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  • Writer's picturePhil Parker

Marketing and the Author

Most authors aren't marketing experts.

We're a shy, introverted breed who prefer the shadows of obscurity than the spotlight. But we need illumination so audiences are aware of our work.

I spent the majority of my career as a teacher, I came late to the business world. It presented me with a learning curve so steep I needed crampons. Along the way a number of people provided me with help so by the time I began promoting my work I had a fairly good idea of what I needed to do. So I'm passing on that advice.

1. Get branded

I know some authors won't agree with this first suggestion. We're writers not a tin of baked beans. But a brand is more than a label. It identifies who you are and what people can expect from you. If you're a new author you're an unknown commodity, give people some insight on what to expect with an image that defines your work. Create a strap line that does the same thing. Use the image and strap line on your business cards (you haven't got any? Get them!), on your flyers and handouts at events, on your website and social media locations. Consistency is key here - that image will help bring everything together in a cohesive way. It doesn't have to be your photo - look how I've defined an identity with this 'brand image'. Whatever you use, it must sum you up in one powerful image. Save money too - use a free image. (Try Pixabay.)

2. Develop relationships on social media

Notice the wording - I'm not saying 'be on social media' - you need to form meaningful relationships with people. Go on Twitter (the author's preferred platform) to see how people get it wrong. They tweet promotional stuff about their books but don't engage. It's the equivalent of standing on the roof of your home shouting "Buy my book!" In the end all you do is annoy other people! Shoving an advert in someone's face isn't marketing, it's digital aggrevation.

Let people know who you are, build a reputation for you and your work. Be supportive if you want to receive support from others. Use hashtags like #writingcommunity to find others like you. But be selective. Thousands of followers won't mean huge sales. Find the right people who will support and promote you because you've become a digital colleague of theirs. Harness the analytics of your Twitter account with free accessories such as Tweetsmap, it will identify who is useful to you.

And finally, two things. Don't get distracted by reading stuff for hours when you should be writing. (It is so easy to do!!) And beware of the troll-like creatures that inhabit this world, check profiles before clicking their request to Follow.

3. Build relationships with bloggers

This is particularly true if you're a self-published author. Find (use methods shown above) people who enjoy reading and reviewing books like yours. They do fabulous, unpaid work for no other reason than they want to help and they are passionate book lovers. They will review your book and promote it across the internet, often on their own site but also on Goodreads, Amazon etc. However, some obvious advice tips:

1. Be prepared to accept criticism - don't engage if you can't cope with other's views

2. Find bloggers who appreciate your style of writing/genre

3. Check their submission requirements on their site first

4. Be patient - they will likely have a TBR (To Be Read) list a mile long!

5. Ask politely if they would be interested in reading your work - don't assume/demand!

6. Look for bloggers with a strong internet presence - so their review is seen by many

7. Develop a relationship with them, make sure they fit your criteria of 'colleague'

4. Create your own online presence

These days there are plenty of do-it-yourself website platforms (like Wix) which enable you to create a bespoke location to promote you and your work. Sure, there is a set-up cost to be considered but how else will people find out about your book - from you rather than other people! You can include an opening chapter, links to where the book can be bought, the means to obtain customers' emails for further promotion. It's a worthwhile investment.

You can use Facebook too. Some people will avoid doing this, I don't blame you. They will bombard you with requests to use their advertising and I'm not convinced it's worth the money. But it's a free site. Your decision.

By giving the site a wider purpose (I review books as well as blog) you increase the traffic to your site with regular items of interest. Or you can include more of your work for free - such as short stories that help people get a sense of your writing. But you need a presence because the alternative is to rely entirely on others to promote you. And if you're traditionally published? With slashed marketing budgets, publishers will expect you to do much of the work anyway!

5. Festivals and Cons

For many introverted writers, this is the nightmare scenario! It requires a gentle build-up, done best when you know others who you can meet there. That way you are not alone (safety in numbers). Begin by going along as a member of the public to get an idea what these events are like. Choose the right one (there is loads to choose from). You can build up to having a stand if you have enough material. If you're new and have one or two books only, get to know the organisers, see if they'll let you do a reading? Or join up with other writing buddies to share a stand or to run a workshop. My good friends Damien and Lee at the British & Irish Writing Community ran a workshop at BristolCon on collaborative projects for writers. Our first foray into such things and it brought us further invitations for this year. On Twitter you'll see writers share their trepidations about this type of promotional activity but they often will follow up with stories of how it turned out to be worthwhile in the end. But I repeat, try and find others to collaborate with!

In conclusion

Your book isn't going to sell itself! Yes, we all know that but I'm surprised by how many people refuse to allocate the time and commitment needed to make a success of it. Building a customer base takes time and energy (ask any start-up!). Giving it attention occasionally, when you remember, isn't the way to do it. My tip: allocate a specific amount of time in a regular slot and put it in your calendar.

The internet offers a range of options that help writers to promote their work - like Goodreads where you can build awareness of your books. Create an author page on Amazon. If you want to spend money, put your book on NetGalley so its promoted to their subscribers who will read it and review it.

But if money is a limitation (as it is for most of us!) then social media offers a good return on your investment of Time. Use it. It will pay off - but be patient.


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