First, get rid of any ridiculous notion that you can be a successful writer without marketing. Don’t cling to the myth of the reclusive best-selling writer. Or tell yourself you’ll market now, but when you make it big, you’ll rest on your laurels, and hide away in a cabin and just write. We all have that dream, because we are writers and have great imaginations. But truth is: successful writers actively market. Marissa Mayer has a podcast, John Green does Youtube videos and Neil Gaiman is always on Twitter. Hoping to build a writing career without marketing is like planning on winning the lottery for your retirement plan.
Start Marketing Now
Okay, now that we’ve dismissed that fantasy, when you should start marketing? Yesterday! But seriously. If you have signed a book deal, you need to start marketing immediately. Even if you haven’t signed, even if you haven’t finished writing your book, right now is a good time to start marketing. And if your book has already been published, you can still start marketing now. I didn’t know about lots of marketing opportunities until after my book published. I felt like I was late to the party, but I was still able to take advantage of them. With marketing it’s never too early or too late to start.
One caveat: don’t let marketing take all your writing time. Always protect some time for writing in your schedule. But in the months leading up to your launch it is okay, even necessary, to prioritize marketing over writing. I dragged my feet on marketing because I couldn’t really wrap my mind around it. And now I regret every wasted day. Four months before my book came out I got my act together. I started an Instagram account and I’m grateful for every minute of marketing I did. I wish I had done more. But the good news is that it is never too late to market. My book came out almost a year ago, and last week I had record sales on Amazon. In fact Amazon favors books that continue to have slow and steady growth. So I’m continually looking for new ways to market my book.
Talk to other Authors
I learned more about marketing in a conversation with author Rachel Huffmire than I did from reading any book or attending any conference. This is true for a couple reasons. 1. Rachel is whiz at marketing and 2. As another author with the same publisher as mine, I took her advice to heart. She had been where I was and I trusted her. She told me what I just told you. Start marketing now. She also helped me understand what I needed to do. I feel like talking to authors who have recently published is so much more helpful than most books or articles because the market is always changing. It’s good to learn what worked for someone recently. Every author has different strengths. Here’s a few key things I’ve learned from other authors.
Make book teasers
Why to start a newsletter.
How to get reviews
Where to get inexpensive editorial reviews
What are the best blog tours
So reach out to other authors who have recently debuted. Most will be eager to share what they have learned with you.
Right when my book was published someone told me that once you have over 50 reviews Amazon helps promote your book. I have no idea if this is true. It doesn’t matter because for readers more reviews equals legitimacy. So get reviews and get more reviews. To begin with I got reviews the old fashioned way— giving people my ARCs and asking for reviews. At my book launch parties I asked for reviews. When someone texts me or emails me and tells me they enjoyed my book, I ask for more reviews. Next time I write a book, I’m going to ask for reviews in my acknowledgments.
You know all that rejection you went through trying to get a book published? That was so good for you. Because now you have a thick (or thicker) skin and can put yourself out there and ask for help. Some people will say no. But most will say yes. In my experience the rejection rate while asking for marketing help is nothing compared to the rejection of querying. Here are a few things people said yes to.
An author I didn’t know agreed to a giveaway for my Facebook launch party
A small company agreed to giveaway a dress to promote my book
A distant relative with more than 50,000 followers agreed to post about my book in her Instagram stories
Think Long Term
As I mentioned before, I wish I had started marketing earlier. But I remind myself that I am not just marketing for this book, but for my next book and the book after that. For a while I tended to waste time over-analyzing every Instagram, Twitter or Facebook post. And then I realized that this is all a learning experience and I’m bound to make mistakes. I certainly have made mistakes. But I have also had big successes with posts when I least expected it, and I have learned so much. Telling myself that I have a few years to figure this marketing thing out has made the whole experience less anxiety inducing and so much more fun.
Another part of thinking long-term is to always be gracious with everyone. I particularly want to maintain a good relationship with reviewers--even (or maybe especially) those who don’t give the highest reviews. By being gracious, kind and friendly, I’ve found that some reviewers who did not LOVE my book are still happy to promote it. And who knows, maybe my next book will be their new favorite. I don’t want to burn any bridges with a reviewer who might not love my first book, but could be my next book’s biggest promoter.
These are five big-picture items that I think all newly-signed authors need to keep in mind. In the future I plan to share more detailed information about specific marketing techniques. So, authors: What would you like to learn more about? Also, what would be your advice to a newly signed author?