Advice Column #1
What are some of the logistical steps you take when publishing your first book, such as creating a website, ordering business cards, scheduling a book tour, etc.?
Thanks for the question, Sara!
Many writers get overwhelmed by the thought of marketing their books, so I will try to be as
concrete as possible.
1. Write a good book
2. Plan your launch
3. Establish yourself on the Internet
4. Gather Fans
5. Invite Fans to Share
6. Engage Influencers
7. Be gracious
Write a good book
Good books sell better. Congratulations, Sara, for getting to this point.
Plan your launch
Make your plan as specific as possible. Book marketing guru, Tim Grahl, suggests you start this
as far out as six months before your publication (pub) date.
Establish yourself on the Internet
Start by visiting your favorite authors’ websites to get an idea of what content to include.
Make it visually appealing. And, most fundamentally, have an easy way to buy/preorder your
book. Readers will visit your website to learn more about you. Include videos, interviews, blogs,
fun quotes, a quirky bio, and interesting content relevant to your topic/genre. Offer a way for
your fans to contact you via your professional email and send timely, appreciative responses.
Include a pop-up with a ‘one-click’ link to sign up for emails.
Social Media: The same goes for your Facebook author page, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Setup your author accounts, start adding content, and invite friends to follow you.
Increase your following by engaging fans to comment on your posts by asking a question.
Questions such as, which book cover do you like? What would do if . . . ? I know a life coach
author who frequently posts, ‘What’s great about your day?’
Goodreads has a section where fans can ask questions. They also encourage you to write a fun
bio and tell your fans something they would never otherwise know about you.
Host a giveaway:
If fans preorder and/or give you their email address by a certain date, offer a free gift, such as a previous book, or a chance for a low value gift card for the first five who preorder. Raffles are
also good for engaging fans and gathering emails. When I speak in public, anyone who drops
their email in a Day Lily Café coffee cup is automatically entered in a raffle. Winner goes home
with a mug.
Email campaign: According to Grahl, this is your most important tool. Send out a series of emails/newsletters close to your pub date. By now you should have collected enough emails to reach a wide audience. But remember, give them something, don’t just peddle your book. Use attractive graphics and include a link to your website where they can sign up for a giveaway. My last newsletter included a teaser for the next book in the series, two recipes with photos, an interview with my editor on what grabs a publisher’s attention, and a nice introduction
to my new agent, describing her agency and what she is looking for.
Invite fans to share
This concept known as establishing a ‘street team’ was originally developed by the music
industry and is relatively new to book marketing. It involves inviting fans to share your emails
and social media posts with their friends and family, host book clubs, and drum up local interest for your new release. This will expand your fan base exponentially.
Influencers are people who have popular blogs and are on publishers’ lists to write blurbs. Do
your research and find the blogs that would fit your genre. Close to your pub date, offer to send advanced copies to influencers and ask for a review and/or blurb for your book jacket. Influencers also include your fellow community of authors, particularly in your genre. Become a
part of this community months before your pub date. Support other authors, like their pages, and share their book launches. Join professional organizations in your genre and Facebook groups, both public and private.
Once your book is published, ask to be interviewed by podcasts, blogs, and radio shows. Offer to be interviewed and/or write a guest blog about a topic they suggest. Attend professional writing conferences, especially ones that fans attend. In the mystery world, there are several, Malice Domestic, BoucherCon, Killer Nashville, and that’s just for starters. Offer to participate on panels. This is easier than you think and is a terrific way to get yourself out there. It’s daunting at first, but writers are friendly folk. One friend suggested when you go to a conference and have down time, sit at the bar. You don’t have to have a drink but you will find yourself in all kinds of interesting conversations that end in an exchange of business cards.
People are reading your book and following you. Be appreciative. Respond to messages on your
fan page and professional email. Sign books until the cows go home. And thank book store
owners who host you. Build that connection and maintain it. Your next book launch will be all
that much easier.
Here’s a great example of implementing all of the above in your marketing plan.
After the release of her nonfiction book, It’s Not You, Sara Eckel was interviewed at a book store one evening in Chicago. A few weeks before, she sent an email inviting her fans to a gathering at a nearby bar after the event. It was standing room only. She sold a lot of books.
1. She had obviously written a really good book. (1)
2. She had a well-planned launch. (2)
3. She was established on the Internet and had collected a substantial email list. (3)
4. She had engaged a wide number of fans from across the country before her pub date. (4)
5. She invited local fans to bring friends and family and share the word about the event (street
6. Her interviewer, a popular Chicago journalist who had interviewed her a few years before
and had her own following (engaged influencers), was enthusiastic about meeting Sara in
7. The offer of a gathering was a gracious way of appreciating her fans and their support. (7)
Good luck! And happy writing.