Work for You. However, she is forever indebted to the RWA for giving her the courage and the tools to write the stories she wants to tell. The Wild Rose Press will publish her first romance in 2018.