By Janet Spencer King
Your book is going to press. You sit back, smile, and congratulate yourself on a job well done… and a job that’s finished.
Alas, that’s not the case. You have much more to do.
The big task hanging over you now is Marketing!
I remember when, not that long ago, publishers led authors by the hand through a flurry of book publicity—in-person and radio interviews, sometimes local TV or even a cross-country tour were part of the deal. Well tuck those practices somewhere next to “Mad Men” three-martini lunches as definitely in the past. It matters not whether you are a self-published author or you are with a traditional house. Marketing today is on the shoulders of the author.
And market you must. Authors I work with are often and understandably reluctant about taking this on. But trust me, without it your book is unlikely to go further than your family and a few close friends. It is your marketing effort that will inform the world about your book and, with a bit of luck, get people you don’t know you to read it.
Here are three rules of thumb my clients find make the going a bit easier.
Clients are always surprised to hear they should start thinking about marketing before we have even finished the manuscript editing process. It is ideal to have at least a rough outline of your plan before your book goes to print. You don’t have to become a marketing maven, but you do have to pay attention.
First and most important, figure out who your audience is and, no, “everyone,” is not the right answer. Books appeal to specific kinds of readers such as business people, mystery aficionados, and young adults, to name a few. Who is your audience? Identifying that will be a big step in figuring out your marketing strategy.
The Internet, of course, is an author’s best friend. The site “Goodreads” is a great place to start and it allows authors to set up their own page. But keep going from there. You’ll see that the Internet is chockablock full of sites that guide authors in how to market, including finding reader blogs that attract particular audiences. You may be able to be a guest blogger on some that will draw attraction to you and your book.
You’ll also need some offline effort. Check out local bookstores to ask if they do author readings and signings and, if you can do one. Prepare and distribute flyers announcing your presentation and be sure that the store will publicize it as well. If there are specialty shops that cater to people who would be your audience—perhaps baby-gear shop if you’ve written about parenting, or a fishing equipment store if your book is about fly-fishing—ask if you can leave promotional postcards or brochures on their counter.
You can’t do it all. And you don’t have to. (I hear you breathing a sigh of relief now.) The idea is to pick out what opportunities and efforts will best serve you and your book and not to bother with those that won’t. And you can take it a step further. For example a social media presence is mandatory today, but if you aren’t up to creating a Facebook page or tweeting, there are loads of young people who are terrific at this and would charge a reasonable fee. It is important to keep your social media active and up-to-date, so be sure the person you hire is responsible about such matters—and keep tabs on the action.
Hire a Professional
Marketing your book and yourself as the author has its rewards, but there is no question that it is demanding and, for some people, overwhelming. Fortunately there are marketing experts you can hire to help you plan a strategy and carry it out. Fees for these professionals vary widely, so keep your budget in mind. Your editor can suggest contenders, and there are many marketing firms on the Internet.
Marketing is a chore, but it can pay off even for years. A prolific book writer I know keeps her titles selling literally for decades. The reason: she never quits marketing.