- Author News, Deals
- Bad Poetry
- Blog News
- Collaborating and Ghosting
- Current Affairs
- Deep Thoughts
- Favorite Books
- Marketing and Platforms
- Questions from Beginners
- Quick Tips
- Resources for Writing
- Social Media Critique
- The Business of Writing
- The Writing Craft
- Thursdays with Amanda
Category : Marketing and Platforms
I received a fascinating email from a first-time novelist the other day. She said that her very first novel is releasing, it’s with a medium-sized house, and “While I’m not exactly sure what the publisher may do to market my book, I’m wondering what advice you give to the authors you represent in order to help them market their first novel.”
First, I wrote back to her and said she should simply ASK HER PUBLISHER what exactly they’re doing to help market her book. It may not be much (publishing works on the Pareto Principle, where 80% of the resources flow to 20% of the books), but she should certainly know what they are doing. So get a little clarity by asking. Are they taking out an ad in a trade magazine? Purchasing a group ad? Buying placement in front of Barnes & Noble? Sending out review copies? Offering terms to Amazon? Whatever it is (and it may not be much), it would be nice to know, so that the author doesn’t duplicate the publisher’s efforts.
Second, I suggested she simply make a list of the things SHE CAN DO to help market her book. Can she put together a blog tour? Do a launch party with friends at a local bookstore? Set up an event on Facebook? Arrange to get into her local newspaper and onto local radio stations? Every author can do SOMETHING… so what is it you can do?
We had a nice chat about this via email, then she asked me a question: “Would you be willing to show me the sort of letter you send to a first-time novelist you represent?” I thought that was a brilliant question, so I agreed to pull out an actual letter I’d sent to someone about marketing, and reveal it. I’ve changed some of the details to hide the author’s identity, but I hope you find this helpful…
Someone wrote to say, “I notice there are a lot of authors who seem to spend every waking minute on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter. From your perspective as an agent, is social media an effective tool for selling books?”
I’m of the opinion that internet marketing by authors is not only helpful, it’s probably essential in the new publishing economy. An author needs to engage with people in online communities in order to generate exposure and, hopefully, sales of his or her book. But I don’t think a lot of writers understand how to access it. They start a blog, but don’t understand how to make it successful. They’re on twitter, but it’s about nothing more than “what I had for dinner” and “kids are sick with the flu.” Who cares? And how is that helping to sell books? May I offer ten thoughts on the effective use of social media?
1. Know why you’re doing social marketing. You should have a purpose in mind when you join Twitter, post on Facebook, or connect with people on LinkedIn. You are trying to connect with friends, introduce yourself to people, and share your passion and message. You are NOT just trying to sell copies of your book, though certainly any book you’ve written that falls within the boundaries of your interests and personality will doubtless reflect who you are and what you think. Here’s the key: Don’t promote — participate.
2. Study the social media market. Take a look at who is going where, what’s being said, and what the response is. Get involved with forums and discussion boards, participate on consumer review sites, and stay on top of your online communities. Make sure to Google your name, and check out things like BlogTalkRadio. You should know about bookmarking and tagging, as well as content aggregation.
3. Target your audience. The core of author marketing still comes down to
Recently I had someone write to ask me about a couple novels I represented that did well in the market. Specifically, she asked, “What did the publisher do to help make each book a success? And are there lessons I can take this will help me succeed with my own novel?” I can think of a number of things that were done well, and I think they offer a model for others to follow…
First, in both cases the authors spent a couple years building a readership for her writing through websites. That took a lot of patient work and investment by the authors, and it helped immensely (and I realize that’s not a publisher activity, but I bring it up because it wouldn’t be fair to talk about the success of the novels without that fact). Both authors worked tirelessly at marketing, which also helped. I’m one of those who realizes writers don’t get into this business to become “marketers” — they want to be writers, so investing a bunch of time into marketing is a sacrifice. Both of these authors made that sacrificed and did the hard work to make their books succeed.
Second, each author wrote a very good novel. The publisher’s role in that was to push the writers to make their books better. The editors weren’t satisfied to let the novels be adequate — they pushed them toward greatness. So I think the publisher really believed in the books. That may sound trite, but I think it makes a difference. A publisher can’t believe in every book — no matter what they say, the lists are too long, and there’s only so much time to invest. They need to spend the bulk of their energies on their current bestsellers, since that’s close to being a guaranteed source of income. It’s tough to invest a lot of time, money, and manpower on a newer author
Some wrote to ask, “I’ve been told we should have a launch party when my book comes out. Is that a good idea? And what what makes a good launch party?”
