Last week my writing friend Mary Hamilton introduced us to the need to do our own marketing if we want to actually sell what we write. This week she reviews some of the pros and cons of various methods she’s tested. I met Hamilton at a Houston area critique group. My first book launch event was one she hosted – in a local coffee shop type restaurant. It worked. I bought a copy of her book to give as a gift to a grandchild.
Sell What You Publish – Part Two
By Author Mary Hamilton
Here’s a peek at some of the marketing methods I’ve tried. It should go without saying that you need a website. WordPress has the best reputation for being recognized by Google’s search engines. It takes some time to learn all the terminology and technical knowhow to set one up, but you can always ask someone younger than twenty to help you. Go simple at first. You can always add to it as you add more books to your credit.
There are two schools of thought on these. Some authors use them as a way to sell their books to interested local friends and neighbors. Others prefer to keep the launch party as a celebration rather than a selling opportunity. You’ll have to make that determination yourself. If you have lots of friends who show an interest in your book, stock up on copies and invite your friends to your launch party with the enticement of buying a signed copy (often at a reduced price). But realize there are only so many fish in any pond, and once you’ve exhausted that arena, you’ll need to look beyond your local sphere of influence.
The next place most authors go is Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. You may want to have a Facebook author page to keep your business separate from your personal profile. But realize, you’ll be responsible for maintaining two pages. And do not make your author page all about “Buy my book.” Or your Twitter feed for that matter. Social media is the place where you connect with readers outside your locale, where they can learn about you and get to know you and hopefully become interested in what you write. It’s meant for social interaction, not to be a constant commercial. I’ve heard a recommended ratio of one sales post to every seven non-sales posts. In my opinion, even that is a bit much, unless you’re offering a free download or a discount for a short period of time.
Current wisdom says every author/writer needs an email list by which to contact their fans and followers. Why? Because while Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites are great, you are essentially borrowing space on their real estate. If they change the rules (as Facebook does fairly often), or if they collapse, you’ve lost all those fans and followers. But not if they’ve signed up for your newsletter! When someone gives you their email address by signing up for your newsletter, that person is part of the audience you need to be interacting with. They are one of your fans!
As with learning to write and to market, learning to manage a newsletter is a slow process. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) It will take years to build your list of email addresses, so start now. Set up an account with MailChimp or another newsletter hosting site and begin sending out a newsletter at least 4 times a year. Anything less than that may result in your fans forgetting about you and losing interest. Make sure your newsletter sign up is prominent on your website, and if you have an author page on Facebook, activate the Sign Up button there. If you have a book out and you can afford it, a promotion site like RyanZee.com or Authorsxp.com can help build your list of subscribers. These sites run promotions that group together fifteen or more books in a similar genre. For a chance to win the books, an entrant signs up for the newsletters of the participating authors they are interested in. When the sweepstakes ends, the email addresses are collated and you receive a list of all those who signed up to receive your newsletter.
Pretend You’re Writing a Letter to a Friend
What to write about? Non-fiction writers have an advantage here, as do some genre fiction authors. For the rest of us, coming up with material for a newsletter can be a brain teaser. I try to share my writing progress—how far along I am in writing a book, any interesting research I’ve done, something about the settings or the characters, etc. Some authors include recipes, news about hobbies, photos, and family doings. Pretend you’re writing a letter to a friend and share whatever you think might be interesting. Subscribe to newsletters from the authors you love and pay attention to what they include. Pick out one or two things you like and try them. But as with social media, don’t make every letter a commercial to buy your book.
Come back next week to learn how Hamilton uses blogs, giveways, and paid advertising to market her books.