An aspiring author’s marketing strategy is what differentiates a writer who publishes without a plan to generate recognition, and the author who knows she needs a platform to reach out to her audiences, without being salesy. The difference could mean a roof over her laptop, food in her belly, and the ability to continue with her passion: writing. That may sound harsh, but my first boss used to remind me of the 7 Ps every time we were about to launch a campaign: Prior proper planning prevents piss-poor performance.
This post is for you, writers who are working on a story or a series, who intend to publish and potentially sell your work for public consumption. If you are like me and have no products for sale (yet!), or if you just completed a work, and are now working on getting it out there, I think you will find this blog post helpful.
Step One: Aspiring Authors, Take Inventory of your Digital Assets
When I completed the first draft of my novel — that is, actually typed the words, “The End” on the page — the first thing I did was print out the manuscript, the second thing I did was tell my sweetheart, and the third thing I did was panic about my marketing situation: I didn’t/don’t have an author platform! How the hell am I going to market this book to… nobody?
Once the panic attack subsided and oxygen returned slowly to my brain, I realised I might have overreacted a little. Truth is: none of us have absolutely “nobody” to market our work to — especially now in the digital age.
Brainstorm and Take a Snapshot of your Digital Presence
So, I took out a blank notebook — the 50-page spiral kind you can find for less than a dollar at your convenience store is perfect — and just started brainstorming every social media platform in which I have an account. I’ll jog your thinking with a couple obvious ones:
- Facebook Profile: Add any notes if you also manage or own a page/group. List them all (even if you happen to manage or contribute to a, say, restaurant page.)
- StumbleUpon or Reddit.
- A website? Several? List them all.
- Any other place in the blogosphere that attracts readers where you can add your voice to the conversation.
Hold Your Horses! And do NOT start blasting those social media sites with the first thought that comes to mind
I know how you feel: You freaking wrote a freaking novel! And your friends and family think you are the bees knees for this — for a limited time.
Then, they will start badgering you with questions you don’t know the answers to, and they will dispense free advice in areas they have no experience in. (They “read somewhere that [Bestselling Author’s Name Here] made millions by [doing something that is unrelated to the situation you’re in].”)
So, go ahead and tell your friends and family… ONCE… that you have made this serious accomplishment. Invite your friends for champagne and chocolate (or, better yet, have them invite you!) And pretty much leave it at that — until the book is actually out and available on the market.
You want to be primed for touting your accomplishment. And you also want to give your work the red-carpet treatment it deserves when the official launch date arrives.
Assess your Digital Assets. Five quick and easy steps.
This may take a little more time than the brainstorm activity above. Start with turning the page of your notebook to a clean sheet.
- Draw a vertical line down the middle of that page, and a horizontal line across the middle of the page, creating four quadrants. Label the two upper boxes, with the words “Sociability” and “Stats”. (Click here to see the PDF example I put together for you.)
- Write your #1 favorite social asset as a title at the very top of the page. Everybody will have different criteria for listing this digital account as their favorite. What I think is most important, is that this is a digital space where you actually enjoy spending a good amount of time, and where you enjoy dialoguing with the connections there.
- On the upper-left quadrant, in the “Sociability” box jot down any thoughts that come to mind. Start with what makes this social asset so special/important to you, but go ahead and write whatever pops up. (It can be as few as one or two thoughts, or as many as 10 or 20.) This is the side of the page, where you will write any qualitative impressions, or feelings, you have about engaging on that platform. They can be positive, negative and neutral. Here are some things I might write on this topic.
- My Facebook account includes mostly good friends and family.
- I think I’m also friends with my boss on there! (Note to self: double-check privacy settings…)
- Whenever I post something there, I always get positive feedback.
- This is where I find out about the things that are happening that concern me, like a hurricane in an area of the world where close friends live.
- Sometimes, I don’t get the kind of feedback I thought I would.
- I wonder if FB’s algorithms have changed again?
- I’ve set up and managed pages/groups with mixed levels of success in FB.
- I’m not sure if FB is the right place to promote my work.
- Write down the number of friends/followers and other stats important to you. Obviously, you get more statistics through a Facebook page than through your profile, but a profile also provides some information. In Twitter, this might be the folks you follow and those who follow you. The point here is for a snapshot of your digital assets today — so don’t spend too much time .
- Turn to a fresh sheet to list your next favorite social asset, repeat steps 1 – 4. You might want to do this exercise for only three digital assets. You might want to do this for all your social assets. Take your pick. I did mine for six, and ranked them as follows:
- Facebook Profile
- StumbleUpon (this last one turned up mostly a blank page, because I have an account, but haven’t really paid attention to it in a long time.)
- (This one’s a freebie: The bottom two boxes will be for addressing your goals, in our next course.)