I think a book launch party is a great idea — it allows an author to involve friends and acquaintances in the release of the book, is an easy way to garner some local media, and can help you kick off book sales. (Besides, it can be great for an author’s ego, if done right.) Let me offer a couple of suggestions to help make it a success…First and most important, you want to make sure you INVITE people. In other words, don’t sit around and hope people show — be proactive and make sure you get a house full. That means you need to find a big group who can be supportive, like your local writer’s group, you church congregation, the organizations you belong to, all your relatives, people at the clubs or sports you’ve joined, and all your fans in the region. Pick a venue you can fill up, since getting 40 people in a tiny bookstore makes it feel like a great party, but getting those same 40 people in a huge shopping mall gallery can feel empty. Determine a definite start and end time, and make sure everyone sees it’s a celebration. Again, you’re trying to get the word out, and get commitments from some folks to attend.Second, if you really want to make people show up, offer an incentive — books at a discount, or free chocolate, or wine and cheese (a few big boxes of wine don’t cost much and seem to bring people out of the woodwork). If you can’t do wine, ask a couple people to bring their latte machines and offer free lattes to everyone. Your only expense is the price of coffee. But have something that is
We’re doing an Ask the Agent series, and a few questions came in about Wattpad, the website that allows writers to upload and share their work with readers. Authors can upload entire books at once or they can upload chapters or scenes. Many use Wattpad to get feedback from readers as they write, and some have developed pretty substantial followings.
Here are the questions that our reader asked:
Does sharing your work through Wattpad count as self-publishing? Does it affect how traditional publishers see you?
Can Wattpad be a powerful marketing tool or a risky way to show unpolished work?
If you use it, would it be better to share just the first part of your book (so that you don’t give away the ending) or the whole thing?
I remember a few years ago, my friend was seeing some really great success on a HarperCollins-owned website called InkPop. The site was similar to Wattpad in that you’d upload your chapters as you wrote them and get feedback. The only difference was that InkPop promised that if you got high enough in the ranks, a literary agent would review your work. They even had an example of a young writer who had received a really nice HarperCollins book contract—all because of this website.
My friend climbed really high really fast. Within a month, she was near the top and received the coveted agent review. But in all truth, her book was hastily written. She had uploaded the first bit on a whim, not thinking it would go over. And then it did. And then she felt pressured to hit the agent review deadline. So even though I was giving her feedback as she went, she didn’t have time to polish and perfect. She put forth a manuscript that wasn’t her best.
Now, I think if any writer is on the cusp of getting a free review with an agent, he/she
We’re doing a month of “Ask the Agent” questions here on the blog. The other day, somebody asked the question, “How do you suggest an unpublished novelist get started building a platform?”
Building a platform isn’t something you do overnight, it’s something you do over time, so you have to be patient with the process. And it’s different for each author — what works for one writer won’t work nearly as effectively for another. So I think the most important first step isn’t to decide on strategies, so much as to decide on who you are and what you do best. Who are you? What’s unique about you? What marketing do you enjoy doing? Some authors will focus on speaking and appearances, others on online articles, some on media… I think you have to know yourself and your gifts, and figure out what you’re going to do to build a platform.
But in terms of the process, there are several common strategies fiction authors use:
- Create a big mouth list (who are the ten people you’re already friends with, who have a big platform and are willing to promote you and your work?)
- Develop a blog that attracts readers (you want to be participating in a discussion with them)
- Start an e-newsletter (and get readers to sign up so you interact with them regularly)
- Create a freebie (have something of value you can give away to interested readers)
- Write columns, articles, or guest posts on e-zines and other sites (so readers will start to see your name and your work)
- Engage people on social media (don’t use social media to sell your book — use FB and Twitter and Pinterest to make friends and engage in conversation)
- Participate in HARO (Help A Reporter Out is a great way to get your name out there by offering insightful quotes on the topics of the day)
- Self-publish and capture emails on your
Okay, so I just completed a ten-part series on marketing your book. I’d had a lot of folks ask about the process, so I simply went back to a recently published “Intro to Marketing” textbook, and walked through the basic information in ten steps. (You can find them by wandering back through the last two weeks of blog posts.)
Now here’s my question for you… What lessons have you learned about marketing your book? What has worked? What has not worked? What advice would you give to other authors? What parts of the process did you enjoy? Which parts did you despise? And as you approach your next book, what do you plan to do?
