Marketing: You Owe It to Yourself
Some authors take on the view that marketing their books is not their job. I’ve heard, “MY job is to write a good book. Marketing is my publisher’s responsibility.” To an extent, this is true. You should be concentrating on writing your next best book. Your publisher should have a publicity team on your book, making decisions on how best to present and introduce the result of your blood/sweat/tears into the world. They should be getting the best exposure for you, and pitching your book to as many potential readers as they can get their hands on.
But know this: Your marketing team? They’re people. Like, most of them are human, even. And they were already spread thin before your book ever hit their desk. And your book? It only gets a percentage of their marketing time and dollars. So let’s regroup, shall we?
Taking the First Steps
Before your debut comes out, find out who your publicist is — and send them a thank you card in advance. They are already going to work their butt off to get your book covered in attention to the best of their ability, so a thank you card is a nice thing to do at the very least. But there’s another purpose for this card. If you send along a thank you card and maybe a Starbucks gift card enclosed, they just might think of you and your book in a new light. You’re not one of the hoards of thankless authors who demand this and that, you’re actually a nice person — and they just might put in a bit more personal effort to see that you get a fair shot at this marketing game.
Is this bribery? Some will say it is. But I liken it to sending a potential employer a thank you card for interviewing you, thanking them for the opportunity to work with them. It’s an added touch that makes you stand out among the other hundreds of applicants they had. Plus, I’ve worked with a few different publicists and marketing teams, and let me tell you, it’s a 24/7 job. The kind of you-have-to-love-it-to-do-it job. They deserve your thank you card and any Starbucks you can send their way.
Time to Connect and Establish
Connect with your agent first, and let him/her know that you’d like to get a copy of the marketing plan from your publisher fairly early on — because you’d like to be doing anything and everything you can to supplement this plan. It’s not about what your publisher is doing for you, this post is actually about what YOU are doing for you. Look over it with your agent, and beef it up where you can. Is your publicist doing an outreach to indie bookstores? Ask if you can write a personal letter to them about your book to include in the outreach. Is your publicist planning a blog tour? Offer a good giveaway to compliment it. Is your publicist reaching out to magazines with potential advertising? Offer to write an article or two for the magazine for free. Supplement, supplement, supplement.
It’s also time to connect with other writers and with book bloggers. Here is where your time and effort comes in, and here is where it will pay off release week. If you don’t do social media, it’s time, my friend. Get on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. Find what you like best, and make it your main social media hub. It’s that simple. If you like it, you’ll do it. If you hate a particular social media, your profile will be a ghost of what might have been. But your job, pre-pub, is connecting in the most effective way you can.
- Authors: Other authors are, in general, your greatest support network in the publishing world. Right after you sign your book deal — or even before you get an agent or a deal — you need to befriend as many authors as you can. And when I say befriend, I mean you need to be genuine. Seek out authors who interest you, you look up to, have similar career goals, etc. Promote their books and their blog posts, and retweet them, and share their Facebook posts. I promise, most of them will do the same. We are a very supportive community, we writers, and we want everyone to succeed. Don’t be afraid to reach out to us. And don’t be afraid to send out an email on release day, with sample tweets and posts they could use to promote your book. I’m grateful to get these emails. It makes my life easier, because I have a set tweet I can post to help you, as you’ve done all the legwork for me. It’s OKAY to ask for help.
- Bloggers: Book bloggers are a huge resource for you. These are dedicated people who read books and post reviews and giveaways and activities all on their own time, because they love books. Get involved with them, and not in a promotional sort of way. They love books and you love books — it’s already a match made in heaven. They’re your people. Connect with your people. Leave comments on their blog posts. Show them some Twitter and Facebook love. They will do the same. (Do you see where I’m going with this? We all support each other.)
The Nitty Gritty
You’ve spent months establishing a good relationship with important people and building your support network. Now what? Here’s a random list of things I think you’ll need to make your own campaign a success.
- Swag. When you get your cover to your book, get some swag made. It can be in the form of bookmarks, magnets, buttons, etc. Don’t blow your entire marketing budget on swag. And if all you can afford is bookmarks, so be it. Just have something you can use for giveaways — signed bookmarks work for almost everything. (Shameless plug: I use Nicki Hart at Multi-Designs. That woman can do anything.) Which brings me to:
- Contests/Giveaways. People like free stuff. Want to boost a particular tweet? Offer five signed bookmarks to random people who retweet it. Have you got your ARCs yet? Signed ARCs are highly sought after by just about everyone. Hold strategic giveaways for these. As in, make the potential winner work for it a little. They have to do something, like follow you on Twitter or share your post on Facebook, or something. ARCs are special, and you won’t get many of them, so use them to market your book. Don’t be giving them away to your Aunt Gertrude or your next door neighbor. They are a huge marketing resource.
- Cover Reveal. If your publisher is not going to make a big deal out of revealing your cover to the world, you need to. Ask your publicist in advance if this will happen, and if not, tell him/her that you’d like to do something special to reveal the cover. They might actually do it for you, if you express interest, and find a venue willing to release it. If not, just ask your publicist not to release it, to let you do it yourself. Remember the relationships you built with other authors and book bloggers? Here’s where that will come in handy too. Find a book blogger or author with a nice following of potential readers, and reach out to them to see if they’d do a cover reveal. Alternatively, you could put together a blogger tour of your reveal, where each stop reveals a piece of the cover at a time. The point is, you want to build excitement for your book and you want to get as many people involved as possible.
- Goodreads. Goodreads is your friend. Tweet the heck out of the link for your book’s page on Goodreads (by this, I mean once a day. Don’t be a freak). Find creative ways to get people to mark your book to-read on Goodreads. Get your friends to add your book to as many lists on Goodreads as possible. Hold an ARC giveaway on Goodreads. Goodreads, Goodreads, Goodreads. (HOWEVER: DO NOT READ YOUR REVIEWS. I KNOW YOU WANT TO, BUT DON’T. IF YOU ENJOY GOOD MENTAL HEALTH, PLEASE TAKE THIS ADVICE.)
- The Answer is YES. Are people asking for interviews and guest posts and articles? Thou shall answer yes to all of them. Exposure, exposure, exposure. Is it a tiny/new blogger who only has 100 followers? Yes. Is it a blogger who wants you to write a guest post on something that’s not exactly related to your book? Yes. Does the United Coalition of Cheesemakers of America want you to write an article on the rate at which cheese molds? Yes. The thing is, even if you’re not writing about your book, you still have a chance to impress people with your writing. You’re a writer, right? So your writing and voice should command attention. Don’t blow off opportunities to shine. In fact, reach out for them. Offer them. Make friends/connections/allies. To the best of your ability, the answer is YES.
This is just a small (tiny) sampling of what you could be doing to help market your book pre-pub. I know there are going to be budget and time restrictions, and everyone’s schedule and availability is different, but the point is, make the effort. Your publicity team will appreciate the help and the can-do attitude. Yes, marketing yourself is a lot of work. Schedule some time out of each day to do it. Got 30 minutes? Use it to connect with other people, write a post, or leave comments on blogs.
So… Is marketing your job? Nope.
It’s your opportunity.
If you have any questions about anything here, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. Thanks for reading.