A few weeks ago I attended a book-marketing seminar sponsored by the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC). Expert panelists included Julia Drake, David Wogahn, and Steven Sanchez.
Most of what was covered affirmed what I’ve learned about platform, marketing, and publicity from Brooke Warner and elsewhere on my journey toward publishing my forthcoming memoir, Raw: A Midlife Quest for Health and Happiness. Here’s a recap of highlights that landed with me.
Know who you are as a writer. What do you write about? What’s your message, mission, or goal? Why did you write the book you wrote? What do you say in your book that you’d like to keep talking about? What matters to you? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you create a sturdy, clear, and specific platform. Focus your website and blog so that they support your message.
Have a clear objective. What do you want out of your book marketing efforts? What’s most important to you? Maybe your only goal is to sell books. But perhaps you’d also like to promote your business, services, or other products.
Identify your audience. Who would want to read your book? What kinds of people? The more specific you can be when answering this question, the better.
Platform: promote your ideas, not your book. You want to initiate a conversation and keep it going. If people care about what you’re talking about, if they think your thoughts and words will add to their lives, they will be more likely to buy your book.
Collect e-mail addresses. This is obvious: growing your email list extends your reach. Ask people to sign in at events. Offer incentives on you website for people to sign up for your blog and newsletter. Be creative.
Have a great product. Make sure your book is the best it can be. If you’re self-publishing, invest in professional editing. The quality of your writing matters. You don’t know what you don’t know. Investing in a professional editor means investing in your book and, ultimately, in yourself.
Social media is a must. Just because there are a lot of social media platforms doesn’t mean you have to be on every one. Pick what you like and ignore the rest. Social media gives you an opportunity to connect with potential readers. The key is to build a targeted following, which circles back around to you and your message. Post on your themes regularly to initiate conversations and forge relationships. This is what social media marketing is all about. Be authentic.
No secret sauce. There’s no easy answer for how to best market your book, no magic formula. Hire a publicist even if you think you don’t need one. Many will work within your budget and serve as guides. Consider which PR tasks you can do yourself and which ones you’d prefer to delegate. Publicity and marketing duties include: writing a press kit; pitching and responding to appropriate print, radio, and TV media; suggesting topics for articles and posts; organizing blog and book tours; soliciting trade reviews; entering contests; setting up Goodreads giveaways; reaching out to bookstores for launch events, readings, and more. It’s important to have a knowledgeable professional on your team. Your publicist will be this person, and you’ll collaborate with her; it’s a partnership. Concentrate your efforts and do a little each day. Slow and steady wins the race. This a marathon, not a sprint.
Author Central Page. If you haven’t already done so, set up an Amazon Author Central page. Include author updates and blog posts that you can link to your website.
Overwhelm happens. When it does, slow down. This might seem counterintuitive, but you’re probably caught in the middle of a thought storm. Don’t take this illusion seriously. Let it pass. Overwhelm happens when your thoughts race ahead to all the things you think you have to do but fear you can’t. Thought catapults you into some impossible future. The best way out is to stop, come back to the present, and focus on one small task. Then another.
Pick and choose. As is the case with social media, don’t try to do every book marketing strategy you hear about. Pick what activities you enjoy and stick with those.
You are enough. You do whatever you can. Look to other authors to get ideas, but resist the temptation to compare yourself to anyone else. Be you. Have fun. It makes no sense to launch a book into the world if you’re not enjoying the ride.
I’d love to hear from those of you who have been through this process. What do you have to add? My memoir is coming out next spring, and I still have lots to learn. Please share your wisdom.