As implied by the heading this is intended for new and inexperienced authors. It primarily constitutes an overview of the subject.
Whether liked or not, the writing and publishing of a book are simply the first steps in an author’s career. They may well groan and consider after having spent endless hours pondering, structuring, creating and getting their masterpiece published, they have done their job, completed their task. But the truth of the matter is they have not.
Rather naively many, if not most, new authors expect their first book to sale of its own accord. They think the simple fact of it being included in Amazon’s and/or other retailer’s listings: ‘Would surely be sufficient to alert readers to this ‘must read’ book’. ‘Surely readers have been waiting for it!’ ‘It will make me a best-selling author in no time!’ However, the reality hits home rather quickly; they will come to realise how ‘green’ they have been. The only saving grace is, they are not and never have been alone. Several ‘further along the line’ authors share how they also held similar assumptions when first setting out. However, the truth is: How will readers know a book exists unless they are told?
These days, it makes little difference whether a book has been self-published, vanity press published (mostly small independent publishing companies), or traditionally published i.e. by one of the big four such as Penguin Random House. Whoever the publisher, the author will be required to heavily participate in the marketing of their creation. Naturally, if self-published the complete task falls to the author.
What does it mean to market something?
What is marketing? A daft question perhaps but not everyone has the same comprehension of the term. At its simplest to ‘market’ something is to advertise or offer for sale some item. In this case a book or books.
Before continuing: This post is primarily directed at new authors who do not have the resources to employ a marketing or PR (Public Relations) expert or company. And also to those who may have the resources but prefer to undertake the task themselves. As this guide relates to individuals undertaking the task, it, by default, will primarily refer to social media and personal websites and blogs. If an author does not already have a social media presence, they will need, at the very least, to set up accounts with the most popular sites of Facebook and Twitter. This is best done prior to publishing thereby providing opportunities for readers to get to know them beforehand. To suddenly appear and ask people to part with their money for something unknown rarely works.
So how does an author go about marketing their book? What elements are involved?
The following are suggested as necessary starting points:
- Define goals.
- Have a plan.
‘If you do not have a target, you will never hit it.’ Unknown quote.
In other words, if an author does not have a goal they will never know if they have scored or missed.
Undoubtedly, an author’s primary aim is to get readers to buy their book but there are steps they need to take to achieve that.
Goals are very much an individual matter though it is possible to generalise in some circumstances. But in the end it is the author THEMSELVES who must decide upon what they want to achieve. The following are just some possible examples:
- Build number of Facebook ‘Friends’ and ‘Likes’.
- Boost Twitter following.
- Extend the number of visitors to their blog/website.
- Grow a list of e-mail addresses (assuming their website/blog has the facility).
- Obtain author interviews.
- Obtain reviews.
Of course this is by no means a comprehensive list. Much will depend upon which sites the author uses regularly and upon their own specific goals.
Have a plan
Considered suggestions are to have a twelve months marketing plan in place. Authors may feel this is a lot to ask but there are advantages.
- They will be able to prepare their marketing to take advantage of such things as: Public Holidays (e.g. Thanksgiving; Christmas; Easter; Saints Days; Other religious celebrations; Fiestas; Carnivals; etc.). International Celebrations (e.g. Olympics; World War I or II commemorations; Women’s Days; Cancer Days; etc.). Seasonal Changes (i.e. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) which may provide openings for different themes.
- Relieves the pressure on them by having a ready stock of posts, articles, topics and so on. Some even have a ready supply of Tweets filed away.
- Facilitates the organisation required for book signings; giveaways; blog tours etc. These can become quite stressful if they are conducted under short time constraints.
- Aids planning ahead for the publication of new books.
Again this is by no means exhaustive. It is simply intended to give some idea of the benefits of forward planning.
Having the right content is crucial. Marketing needs to be relevant to both the product and to the people the author is trying to attract.
- Will it answer their visitor’s/audience’s questions?
- Is it entertaining?
- Is it educational?
- Does it meet a need their visitors/audience may have?
This may sound like pampering to people’s self-interest but in this context is not wrong. After all readers are being asked to part with their hard earned money. They need to know whether the book contains anything of interest to them.
How can an author determine what would meet the above criteria?
- What is the primary aim or purpose of their book/product/website/blog? Books are primarily under discussion here but the principles apply to most marketing, whatever the product.
- If a book is principally for the readers’ entertainment, is there something in it that may be relevant to their own lives?
- They should listen to on-going conversations e.g. what are people talking about in their Facebook posts or Tweets or in other social media comments. What is attracting general attention on the internet or in the news?
- Who are the primary users of specific sites? For example; the majority of Goodreads users appear to be women with college age children: suggested round eighty percent. Content needs to be relevant to them as well as others.
- Who are the target audience? (Whose attention is an author trying to gain?)
- Whether liked or not, and in all honesty most have to admit to occasionally being the same, most people want to know: ‘What is in it for me?’ They want to know they are paying for something relevant and worthwhile. It could be as simple as just wanting a good, entertaining read but it could be more complex.
As with most lists this one is not comprehensive. Nevertheless, it hopefully provides some ideas and will help authors determine their content.
Having made the effort and taken the time to write their content authors need to get it ‘out there’. How?
- Utilize what they have prepared across all social media sites e.g. in Facebook posts; Twitter tweets; Comments; Promotions. They should remember, if permitted by the site, to include a link back to their content: website; blog; book retail site (Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk. Smashwords, iBooks etc.).
- Participate in ‘relevant’ discussions; ensuring what they have to say is actually relevant and on topic. They need to avoid being self-centred; they may want to talk about their book all the time but by doing so will put people off. If their book contains nothing of relevance to the topic they should not mention it. May still be worthwhile joining in, if it is about something they have some knowledge of or have an interest in. It helps to let people know who they are as an individual. Warning: They must ensure what they share is irrelevant, otherwise they may well, and rightly, be accused of spamming and could end up being banned.
- If they have built an e-mail address list: e-mail the post, article, details with a link back to somewhere appropriate. This should usually only be to those who have voluntarily signed-up for receipt of newsletters or e-mails.
- Try and get others e.g. social media contacts, to share their content with their own followers and friends. But they should not be pressured: many will naturally share if they find what has been written helpful or interesting.
- Use appropriate words to facilitate SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). This is not always an easy matter. They should consider the words they use when searching the internet for a specific topic or book. They should also take note of words used by others, especially any authors they follow or like. Naturally, the words used must relate to their book and content.
Basically authors should, to efficiently market their books, have a defined goal, a marketing plan, good relevant content and a viable means of distributing the information to interested parties.