Inventory of Other Digital Assets: Paid, Owned, Earned
When you start thinking of marketing, it can be tough to think of all the assets you might be sitting on. Also, much of the online chatter refers to social media –so other assets you might be sitting on can sometimes end up forgotten. So, we just talked about some of your social assets, but we should also take inventory of any other digital assets you have access to.
Your digital assets can fall into any of the following three categories: Paid media, Owned media, or Earned media. I suggest you dedicate a full blank page for each of these three categories.
- Paid media. This category covers media space you have purchased to tout your message. In the wider world of marketing, it usually boils down to “paid advertising” (which is a redundant expression — but that is a discussion for another time). This includes print space or airtime that you have purchased and have the right to post your message on. At this stage in the game, you probably have not cut any paid media deals — but you should probably dedicate a page for this anyway. You may have some thoughts of advertising you do wish to invest in at this stage, and I encourage you to jot those down quickly on this page. Here’s what I wrote:
- “I’m not sure Google is the way to go here. Some authors in my genre are using Facebook and Twitter ads to sell their books. This might be something worth exploring when Deadly Spin [that’s the name of my debut novel 🙂 ] is out.”
- Owned media. Just list any and all domain names you own and have the authority to change, pull down, redesign, etc. You have 100% control over how this medium presents your message. Highlight the ones you think might be good venues for talking about your book and writing. It might be just one. That’s fine. Write it down anyway, and move on to the next page. Here’s a list of what I have:
- Domain names and URLs.
- Email addresses. Sometimes these coincide with my domain names, sometimes they don’t. Because I also have a day job, I also have a work email address. I do not consider this appropriate for this list, because the information I transmit through that medium is owned by the company I work for.)
- Email management accounts. I opened a personal Mail Chimp account several years back when I began freelancing in marketing communications. If you don’t have an email management account, open one up. There are several out there, totally web-based and easy to use. Here’s a few I have used in some of the marketing communications work I have done:
- Mailchimp. I use this currently, mostly because their service is free for up to 2,000 email accounts.
- Aweber. Okay, I haven’t actually used this one, but I had to include it in my short list, because several authors whose mailing lists I’m on, seem to swear by this online tool. I’ve noticed that they offer their service free for a limited time.
- iContact. They’re easy to use. They have a good variety of templates, but there are some limitations to their list management that had me looking for another provider several years back.
- Constant Contact. Another easy-to-use email management provider. They were first on the scene when it came to offering freebies to attract users, but I’m not too thrilled with their templates, in general. I still subscribe to several folks who continue to use this email management software.
- Earned media. As the name suggests, this is media placement that you earn. Usually, this means you have managed to persuade a third party to talk or write about you. Maybe you know someone who has a well-respected blog, produces a podcast, hosts a major television show or has loads of followers on Facebook, Twitter, etc.. Don’t break your head over this, but jot down any names that come to mind that you think might be a good fit. Or jot down those names that you consider “pie in the sky”, but would make you so happy if anything ever happened in this department. Some examples of this for me are:
- The websites of other aspiring authors.
- The website of authors whose works I enjoy.
- The podcast of authorpreneurs.
Dear Aspiring Author, Taking inventory is the first step to developing your marketing strategy… And You’ve Just Taken It!
Congratulations! You’ve just done something a lot of people neglect, and wish (later on down the marketing road) they had done earlier. Taking stock is necessary, and it will help you gain some serious clarity about your current situation.
What you’ve done is take inventory — or more eloquently stated, you’ve assembled all your marketing tools, put them in your shed, so you can do what authors who wish to sell books do: develop a strategy.
You’re just beginning your book marketing journey — while you’re writing your novel or non-fiction book. You don’t have loads of time. So, you want to be smart while you start building an author platform, because every minute of your spare time counts!
If you enjoyed this blog post, maybe you’ll enjoy the book!
I am cataloguing and sharing my process for setting a Marketing Strategy with you in (almost) real time
At the time of writing this blog post, I
do not have a published work for sale on the market. In fact, I am currently editing my first draft of a novel that I know I want to launch as an eBook in the Spring of 2016. Besides getting to the finish line with my novel, my goal is to start with laying the groundwork on my marketing plan and even implementing those parts of the marketing plan that I know I can.
Feel free to join me on my book-writing and marketing journey. If you have any thoughts, tips or comments in general, please let me know via comment, Twitter @cynthiatluna or email at cynthia[at]livingincyn[dot]com!
If you are already a published author, any comments you have to impart on your experience(s) will be gobbled up and appreciated by the rest of us. Please comment, and certainly let me know if you think we could have a “karmic exchange” from aspiring author to another aspiring author, or aspiring author to accomplished author! 🙂