Last week we established the ugly truth that if you are an author, regardless of how you are published or by whom, you have to do all, or at least a good portion, of your own marketing and promotion. Everyone. No one is exempt.
Today I’ll share with you some of the things you should be doing to promote yourself and your books. Some of these suggestions work better than others. Some of these suggestions work for SOME authors better than for others.
Why not one size fits all? That can’t work because we are individuals with our own personalities and abilities. Authors in general tend to be more introverted. (THERE ARE MANY EXCEPTIONS TO THIS RULE—I’M SPEAKING IN VERY GENERAL TERMS.) We spend our days or our free time in front of a computer or at a typewriter or with pen and paper and write stories. We are alone, or if in a public place we are sitting by ourselves. Wherever we are, we are quietly weaving words into stories we hope people will want to read.
Because so many of us are introverts, the world of social media, where so much of our promotion takes place, can be a daunting, uncomfortable world. You don’t even have to be an introvert for it to be an unsettling place—you could be like me. No one who knows me would ever call me an introvert. BUT, I am a very private person. I hate putting my life out in public. Social media requires a level of intimacy I’m simply uncomfortable with. But I do it. And here’s the disclaimer: I could do it much, much better. So as we go through some of these things I must say, “Do as I say, NOT as I do.”
So, in no particular order, EXCEPT FOR NUMBER ONE, ten ways you can promote yourself and your work:
- WRITE THE NEXT BOOK. I’ve heard this so many times and from so many people that it must be true. When you think about it, it makes sense. The more you have out there, the more opportunity for readers to find you. Once they find you they will want to read everything you’ve written. A couple of caveats: they should be within the same genre and using the same author name. Most importantly of all, make sure it is a great book that is well written. If you are self-publishing you MUST pay for professional editing and an effective cover. Nothing turns off readers faster than a poorly edited book. And no, you can’t do it yourself. Your book deserves fresh eyes doing the editing. Ditto on cover art.
- NETWORK. Everything else on this list could come under this heading, because all social media is about networking. But here I’m talking more of the face-to-face type. Join writers groups. Attend workshops and conferences where you will not only meet other authors, but will have the opportunity to meet agents and editors. I haven’t done so well on some of the items on this list, but I feel like I’ve given this one a good effort. Best of all, it’s fun. You get to meet new people and make new friends. Win, Win.
- BLOG. This can be your own blog, or guest spots on other blogs, but you should be doing some kind of blogging. It is best if your blog is NOT about writing. My alter ego made that mistake. Yes, if you are an expert on the craft then by all means we would all love to read what you have to share with us. But if you are like my alter ego, just a fledgling writer, don’t write about your writing journey. Find something that you are an expert on, or that ties into your book genre. An excellent example is the romance writer Delilah Marvelle. She writes sexy historical romances. Her blog is well-researched, interesting posts on sex through history. If someone is interested in unusual historical sex facts they might also be interested in reading her books. It works, and it’s a fun blog to visit. You should google her after you finish reading this!
- FACEBOOK. If you are a writer, you should have an author page on Facebook. It is a type of business page—you can’t friend people from it, but people can come to your page and LIKE you. You post things about your books, things related to your books, your tour stops if you’re on a physical or cyber tour, etc. Several months ago those people who liked your page would get an alert in their timeline any time you posted something new. Here’s the WARNING: Facebook no longer does that. They will send it to some people’s timelines, but if you want to go to all of the people who have liked you, then you have to pay a fee. This has made a lot of people grumpy.
- FACEBOOK GROUPS. Facebook has ‘groups’ where people can go to share information on a given topic. For example, I’m writing a book that takes place in my old hometown so I’ve joined a group for people who want to share memories of that city. There are also groups where authors can promote their books. Cool, huh? I’ve used this several times, and I think it has some limited effect on sales.
- TWITTER. This is one that comes under the ‘take your choice of what works for you’ category. I find Twitter the easiest to use, and if I had more time to devote to it I think I would a) have more fun using it, and b) be more effective using it. Everyone is on it to some extent—some WAY more than others. It’s very straightforward, but the thing authors need to remember is that this is an opportunity to network, not to just blast the world with pleas to buy your latest book. Networking is where I’d like to improve—but again that takes time and commitment, which have been in short supply lately. IF you use Twitter, make sure to make use of the hashtags, which help your post make its way to people who share a similar interest with you.
- TUMBLR, PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM etc. These are more of the ‘take your choice of what works for you’ category. I don’t use these yet, though I’m investigating adding Tumblr to my list of things I’m not doing well. If you are a YA author you should be using Tumblr and maybe Instagram. YA readers are still on Twitter, but I’ve read that their numbers have decreased as other venues have caught their attention.
- WEBSITE. If you are pre-published and don’t have a blog, then you should certainly have a website where readers can learn about what you’re working on, what interests you, your genre, etc. If you are published you must have a website, regardless of whether or not you have a blog. (The blog can be part of the website.) Make it clear, easily read, easily navigated, and keep it updated. Once your readers or potential readers find you at your .com they should have reasons to want to return.
- SEE NUMBER ONE. This can’t be repeated often enough. Write. Write. Repeat. Write the next book. FINISH it! Get it to your agent or editor. If self-publishing, get that professional editing and cover art. Make it the best book it can be. Then REPEAT.
- WHEN SHOULD I START DOING THESE THINGS YOU’VE OUTLINED, MONICA? You should be building a presence for yourself the minute you think you might want to write a book. Or better yet, months before you even think to think about writing a book. In other words, the SOONER THE BETTER! Pick one or two things that feel comfortable for you and do them well. Network with other authors, potential readers, people from other countries, even people who you don’t think would ever have any interest in what you write because you never know. One fun thing I’ve enjoyed doing is starting conversations on Twitter with people who like a favorite TV show of mine, or a favorite actor. I use the hashtags for the show or actor and then conversations and cyber friendships get started. One day one of these cyber friends might want to buy your book!
These are just a handful of ideas for author self-promotion. I know there are hundreds of other ways authors promote themselves and their books. We would love to hear what works for you, so if you have a moment please leave a comment. You know, start a conversation and do some networking!!