In Part 3 I talked about the last step of book production: the formatting bit, which you can do in many different ways. I also gave you a little hint of just how important marketing is even a long time before it's time to launch your book. And because I think marketing is SO important, I'm going to spend more time on it and really go over all the things that you can do to bring eyes more to your book, to go from complete unknown to someone with a bit of a platform.
There are many different approaches to book marketing and mine certainly isn't the easiest or the best (I don't know which ones are best or easiest), but my entire philosophy when it comes to book marketing comes down to one key approach that I recommend you do. I'm going to tell you to:
Harness the power of Community
You’ve got the book ready, and writing is very much a solitary endeavour, but I can promise you there are millions of people out there who fit in your target readership. You just have to find them. Of course, it’s extremely difficult to do this by yourself, so don’t! Let the community help you with that.
What I mean by that is that no matter what kind of books you write, there will be thousands, if not millions of people talking about books like yours online. And because the internet has grown, these people have spread to multiple communities across many different platforms. YouTube has several booktube communities, and many of these YouTubers have many subscribers. The fantasy community on Reddit has millions of people, for example, but there are many across social media. I highly recommend you find your communities and get deeply involved with them even before you’re trying to get something from them. Be an active member, engage. Contribute more than you’ll ever ask from them.
I will say that this step in your marketing will require you to be very open. If you are the kind of person who is shy, struggles with promoting themself and doesn’t like social media, I’m sorry but you will have to choose between that and allowing your book to be as successful as it can be. You don’t have to be connected all the time, posting like crazy on Twitter or do silly tiktok dances. Just be yourself, be polite, kind, friendly and respectful. Give more than you take, and I promise you people appreciate that, and what goes around comes around.
So, harnessing the community is a very pretty idea, but how the hell can you do that? Well, you can get a head start by being active long before your book is set to come out. Explore the communities, see who the big influencers are, explore their tastes, and pay close attention to those you really think would like your book.
Then you’re going to need a social media presence.
I'm not talking about the accounts you already have, where you talk with your family and friends, or stan your favourite celebrities. I mean official, professional-looking author accounts. Remember: that's how people online are going to see you. If you write really funny books, you can have a funny bio and a picture, but if you write rather serious books, it's probably best to have an account that matches that. Exercise your common sense here and please don't be discouraged when nobody follows you early on. It's normal. Everybody goes through periods early on when they have no followers. Follower numbers are important, but if you have thousands of followers and no one interacts with your posts, then you're better off having 50 dedicated followers who interact with you all the time.
My main platform is on Twitter because it’s where I’ve been the longest before I was even trying to be published. Twitter has traditionally been where writers and authors hang out, but it's not a platform that is going to help you with sales a lot. To me, it's more about engaging with people and networking. I spent years following people in the community while I wrote my books. This included famous authors, and the less famous ones, editors at big publishers, literary agents, reviewers, bloggers, and later on, I focused a lot more of the self-publishing communities of the genre I write in.
Then, I decided to create an Instagram account, then a Facebook account, then a TikTok account. Social media are important, but you will have to figure out if you want to be on all of them or just focus your time and energy in the right one for you. I decided to go wide, but obviously I don't pay the same attention to all of them and definitely prioritise those where I have the biggest reach.
If you decide to go narrow, be smart about it. Historical fiction readers tend to be older than the average reader, so Facebook is probably the best platform if that's what you write. If you write YA fantasy, Instagram might be the best. If your novel is a dark fantasy romance, TikTok is where you will find a big chunk of your readers. Because I write epic fantasy for adults, there isn’t really a single platform where my readers are, which is why I decided I should be on all of them.
Once you have your account, start following influencers, reviewers, bloggers and readers that follow your subgenre closely and you can actively engage and interact with them while simultaneously posting about your upcoming book, share snippets of your writing progress, etc. I suggest you do this well before the book is about to come out. Slowly, people will recognise your name, they will have seen you running around the same circles, and you will no longer be a complete stranger to them when the time comes for them to check our your book. To draw attention to your profile and grow your follower count and your credibility, you can do small giveaways for things like boookmarkers of your upcoming book.
So yes, use social media with good sense and remember: you are a brand now, and your writing brand can be directly affected if you're a dick online and say horrible things. The online communities can have toxic members, but that doesn't mean you have to be one of them.
Ok, now you have set up your 'official' social media presence. What else do you need?
In a world where Elon Musk bought Twitter and is now running it into the ground, where Mark Zuckberg changed his company name to 'Meta' (yikes) and it seems like social media platforms dance more and more to the tune of an ever-unpredictable algorithm, it's probably not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket. What I mean is: don't put all your discoverability in the hands of social media platforms: make sure people can find you outside of them.
The best way to make sure this happens is by having a dedicated author website. It doesn't need to be all well-designed and complicated, it just needs to be a website. Especially early on in your publishing journey, all you really need is a website, period. So don't complicate it: you can always change it and upgrade it later.
All you really need is a homepage, a section with your bio, and another with a 'contact' form or one that lists your email address in case people want to get in touch. I shouldn't have to say it, but always make it easy for people to get in touch. Once you have that, you can add links to all your social media platforms, and make sure you include a link to your author website in the bio of your different socials. Again: if people want to find something, they shouldn't have to work hard for it.
Also on your website, you should have something which I think it's absolutely crucial to you as a soon-to-be-published author: mailing lists.
Oh my God, Mailing Lists? What are you, 70? Nobody uses those anymore... *insert more ignorant vitriol here*
People have been talking crap about mailing lists for years, but in my opinion they are an incredibly important marketing tool, as well as a way for you to connect with your readers without using social media, or at least reach those who don’t use them.
Imagine that Twitter has been your main social media for years. Everyone in your community is there, and then Elon Musk buys the place and starts making changes. All of a sudden your posts which used to get hundreds of likes and comments barely get visibility anymore.
What do you do?
When using social media, users are actually the product, and there’s an increasing pressure for businesses and companies relying on social media to start paying for their usage one way or another. On Twitter, they’re pushing for the subscription model. On Facebook and Instagram, any posts you make with links on them get buried by the algorithm and organic follower growth is hard because they want you to pay for advertisement. As a self-publisher, you are a business. You rely on social media to promote and talk about what you’re writing and publishing. It’s how you communicate with your readers.
But as these online platforms are tweaked and change their approach, you are never really in control of them. You never know when your carefully-curated profile can be deleted or forced to pay amounts you just don’t want to. With a mailing list, you are in control. You can message your readers directly without Zuck or Musk. You can send them your books directly without Amazon. Possibilities are endless, so having a solid number of mailing list subscribers who regularly open your newsletters and click can be a really important tool to help you secure your future.
Continues in part 5!