Marketing Basics for Writers
By Amy Rivers
Amy Rivers was born and raised in southern New Mexico and currently resides in Colorado. She had an idyllic childhood despite a severe visual impairment and, perhaps because of her disability, she learned a lot about compassion and empathy from a young age. Her keen interest in social issues and violence prevention led to a Master’s degree with concentrations in Psychology and Politics. She was the director of a sexual assault response program and remains an advocate for social justice. Amy has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses, Novelty Bride Magazine, ESME.com and Splice Today. Her first novel, Wallflower Blooming, is being re-released in June 2016 by Wooden Pants Publishing.
Using the Internet to Reach Readers
The Internet has changed the way we reach people. Before the Internet, advertisers used a blanket approach to promote a product. They’d target a publication or television program that appealed to their target audience, and then they’d blast product promotions, hoping some percentage of readers or viewers would remember and buy the product. A lot of advertising, especially print, still works this way. You’re paying for people to view your ad, but whether they buy or not comes down to how compelling your ad is, how good the product is, how often it runs and whether you’ve done a sufficient job communicating the benefit of the product.
The Internet has changed the playing field for marketing and promoting products and services. Online customers are actively seeking the products they desire. The trick now is for businesses to put themselves in a place where those customers can find them. And this applies to authors. Millions of readers are online searching for books to read. Your job is to make sure your book is in the right place so that readers can find it. There are a lot of ways to do this, including:
- Website: A small, clean, low-maintenance website makes a great foundation for your online writing platform. Without much effort, you can create a website that introduces your readers to you and your work. The website can have a blog, or not. It can include photos, videos, etc. Or not. Websites are flexible marketing tools and you can modify your author website to meet your changing needs. Weebly, WordPress.com and Wix are popular, easy-to-use website platforms.
- Social Media: Sites like Facebook and Twitter can be really useful in promoting your work. They are low-cost. The biggest investment will be in time. Choose one or two social media sites to begin with. Set reasonable goals for yourself (i.e. “write one Facebook post each week”). Don’t forget to reply to comments. The real value of social media for readers is that authors are more accessible. Don’t miss the chance to engage your fans.
- Newsletter: A monthly or quarterly email newsletter can be a good way to engage readers. Just remember to ask yourself what’s in it for the subscribers. Include book news, reviews of similar works, contests or other unique information that will keep readers coming back for more. You can use your existing email contacts to start your list. Just know that building a following can take time.
- Author Profile Pages: Websites like Amazon and Goodreads allow you to build an author profile page where readers can get to know you. You can link all your publications to your profile page, including anthologies where you aren’t the primary author.
- Third-Party Promotions: Sites like Choosy Bookworm and Bookbub have promotional programs that will help you get the word out about your book. The costs and services vary greatly so make sure you read the fine print before investing your money.
- Advertising: Running an advertising campaign can be an expensive proposition, but the Internet provides several opportunities for experimentation. I find Facebook post and page boosts to be highly effective and relatively low cost. Goodreads advertising program can also be a great way to get readers interested in your book. As with any advertising program, stick to your budget and monitor the results so you’ll know what works.
Need Help Getting Started?
If you’re unsure of where to start, ask for help. Your local library or regional writing organizations often have classes ranging from the most basic computer use to website design and social media. Go to your local community college and ask students for help setting up your website or social media pages. They get to add the job to their resume and you get inexpensive access to an expert. And, finally, there are always marketing companies who can give you added assistance if your budget allows.
Making the Most of Your Time
Authors – but not just authors, business people of all sorts – often find all this marketing work overwhelming, intimidating and time-consuming. But it doesn’t have to be. Creating the right marketing mix is the first step in making your efforts sustainable and successful. You don’t have to do everything! Choose one or two things to start with. As your career progresses, you can always add to the mix. And don’t forget to have fun! Make reader engagement the focus of your marketing work and you’ll find it much more enjoyable and a whole lot less scary.
I love that you left out the dreaded book signing on site as a good promotional tool. In my experience, those signings up and down the Front Range and all around the country are a waste unless you’re already a bestselling author. With my last book, I had “one big book signing and launch party” in Fort Collins to entertain and feed my friends. That was fun and I didn’t miss the other appearances one bit.
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