5+1 Great Free Marketing Tips for Writers
In my twenty years of writing, I have published over one-hundred non-fiction technology-in-education books, one how-to on getting into the Naval Academy, and most recently three (and counting) novels. They have all been published through agencies who did no marketing–that’s been completely up to me. As a result, I have learned a lot about selling books, all the hard way. One point that stands out: Marketing isn’t sales; it’s education. You sell your books online softly, tangential to conversation and building community. You don’t have to be (or want to be) that person who is always pushing their books!
Recently, I was asked to present my five top marketing tips to my writer’s group (Write On!) here in Southern California and thought I’d share these with you. They are in no way comprehensive but all are free, easily done without a Ph.D. in marketing, and require nothing more than boatloads of time. All push the general theme that when marketing your books, be as inconspicuous as a burning car, as approachable as a puppy, as enthusiastic as a walking drumroll, and as obvious as a horizon line.
OK, enough introduction. Here are my top five tips, every one of them free:
Have a brand.
A brand communicates quickly who you are and reflects your professional reputation — what you’re known for. For example, if you wrote a book on being vegetarian, I wouldn’t expect to see you eating a hamburger.
How do you create your brand?
- Decide what your voice is–down-to-earth, humorous, straight-talking, eloquent, or something else. Use that voice in all of your writing.
- Develop your bio with a picture/avatar
- Decide on colors/logo/header and use them across your online presence.
- Have a slogan (which I don’t).
- Know who you are
Knowing your brand helps you figure out who your readers are. Don’t settle for, “I write for women” or “I write for people who love eating”. It’s divorced women looking for love or bbq aficionados.
Once you’ve thought through your brand, include ‘about me’ in everything you write. That’s a (very) short bio, picture, how to reach you, links to your book. At a minimum. I’ve had many (many) people find me through this sort of Press Kit, engage me to freelance for them, be an expert on a panel, and more.
Be an expert on your topic, what you write about. If you aren’t, yet, research. If it’s a memoir, know your theme, what you want readers to take away from your book. If it’s a novel, make all the pieces believable so readers ‘willingly suspend their disbelief’ as they read.
Part of credibility is that the book has no/few grammar/spelling errors. This includes what you send an agent. I’ve heard some writers say that the agent/publisher will fix the grammar/spelling so why should they worry about it. Why? Because agents won’t discover your astounding storytelling skills if they’re annoyed by your spelling mistakes. Few unknown authors are so powerful that the agent will forgive mistakes to read how they string words together.
One last piece: Be the best you can at anything attached to your writing. Any writing you put out there on the Internet is an insight into you as the writer, your attention to detail, your voice. Become that credible author everyone wants to read. This includes anything that shows up on the Internet–blog posts, social media articles, comments, everything.
Be a friend.
To get followers who will read your book and spread the word, be a friend. Comment on fellow writer’s blogs. Review books for friends. Engage with those who drop by your social media platforms. Lots of writers find this difficult. They’re too busy to comment or even ‘like’ posts of fellow writers. Don’t be that person.
One bit that recently has driven me to distraction and turned me off to reading books of writers I thought I’d enjoy is politics. If you aren’t writing about politics, it probably has nothing to do with your brand so don’t put politics in your online presence. Don’t slam Obama — or Trump or Trudeau. Maybe you think everyone does so it’s OK, but it isn’t. Your readers come from all sides of life and you’ll annoy half of them. The exception, of course, is the journal approach to social media, where you share your thoughts and ideas, more of a stream-of-consciousness. If that’s your approach: Ignore everything I just said about politics. It undoubtedly is relevant.
Well, as good as possible. That includes the cover, editing, layout, and blurbs. A great cover can help sell a poor book but a poor cover will never sell a great book.
Use social media.
That’s FB, Twitter, blogs, LI, Instagram, and more. But let me put you at ease: You don’t have to use all social media. Pick one that works for you. As often as possible (a couple of times a week at least), engage with people who show up there. When you send your book to agents, they want to see you have a robust online presence, which they’ll determine by your social media presence. Even marketing you pay for does it through social media.
Bonus tip: Street Team
Once you’ve developed your reputation, built your brand, become a friend to fellow writers, and established yourself as an expert in your field, people will want to support you. Create what’s called a street team of online friends who will be there for you to launch your books. They’ll RT, share, blog, review, and generally spread the word that you have another ground-breaking, earth-shattering, blockbuster book out there. They’ll cheerlead your success. And you’ll do the same for them.
I leave you with one of my newest favorite quotes (which on a re-read, doesn’t have that much to do with marketing):
“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell”
More on marketing
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Time, first in the Man vs. Nature collection. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.