I hear all sorts of questions from authors about book marketing. Some love trailers, others hate them. Some love doing blog tours, others find them a waste of time. Some spend hours on social media pushing their book, others find all that effort amounts to nothing. Some love talking on the radio, others feel uncomfortable and believe they’d be better off writing something. So… give me your thoughts. I’d love to hear what lessons you can share with others about marketing your book.
And I’ll start: The single most important lesson I’ve learned when marketing my own books is to create a checklist and work through it. When I fail to do that, I skip some things or duplicate others. I also tend to push off the tasks I don’t enjoy. So make a checklist, have each task clearly written down, and assign it to a person and a date. Then work your checklist. The most helpful thing I know.
And if I can share a second thought, it would be don’t expect everything to work. It took me awhile to figure out that marketing is like baseball — if 30% of the things I do are successful, I’m going to have a hit. But
It’s been said that some people have twenty years of experience; while other people have one year of experience twenty times. The difference? The former keep track of their progress and learn from their mistakes as well as their successes. The latter keep trying something new, and have to re-learn the process every time.
When it comes to marketing, make it easy on yourself — mark your trail. The last step in creating a marketing plan is to make a point of writing down everything you do, so that you can evaluate it later. Make note of what works and what doesn’t. Which parts you enjoyed and which parts you hated. Who you liked working with, which activities seemed to be effective, and what things actually sold copies (instead of being fun, but not making you any money). As you work through your marketing plan, you want to make notes to yourself. Remind yourself of what people responded to, and what seemed like a waste of time. That will help you focus on the good ideas and eliminate the bad ones the next time you’re doing marketing for a book. Give yourself some evaluations. Figure out if you could do something better next time, or tweak an unsuccessful effort in order to make it successful.
Here’s an example: I represented an author who spent a bunch of money and time on a video book trailer. She worked on the script, shot scenes, and spent more than a thousand dollars to create an ad for her book. Um… it did nothing. Nada. It looked great, and she enjoyed it, but who chooses to look at book ads? For her, it was a waste of time. But I represent another author who really got into making a trailer that fit her book, used it as more or less an introduction to her concept, made it seem like more of a news
Now that you’ve done all your research and planning — you’ve figured out WHAT you need to do, WHERE you need to do it, WHEN you’re going to get it done, WHO you’re going to be reaching, and WHY you’re going to all this trouble — now you need to go do the work. If you created a calendar, this is easy… you simply look at the calendar, figure out what needs to be done, then go get the tasks accomplished. Instead of worrying about what steps you need to take in order to market your book, you can begin working through the plan you’ve spent weeks creating. No more seat-of-the-pants, no more guessing what activities to do. You’ve done all the background work; now you need to put it into practice.
Authors tend to come in two types when it comes to marketing… Some will want to take several weeks and just market full-time. They’ll set their current writing projects aside, and suddenly become marketers for a season. Others will want to set aside a chunk of time each day for marketing, leaving themselves with a few hours to continue writing. There’s no “right” way to plan this — it depends on what you’re comfortable doing, and what your schedule looks like. But either way, you’ve got to commit to being a marketer for a season, in order to help promote your book.
I’m frequently asked how much time an author should spend on marketing each day or each week, but of course the answer lies in what your plan calls for. If you do the things that are on your plan, the amount of time required will become clear to you. Some authors set aside an hour or two each day to do some marketing. That time can increase as you have a new book come out — so you might find yourself spending half your time on
At this point, you’re probably wondering what else there is to do with a marketing plan. Take heart — we’re almost to the end of the process…
Once you’ve written down everything you want to do, you need to tie each activity to a calendar and a budget and a person — or, as I like to say, every activity has a date and a dollar sign and a do-er. So, for example, if you are planning to send out a bunch of copies to a “big mouth” list in order to get people talking about your book, you pick a day when you’re going to write the notes, address the envelopes, and get them in the mail. Then you figure out the cost of envelopes, mailing labels, and postage. If you’re planning to write several freelance articles to support your book, you mark down the days you’re going to write them, the days you’re going to query and send them, and the days you’re going to check back on them. If you’re going to hire a freelance marketing consultant to help you schedule radio interviews, you pick the days you’re going to be available for the interviews, you mark the dates you’re going to talk with the consultant, and you write down the costs involved with hiring him or her.
Again, for EVERY activity, you choose a date and, if applicable, the dollar amount it will cost you, then figure out who is going to do it. So if you’re going to try and schedule a blog tour, you write down on your calendar the dates you plan to fill up with blogging conversations, as well as the dates you plan to contact bloggers in order to schedule those visits. If you’re hiring or getting a volunteer to do this, you make sure they have clear instructions, and a script, and a plan to follow. There may not be