Marketing After Your Debut
When your first book debuted, maybe you did a little marketing or maybe a lot. Perhaps your publisher pushed your book all the way to the bestseller lists, or perhaps yours was a little further down the priority ladder. But after that first book has been out for a while, the glow begins to fade and it may not be carried by as many bookstores anymore. You might be knee deep in edits on the next book, or frantically drafting proposals in the hopes of selling a follow-up.
How do you keep marketing to stay relevant even if your most recent book isn’t all that recent anymore? There is no pat, easy answer, but there are some strategies that I’ve found useful long after a book first hits the shelves.
1) School and Library visits (especially for kid lit authors).
Just because your book came out a year ago doesn’t mean you can’t continue to promote yourself as a professional author to gatekeepers. Keeping your presentation options fresh each year will help. Visits will keep you on their radar, and hopefully bring in new sales too.
What you can do:
- Cast a wider net. During the debut frenzy, you had a lot on your plate and likely didn’t have the bandwidth to send more than a few postcards. Now take a little more time to build a more robust list of libraries and schools (within, say, an hour driving distance or within your state). Yes, this will take an investment of time, but it’s a list you’ll be able to reuse.
- Refine your approach. The more local the school or library, the more likely they are to be interested in bringing you in for a visit. Putting together a packet with a small brochure or professional looking flyer about your author visits along with a personalized letter can help you stand out. For those farther afield, a postcard featuring your book and visits with a brief handwritten note and link to your website may be more appropriate.
- Invest in a classroom discussion guide. You or your publisher may have already created one of these when your book debuted, but if not, this is a tool that can make your book and your services even more appealing to a school. Be sure to make note of it on your promotional materials and have it available for download on your website!
- Sell books at the visit. Always check with the school or library whether this acceptable to do. But if they allow it, it can be a great way to capitalize on interest in your books in the moment. Also, many publishers have literature to give to schools about ordering books directly through them at a discount. If not, some authors buy their own copies in bulk to sell themselves and pass on the savings that way. If you go the latter route, be sure to check with your city/state about any kind of licensing/permissions you may need to obtain first.
2) Bonus content.
Writing short stories or novellas related to your books can be a great way to renew interest in them long after they’ve debuted.
What you can do:
- If you have a paperback edition coming out, talk to your editor about whether it would be best to include the bonus content in the paperback or release it online on your website or an outlet such as Wattpad.
- Whichever route you take, be sure to discuss it with your agent and editor first so they know what you’re working on and can provide guidance about any contract stipulations regarding bonus content.
- Don’t forget to ask if your publisher can help promote it on social media!
3) Conferences, workshops, and panels.
Now that you’re no longer a debut, you have experience! That’s a thing you can leverage.
What you can do:
- Reach out to the next year’s debut groups. You were probably on some panels and perhaps gave a workshop or two when your book came out, but now that you have more experience, consider offering to moderate panels for the next wave of debut authors. This is a win-win situation — it can help make their conference panel application more appealing to conference organizers and take a little of the pressure off their shoulders, as well keep your author brand out there. Bonus: it’s really fun!
- Propose workshops. If you haven’t already, apply to writing conferences such those held by your local chapter of SCBWI, RWA, etc., to present a workshop or panel on a topic in which you feel you have some level of expertise. Not only does it put you in front of readers (because writers are readers), but many of these conferences also hold book signings with faculty during the weekend. Not every proposal will be accepted, of course, but it’s worth it to try.
4) Tie-in themes.
This may not work for every book, but if it does this can be a great way to bring your book back to the forefront of potential readers’ minds.
What you can do:
- Look for related holidays/seasons. For example, my first book, Monstrous, has a Frankenstein theme which made it a perfect tie-in to Halloween. A local author friend and I put together a mini-tour of local bookstores and a twitter chat with a few additional authors from the same publisher whose books were being featured for Halloween. If your book is a romance, Valentine’s Day could be a great promotional tie-in. Surfing book? Summer fun events might work for you. Get creative!
- Plan your promotion. I’d suggest at least doing one themed bookstore or library event if you can because the in-person experience of engaging directly to readers usually has the most impact. You can also support that with online giveaways or creative contests on social media. Again, don’t forget to keep your publisher in the loop — they may be willing to at least help promote with a tweet or two!