How do I Promote My Novel without the Hard Sell?
How do I promote my novel? Or, how do I get my writing seen? This is something more and more writers are asking. And not just those who are already published, either traditionally or on the indie route. Writers who have yet to be published are looking for ways of getting themselves noticed.
Traditionally a writer would write, edit, polish, and post out their precious manuscript awaiting for the rejection or acceptance. But things have changed. For a few it still works the traditional way. But nowadays being known on social media is a definite plus towards getting published. And then, when the writing becomes a book, the promotion is the responsibility of the author.
However. This goes against the grain of how many writers feel. An author friend of mine confided this week that she's hugely uncomfortable about blowing her own trumpet. And she went on to say that there is a balance between promotion and over promotion.
Yes, I agree.
After all, we all get annoyed when we follow a writer on twitter and immediately get a DM from them saying 'buy my book its only 99p on amazon'. Or maybe every five minutes you see the same auto-tweet promoting a book. Or an author endlessly retweets reviews of their novel. Or it keeps coming up on Facebook. Your response? Immediately you unfollow. Or mute them. Either way this completely goes against the intention of the writer who hasn't realised, perhaps naively, this is an extremely annoying thing to do.
See, there are a number of problems with this:
1. You're adopting a sales strategy of marketing. Personally I don't think readers like being 'sold' to and I'm sure authors feel uncomfortable doing it. So it's a half-hearted sales marketing strategy. The authors comes across as apologetic about their writing and who is going to buy a book the author is apologising for.
2. You're hard selling your book to people who already follow you. Yes, these followers need to know about your new book. But you need to attract other readers, too. And you're risking alienating those that do follow.
3. You're also hoping your current followers will share to their followers in order to reach more people. You're effectively giving the control to somebody else.
4. You think about marketing or sales AFTER you've written the book. It's the irritating thing you have to do. Oh, you sigh, now I've got to market my book.
So what's the answer?
The answer, I strongly believe, is to build up an online platform. An author platform. And when I say platform, I don't just mean creating a twitter account, I mean creating a presence across a broad spectrum of social media.
To create a brand.
Don't just market your book. Your brand is you.
As a writer, it is so important that you market yourself. I wrote this on a blog post earlier this week. You have to stand up, raise your hand and shout me, I'm here!
You can't just wait to be spotted. To be bought. For the supermarkets to stock your book. Or to be found in the slush pile. Or retweeted or shared on Facebook.
You need to take the control back and stop relying on others to make your writing career.
By creating an author platform you might write about something unrelated to your books. Or you might publish a short story on your blog or in a newsletter once a month. (Joanne Harris regularly writes small stories on twitter). You might share recipes, or tips. You might describe an unusual hobby you have. Or you might write about your writing process or journey. Or parenthood. Or where you live.
Whatever you decide to do you'll be creating a relationship with an audience. This audience will become engaged and connected. They'll look forward to reading your blog, or seeing you on twitter, or funny anecdotes you share on your Facebook page. They follow you because they want to. Because you entertain. You give them a lovely read, an inspiring photograph. So they're also highly likely to buy anything you might publish.
They TRUST you.
This also looks good when you contact an agent or a publisher. Because the hard bit of the marketing is already done.
It could also bring you to the attention of an agent or publisher. Or a magazine. Or a business that needs some copywriting. Or a brand that wants to pay you to promote them.
I know it works. An agent signed me when she read my work online. Yes, she found me. This is not intended as a brag, by the way, but to emphasise that marketing yourself, raising your profile, going for it, does work.
Now I want to build up my social media platform even further. I decided, early last year, to market myself as a brand. And this is why I created A Bookish Baker.
The aim was and still is, that by the time I finish writing and editing my novel I will have a generous amount of followers who enjoy my writing. Who enjoy my content (which is, incidentally, related to the novel I'm writing and the other non-fiction book ideas I've had) and would naturally want to read a book I've written. Hopefully this would then convince a publisher that I'm a good bet because I already have an audience out there.
This isn't a cynical way of looking at things. Conversely I like being a fan of a number of other people out there and would buy any book they write in a heartbeat. It's a natural progression. In fact, I've already done so. I'm a fan of Laura Jane Williams' blog, Superlatively Rude. And the smaller stories she writes in the captions on Instagram. Then I happily bought her book, in hardback, Becoming, when it was released.
Why not try it? Whether you're published; traditionally or self, whether you're looking for a book deal like me, or after an agent, or for any other reason you want to bring attention to something you've created.
Create an author platform. Create your brand. And get yourself out there.
What have you got to lose?
Tips on how to create an author brand:
- Where is your audience? Are they on twitter, facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn? Find out and create a presence there.
- Spend some time thinking about how you want to be seen. Think about what you want to write about. Bear in mind that many readers love to 'know' the writer behind the blog, or the book, or the magazine article (though being open isn't compulsory).
- Don't rush into social media until you've thought it through. Think about consistency. Have the same name for all your different social media accounts. Think about what you'll post and how this will show your brand in the best light. Incidentally you do not have to be on all social media. Be strategic.
- Write a plan. This doesn't need to be pages and pages. But plan ahead.
- I've found the best way to create your brand is to combine a number of platforms (though you don't have to be everywhere).
- You may want to think seriously about creating a blog. I think this is incredibly important as all your other platforms can point towards it. With all these other platforms (twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc), you're dependent on them being around. (Remember MySpace? Friends Reunited?) If all your followers are on twitter and it folds tomorrow or your account is hacked and wiped - you've lost all your followers and readers.
- With number six in mind writing a newsletter and capturing email addresses is essential.
- Twitter: The Yorkshire Shepherdess @amandaowen8 and Herdwick Shepherd @herdyshepherd1 both created twitter accounts, gained a large amount of followers simply by showing their day and have now written books.
- Facebook: The Unmumsy Mum is a great example of someone who built a huge following on there before getting a book deal.
- Instagram Learning to take pretty pictures with an iPhone and creating a curated feed is a great way to build followers and a community of people who like your work and writing.
- Newsletter subscribers - newsletters are being seen as increasingly important and becoming more popular especially as algorithms are changed.
- You could also create videos on Youtube (e.g Miranda Dickinson) or podcasts (e.g Sarah Painter and her brilliant The Worried Writer podcast).
- There is also Snapchat, Steller, Medium, Periscope. Lots to have a look at. But do not get overwhelmed at this stage. Take it one step at a time.
From there you could then pitch other websites, magazines both on and offline. The possibilities are endless.
And the audience is enormous.
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