Marketing Tips For Your First Book
1. Get an audience before the release. When you announce your newly-published book to the world, it would be nice if someone was there to hear you. So how many people read your blog? How many friends do you have on Twitter or Facebook? Are you using LinkedIn groups, Goodreads, LibraryThing? Unless you are being followed (friended, or whatever) by hundreds, if not thousands of people, you probably need to put some time into building up your profile on these sites. When you make that announcement, you will feel as if you are standing on the stage in an empty theatre, unless you’ve managed to drag a few people in off the streets first.
2. Create a brand. In writing, the author is the brand. And that means you. You need to present yourself in your communications with potential readers in a way you are comfortable with and which is related to the boks you expect to be promoting. An important part of this is to know which genre you are working in. It’s invidious, I know, but received wisdom is that if you work in more than one genre, you probably need two different names and two different brands. When you are putting yourself out there and finding ways to talk about your book, don’t forget what your brand is – who you want people to see you as. Stay focused.
3. Know what you are going to say. Marketing is about message. Your brand is part of it but the rest is all content. What is your book about? Who will it appeal to? What groups should be interested in it, discussing it, recommending it, and what will catch their attention? Work it all out, find the wording you need to convey the message succinctly and clearly, then, in everything you say, stay on that message. It’s probably not all that hard. You probably write the kind of books you also love to read. Mostly, your target audience is people rather like yourself. Take a while to understand what it is that attracts you to new, unknown writers in your genre and you are half-way there.
4. Understand where your interests lie. You will be selling your book through a variety of channels (book shops, online, as ebooks and as print – possibly POD) and in a number of ‘geographies’ – defined in your publishing contract – to a number of audiences (‘market segments’ in the jargon.) Some channels and geographies will earn you more money than others. If your royalties on net, vs on retail price, it is of critical importance to you personally how big a cut various middlemen are taking. (Remember it can be quite hard to know which channel is best since while apparently high-paying channels like direct sales from your publisher’s own website may earn you a bigger royalty than online stores like Amazon, the latter is likely to out-sell the publisher’s own shop by many times and deliver a much bigger return for your effort. The same goes for audiences. Some are more likely to be interested than others, some more likely to buy, some more likely to spread the word. You are likely to be overwhelmed with work and you need to know where to put your marketing efforts.
5. Keep it rolling. With online sales and ebook editions, publicising a book is not the one-shot event it used to be. Market dynamics have changed since the days when bricks and mortar book shops were all that there was and you had three to six weeks during which your book would be on the shelf before it was returned to make way for the new batch of hopefuls. Now your book will stay in online catalogues for as long as your publishing agreement lasts – and longer if you act to keep it there. You probably have a few months now, after the launch, while your book is fairly new, when you can actively promote it and try to keep people’s attention on it. Even beyond that point, you can run occasional refresher campaigns to lift its profile again. This is all good news for the writer. The bad news is that the marketing need never end!
6. Engage. Talk to your readers and your potential readers. Talk about your book if they’re interested. Talk about the genre. Talk about writing and publishing. Talk about yourself. People are interested. It’s hard to grasp at first. You do interviews, you write blog pieces, you twitter about your life, your opinions, and your book, and you you think, “What the hell is so fascinating about me? Aren’t people going to think I’m a complete ego-maniac?” Well, maybe some will, but an awful lot won’t. They have read your book and liked it and they’re curious about who wrote it, or why you wrote it, or how you wrote it. Even if they haven’t read the book, there are plenty of people with common interests – in the genre, or in writing – who see you as someone who has contributed, or has special knowledge of the journey. You could ignore them all, sit quietly at your desk and write your next book, but it is a deeper, richer experience for everybody – you included – if you engage with them.
7. Keep your pipeline filled. This is more jargon from the sales world. Like it or not, you are selling a product. It’s a business. Your readers are consumers of that product. If they like it, they will want more. The only way they will get more is if you write it. So don’t stop work on that next book, no matter how much extra work the last one has created. A book takes a long time to write, revise, edit and polish. Then you have to sell it to a publisher (oh yes, there are no free rides, each new book can be just as hard to sell as the last one.) Then edit it and then market it. It’s a long pipeline. You keep putting words in at one end and there will be more books to sell at the other. If you stop, there will be a gap.
8. Prepare to work your socks off. You may think you were busy when you wrote the book – what with the day job and family commitments – but once you shave signed that contract, you will shift into overdrive. Now, as well as the day job, the family, and writing the next book, you also have to work with your publisher on edits, and you have to work on your marketing campaign. Your social networking will escalate, your blogging and website content writing will increase, you’ll be trawling the blogsphere working with your communities of interest, and you’ll be pestering reviewers the world over to just please take a look at your book. That’s why I say it’s writing an iceberg – seven tenths of the work comes after the book is finished.
9. Don’t forget to have some fun, or you’ll go nuts. Sometimes, you should even take a holiday!