Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
I was with a group of authors the other day when the conversation took a turn toward marketing. The group was unanimous in the declaration that they loved to write but loathed to market their work. Whether they were self-published or worked with a more traditional publishing house, whether they sold most of their titles in digital or print format, they all said the same thing: they were aware that they should participate in marketing their own books but dreaded the chore.
One of the authors said she puts off marketing tasks. Another said that marketing made him feel uncomfortable. Another proudly proclaimed herself to be an introvert, as if that made her biologically exempt from marketing.
We all laughed and nodded in sympathy, and moved on to another, more pleasant topic. But a day or so later, as I reflected on this conversation, I realized that these writers are suffering from a condition I can’t help but call “marketing dread.”
In an attempt to help authors everywhere, I decided to offer these 11 ways to avoid this annoying condition:
1. Learn about marketing. Take a marketing course, look at some videos online, read a few author marketing blogs. You could even buy a book about marketing your book! Teach yourself what tools are out there and how to put together a marketing plan. The more you know about the discipline, the more capable you’ll get, and the more smoothly your marketing chores will go.
2. Set up a marketing exchange. If you’re a writer, you may already be swapping manuscripts with peers, trading chapters with a trusted colleague to receive early feedback. In that vein, you could also start a group of people who provide marketing support, or better yet, offer to trade marketing chores. Schedule a few tweets or write a blog post about a friend’s book in exchange for the same treatment. If you dread marketing because it makes you think you’re tooting your own horn, then connect with friends and toot their horns. You might even enjoy it.
3. Measure your marketing and reward your victories. Social media is inherently measurable. You can count posts and tally responses. You can use Google Analytics to track the visits on your website. Set yourself some goals and then measure your performance. Turning your marketing work into measurable success can be satisfying. And to make it even more enjoyable, celebrate when you reach your milestones.
4. Come up with a pitch that works for you—and memorize it. If you get tongue-tied when someone asks you to describe your book, memorize a short description and practice articulating it with confidence. That way, you can put your anxious brain on auto-pilot at least long enough for the person you’re speaking with to offer a more specific, follow-up response—an informed reaction that could lead to an interesting, engaging conversation.
5. Think of marketing your book as sharing something concrete, not promoting yourself. If you’re an author who dreads marketing because you consider it shameless self-promotion, then I invite you to think of your book as something completely separate from yourself. Think if it as an object, or an experience that you delight in—the same way you think about your favorite vacation spot or your favorite movie.
To shift your thinking away from the personal, force yourself to list out the unambiguous elements that make your book appealing. Does it make you laugh? Does it teach a specific skill or reveal previously unknown facts? Does it make people’s hearts race when they read it? If you can define specific qualities and keep your content objective, then your marketing will not feel like personal promotion. Sharing your book’s concrete elements can help shift your marketing away from the personal elements that makes some authors cringe.
6. Develop realistic goals. I’ve coached a number of authors with their marketing, and the single most common reason that their endeavors fail is that they set unrealistic goals. At the beginning of a marketing project, when the author has high enthusiasm, they tell themselves they’ll send tons of tweets, make daily Facebook posts, blog every week. They do this for a week or so—maybe a month—and then they burn out. Why? Their goals were not sustainable. Most authors have other jobs, families and volunteer commitments that already fill their calendars (not to mention the time they devote to writing). A marketing plan makes an impact on an already busy life. So don’t plan to do too much. A small, slow drive of marketing activities can make a big impact over time. A big marketing launch that disappears soon after takeoff, on the other hand, can never grow your audience.
7. Do a small bit every day. This tip is an extension of the previous one about setting realistic goals. When it comes to growing a base of loyal readers, a sustained series of consistent, brief, interesting communications always beats a burst of infrequent, flashy messages. Discover and use the online tools like Hootsuite that let you schedule your social media posts in advance. Set a timer and devote 10 minutes to marketing every day. You’ll find that over time your readership will grow.
8. Become a member of your target audience. My friends who are romance writers rock this tip. Before they’re writers, they’re fans of the genre. They’re members of online communities that love talking about the characters in romance novels, the heartbreaks and the missed opportunities—even the settings and the clothing. No matter what genre you write in, though, you should spend some time in the places where your target audience gathers—both online and in person. If you visit those places on a regular basis and participate in helpful, supportive ways, you’ll become an admired member of the group.
Get to know the community. Over time, once you’ve gained the trust of the group and an understanding of the culture and behavior expectations, you’ll know when it’s appropriate to mention your book. Even if there’s no way you can be an actual member of your target audience (for example, if you write picture books, you probably are no longer a child), you can still discover online communities where enthusiasts such as librarians and parents gather. At the very least, you’ll gain valuable insights into the ways your target audience thinks. You can then use those insights to come up with additional creative marketing ideas.
9. Consider your book a business. Unless you’ve written a book to hand out to your friends and family for free, your book is a business. You wouldn’t start a business and say, “I’ll skip the promotions because I just don’t like doing them.” No one in your target audience would know what you have to offer, why they should choose you over the competition, or where they can find you. If you’re truly uncomfortable with promoting your book, hire a professional to do it for you. Set a budget, measure the results, and adjust your activities until you find the campaigns that work—just like a real business does.
10. Provide valuable information in your marketing. Don’t think of your marketing as shilling. Think of it as educating or helping. You probably learned a lot in creating your book. Even if your book is a work of fiction, you now know a lot about the time period you’ve written about, the hobbies your characters spend time doing, the setting your tale takes place in, even the clothing and food that your characters love. One writer I know wrote a blog post about the cocktails her characters drink. Another who writes children’s books posts information about zoo events. You’ll never have to directly ask people to buy your book in your marketing if you share helpful tips based on the expertise you’ve gained in writing it.
11. Have fun with book marketing! Don’t take marketing too seriously. It’s part of the job of an author, so find your “marketing happy place.“ The way to shift from marketing dread to marketing ease is to know thyself. What kinds of things are fun for you? Do you like contests? Create a RaffleCopter campaign. Do you dabble in photography? Create a Pinterest board that shows the settings or costumes or moods in your book. Do you like to write? (I’m assuming the answer is yes if you’re an author.) Then seek out bloggers in your genre and offer to write a few blog posts. Figure out what you already like to do then turn those activities into marketing events.
You don’t need to work on all of these suggestions at the same time. But even if you try one or two, before you know it, you’ll begin to overcome “marketing dread” and promote your book with confidence.
To get all the ebook and digital publishing news you need every day in your inbox at 8:00 AM, sign up for the DBW Daily today!