Fauzia Burke is the founding president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm that helps build awareness for books and authors.
Having started her career in the marketing departments at John Wiley & Sons and Henry Holt, Burke headed out on her own, in 1995, and founded FSB, one of the first publicity firms to help tackle the digital world for authors.
Since that time, Burke and her company have worked more than 2,000 projects, including books by Thomas Friedman, Salman Rushdie, Sue Grafton and numerous others.
Given all her experience, it makes sense, then, that Burke chose to write a book aimed at authors. Titled Online Marketing for Busy Authors (available in April), the book is a step-by-step guide that gives authors the tips and advice to effectively brand themselves while spending the bulk of their time on what they love most: writing their books.
We sat down with Burke to learn more about her career, what made her write the book, and what some of her favorite personal branding techniques are.
To start off, can you tell me about yourself and what you do at FSB Associates?
I started FSB Associates as a publicity company specializing in online marketing in 1995. I work with my husband, and we are a bi-coastal company located in New Jersey and California. I find this work rewarding because I have so many experiences to share. On the personal side, my husband and I have two daughters in college.
What made you interested in digital branding and online publicity?
I was always passionate about marketing and publicity and involved with writers. When the web came out, everything changed and allowed us to connect with each other in a new way. The gatekeepers of marketing were removed. I quit my job and founded FSB Associates to study how to promote books online. There was a lot of experimentation and learning, which is my favorite part of the work. It’s always evolving.
Now, moving on to the book, why did you decide to write it?
I felt like I was answering the same questions over and over again and wanted to put my advice in one place and make it available to more people. There are a lot of people who throw ideas and jargon at authors, and it’s frustrating for them. Most authors I know don’t want to be marketing gurus. Rather, they just want enough information to help them reach readers and sell books.
What was the process of writing the book like?
It was a labor of love. I really enjoyed putting the advice together. I’ve been writing it since I started the company, but it really came together one to two years ago. At first, I thought I was going to give this book out to clients as a PDF file, but there was too much content. Then my publisher said they wanted to make it a book. In some ways, I feel like I’ve been writing it my whole career.
Why do you think some authors struggle with branding themselves?
I think it’s understandable for authors to feel that way because some feel like they don’t want to be a brand and some don’t understand what personal branding is. They’d rather spend time writing their book than marketing [it]. I want to show that those two things don’t have to be separate. Getting to know your reader is part of writing your book. Personal branding is so important because it makes us connect with readers in a more authentic way.
Speaking of authenticity, why do you think it’s important for authors to be authentic when branding themselves?
There’s a lot of content online and I know that in some third world countries, people are writing blogs for $4. There’s just so much mediocre content out there and anyone can share it. The only way to break through the noise is for us to be ourselves—to share our own stories and experiences because no one else can do that. If you build a brand based on authenticity, you can make connections that move people to buy your books. If we don’t show our authenticity, we’re not going to stand out.
In your opinion, what are some underrated personal branding techniques?
One thing that was important to me was organizing the book in three phases. I think a lot of people skip Phase One, which is where you get in touch with your goals and readers. If you don’t do that, you’re more likely to go with whatever marketing trend the next person tells you to do. This phase is where you set up a branding technique customized to your reader.
Phase Two is the tactical section: buying a website and gaining publicity. Phase Three is about how to avoid burnout. Out of them all, I feel like Phase One is crucial, but a lot of people skip it.
Another underrated personal branding technique is consistency. Many authors think they can start promoting their book one month before its release and stop one month after, but you really have to be consistent with it.
What do you think is the most important and useful exercise in the book?
Definitely getting to know your audience. To this day, I hear people say, “My audience is everyone.” But there is no “everyone.” People will tell me their audience is women, men, people with families, or people with jobs—but those things are too wide, overwhelming and hard to market. The exercise and checklist included in the book is where you can get to know your readers and narrow down whom your audience is. If you try to aim for the bigger general audience, you may miss your niche.
In my own business, I do online marketing for authors and books. I learned that I would rather do one thing well instead of many things not well. Some people have asked me, “Why are you writing a book just for authors if online marketing is important for everyone?” But my relationship is with authors and I need to serve the audience I have. It’s easier to compete in.
What is your favorite tip for #busyauthors?
A mailing list is more important than social media. Everyone talks about social media but, in my experience, people are more likely to buy a product through a mailing list than social media. Many people ask me, “If you could give one word of personal branding advice, what would it be?” It would be that every author should focus on their mailing list because that’s what’s going to nurture your most valuable readers.
My second favorite tip is that while people tend to focus on the number of their fans and followers, it’s better to focus on engaging with your audience. Having few followers with more engagement is more important than having more followers with less engagement. People tend to focus on how much traffic they’re getting on their website but what’s more important is how much time they’re spending on it.
What do you hope readers get out of this book?
I hope every author realizes they can market their book in a smart and strategic way. Marketing your book can be fun, fruitful, and done on any budget.
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