I haven’t yet mentioned review houses or contests or book awards or press releases or traditional media sources and advertising like radio, TV, newspapers and magazines.
Holy Crap! What’s an author to do? Wanna give up?
If this is any indication of how you feel? Well, welcome to the club.
With all these options, it’s no wonder we’re confused.
Sadly, unless you have the budget to pay someone to do all this for you, keeping up with marketing and social media falls on your shoulders. It’s understandable why we don’t have time to truly do the things we want to do. Like write! Why? Because, to be successful, we feel we must take advantage of every avenue available to promote our books…and ourselves.
Now, let’s step back and take a look at what’s really required as an author and what else you can venture into later, if you so desire.
Before you publish a book, you need to put yourself out there for the world to see. You need to sell yourself as an author. Your book is just your product, probably only one of many. I say just your product, because too often authors only focus on selling their books. Or have the attitude that since they wrote a book, it will sell itself. I’m here to tell you, if readers haven’t “bought” you, they won’t buy your book.
That being said. what is the absolute minimum you need BEFORE your book is released? I call it the minimum equipment list!
- THE #1 most important thing you can have is a website. Not an option, this one is required. This is your face to the world. This tells people who you are, what you are, and what you have to offer. And, it needs to look good. As professional as it can be. If you have talent in website design, then there are plenty of options available for free or very cheap, like WordPress, Wix, Weebly, GoDaddy, just to name a few. Each one has plenty of free or minimally priced templates to choose from that you can customize to your personality. And that’s truly what this needs to be—your personality. A reflection of you, the person, not what you think readers want to see, but you. Don’t pretend to be something or someone you’re not. Anything short of the truth and the readers will eventually see through it. And yes, you should have a website BEFORE you have a book. Because it you wait until after you have a book, you missed a tremendous sales opportunity called preorders. I can not express enough how important your website is. Even if you opt out of everything else, your website is a do or die necessity.
- Facebook author page. Facebook is still the #1 social media outlet. It is used for everything it seems these days. Recent studies have shown that most people, especially younger people, actually get most, if not all, of their news from Facebook. Which makes it a target for a lot of false stories and false beliefs of the truth.
- Personally, I rank this as #2 for me, but I listed Twitter here at #3 since it is the second most common place people look for news. There has been a lot of controversy among authors recently over whether you can actually sell books using Twitter and the answer is…it depends. It depends on how you use Twitter. I tell people, “if it isn’t working for you, you’re not using it right.” Twitter is a great tool. It can and will increase book sales. 7 or 8 years ago, Twitter made a tremendous difference for authors and could easily provide a healthy boost in sales. Today, not as much unless you have been selective about your Twitter following. How do you be selective? (Unwritten follow-back protocol, target readers, build your following through sites such as Hootsuite, Manage Flitter, Unfollow, and even Twitter Search) Yes, Twitter Search. It is a great tool and can expand your following with the right kind of followers. The kind of followers you want — readers who will buy your books. Here’s how you do it: It’s all about search parameters. Use parameters, in quotes, such as “book geek” “bibliophile” “avid reader” “Kindle reader” “Nook reader” “Kobo” “Thriller reader” “Mystery lover” the list can be as long and as complex as you want it to be. But whatever you use, target the readers who read your type of book. If they don’t follow back within 7 days or so, unfollow them and move on down your list. WORD OF CAUTION! There are Twitter limits, don’t go over those limits or Twitter will lock your account. If you use Twitter correctly, you can add to your Twitter following AND your readership. And thereby increase your sales. AND TALK! Talk to people on Twitter. Engage with your followers and with people you follow and the people who tweet back and forth with them. Get involved with readers.
- Goodreads author page. Don’t skip this step. This is where more and more readers hang out. It is also an Amazon owned entity, which makes for an easy link to your books. You need Goodreads. Period.
- Amazon Author page. Another place readers hang out. You do this through Amazon’s Author Central. You can set up your page and control all the data in it. When your book(s) come out, make sure you add them to your Author Central page. (if Amazon hasn’t added them already)
- Last, but not least, is that all important mailing list. Your mailing list is your direct access portal to readers who are interested in your book(s). They signed up for a reason, capitalize on it…but don’t spam them. Start developing your list yesterday, collect email addresses via all the avenues listed above…by sending them TO A LINK ON YOUR WEBSITE.
What are some email marketing sites?
- Constant Contact
- Get Response
- Vertical Response
- Several others
All of these are essential FIRST STEPS.
If you haven’t taken them yet, do it ASAP. Later on, you can add more social media sites to your list. Such as…
Both of these have been rapidly gaining popularity among readers and writers.
Does this already sound too time consuming? If it does, it’s because it can be, but it doesn’t HAVE to be. As my social media grew, I found myself spending an increasing number of hours every day trying to promote myself and my books. Too many hours…way too many. Then I looked for ways to streamline the process.
Here are a few suggested time-saving tricks:
- Tweetdeck—Simple to use. Free. Makes keeping up with Twitter a snap. Schedule tweets (many) in advance, but awkward to do so.
- Hootsuite—Simple to use. Free or pay plan for extra benefits. Allows you to monitor multiple social media feeds and post to them all at once or just a selected few. Schedule tweets in advance. Pay plan offers ability to upload a mass number of tweets at once for scheduling. Has a web browser app called Hootlet, which is awesome.
- Link your Facebook page and Twitter (and others) so you only have to post to one and it feeds to the others.
- Self-Discipline—Manage your time. Allot only a small amount of your day to social media and marketing, email, phone calls, etc. Make a schedule and stick to it. This is much easier said than done, but once you have made it part of your daily routine, it is very easy to find more time to do what you love —WRITE!
- Accept the fact that there will be interruptions to your time and schedule. This is just a fact of life. How you handle those interruptions and get back to your writing routine is the key. I’m not saying you can’t have some flexibility in your schedule for those unexpected things that can and will come up. Too rigid a schedule is as bad as no schedule. If that old friend you haven’t seen in years call you up out of the blue and wants to meet for lunch or coffee and it’s the middle of your writing time, take a break and go. In reality, the break might do your creativity more good than the harm caused by the break in your writing day. Just don’t do it every day.
- Write when you brain is alert, handle social media and marketing when you’re too tired or drained. Save your brain power for your creative writing. If you’re a morning person, write in the mornings and save your marketing & social media time for late in the afternoon or evening when you’ve exhausted your creativity. Conversely, if you’re a night owl, handle those tedious jobs while you’re still trying to wake up and save your writing for when your brain comes alive. The time to write is NOT when you’re tired, but fresh and alert.
- Learn to say “NO.” As I mentioned earlier, it’s okay to take the occasional spur-of-the-moment outing, just don’t make it a habit. Remember, time is money and there is a creative cost to your time. You can’t jump every time you get an invitation. You can’t accept every opportunity or event or speaking engagement. There comes a point when you must say ‘no’ and be happy with your decision. Resist the urge to be a people pleaser. And do it with no regrets.
- Don’t take on too much. You can’t do everything you want and still have all day, every day to write. Choose what to let go. Make it a conscious, well-though out decision and stick to it. Again, no regrets.
- Prioritize your life. What are your ultimate goals and ambitions? Then narrow that and prioritize your goals for the month. Then, the week. Then, each day. Write this down and put it where you can see it every day as a reminder. This will help you keep on track.