BEING AN AUTHOR is hard work. And I’m not talking about the writing part of being an author — though writing can be the most satisfyingly difficult work of all. I’m talking about the part that comes after the writing and editing and book production phases — the promotion and marketing of your work. If you don’t already have a solid background in sales and marketing, or if you’re not naturally inclined to sales, there is just so much to learn. The mountain of information on book marketing is staggering to behold.
And everything — and I mean EVERY aspect of marketing — costs money and/or time (usually both).
First, there is the plethora of general marketing advice and information to choose from. Every promotional guru claims to have the secret of author success, from how to launch and sell your books on Amazon to how to promote your services as a public speaker and how to write better sales copy. There are a lot of shysters out there willing to take your nickel — whom do you believe? Is it a good investment to buy their books or, for more money, take their classes on book marketing or email list management or product launches?
To build your business as an author, you need a platform: an author website and/or blog, and social media interactions on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Goodreads, or LinkedIn. You can buy books and take classes on how to best utilize your social media accounts and you can invest in social media management software that allows you to create and schedule posts in advance, test different delivery dates and times for effectiveness, and provide performance statistics. You can also pay someone to manage your social media and post in your stead; I did that for a while, and while you may build a larger following on social media, unless you’re selling a lot of books, you’re pouring money down the drain. And if you think you can be a successful author without an online platform of some kind, you’re dreaming.
There’s email list development and management — everyone says you must have a thriving email list of readers to market your products to. This means choosing an email list provider (aWeber? Mailchimp? Constant Contact?), setting up email campaigns, writing copy, creating lead magnets (free or low-cost products used to get people to sign up to your email list) and landing pages, and managing the lists.
Then, there’s advertising — you can place product ads in magazines or on Amazon, Bookbub, Facebook, and endless numbers of email lists that promote free or 99-cent books. You might be wondering: Which ones work? How much do they cost? What are the mechanics of placing an ad?
Reading, Speaking, and In-Person Promotions
When you launch your book, it’s pretty typical to throw an official book-launch party and reading. An official launch gives you the opportunity to gather local fans, get them interested in your book, and sell a few copies. It can also help you create relationships with your local bookstores and libraries.
If your non-fiction book or memoir covers a topic that others wrestle with, such as addiction, autism, grief, loss, self-improvement, productivity, and so on — you can get speaking gigs (usually paid, though you may have to offer yourself up for free to begin) at appropriate venues. In addition to making your topic and yourself more visible, these can be excellent places to sell your book.
And if you write for children or teens, you may be able to establish relationships with your local schools. One author I know had her books adopted as part of a school’s reading curriculum.
There are, of course, other ways to market in addition to those listed above. Each method has its pros and cons. Each method required an investment of time and money. And each method requires you to be willing to learn, to test and tweak its methods, and even to fail or lose money, in order to learn what you need to do to succeed.
So What Am I Trying to Say?
Over the last six years, since launching my memoir, Not the Mother I Remember, I have set about learning the business of being an author. I have spent thousands of dollars for online classes from experts on topics ranging from writing and software-specific courses (think story plotting and Scrivener) to how to launch your book or online course, and from email marketing secrets to the power of marketing funnels. I have learned a tremendous amount about all these topics, even though I didn’t always complete those courses, because as a writer with a day job I didn’t have the time or resources to even begin implementing all the recommended actions.
I have built my online platform, launched five books, spoken at writing conferences, given online and in-person workshops and classes, participated in social media, created lead magnets, and built my email lists, and advertised.
And in the process of all these efforts, I’ve experienced some moderate success. My book sales have risen from a stagnant one or two books per month to over 200, and I’ve become a recognized expert in journaling and memoir writing. I’d like to do better. As the online book market becomes increasingly saturated for both traditionally and self-published books, it is becoming correspondingly more difficult to stand out in the crowd.
And though I do not consider myself, in any way, an expert in the field of book or author marketing, I’d like to share these experiences — my marketing efforts, failures and successes, and wisdom gained — with you over the next few months. I’ll be describing the general processes for developing platforms, advertising on Amazon, and growing and managing email lists. And I’ll steer you toward a few trustworthy resources along the way.
More than that, I’d like you to share your book marketing stories with me and with the other WritingThroughLife readers. Together, we can develop a store of experience and wisdom and advice that others can draw on as they begin their author-business journey. And we can help one another improve our methods and results.
On the next monthly installment of The Business of Being an Author: What it Really Takes to Set Up Your Author Website or Blog.
If you’d like to share your wisdom around the business of being an author, please contact me. I’d like to incorporate your experiences and stories into future blog posts on this topic.