business / marketing

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: 5+1 Great Book Marketing Tips That Won’t Cost Anything

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I’m excited to join Raimey Gallant’s #AuthorToolbox monthly blog hop (around the third Wednesday of each month) with the theme of resources/learning for authors. Post are related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful. Hoppers share our experiences as it relates to these topics. Interviews are also permitted as long as they provide valuable knowledge for authors (i.e. advice.) Straight book reviews are not permitted unless they are reviews of books about writing/publishing/etc.

I think the most challenging part of this particular blog hop is that I will visit and comment on 10 participants. Yikes!

This is my second month so bear with me if I don’t get things quite right. Do feel free to advise me so I do better next month.

This month: 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

    marketing at the white house

    Marketing my teacher resources at the White House

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 credible.

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.

Make your book perfect.book marketing

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

Book Review: Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing

12 Surprises I Found Marketing My Debut Novel, To Hunt a Sub

29+ Ways to Market Your Book


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 Timefirst 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.

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89 thoughts on “#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: 5+1 Great Book Marketing Tips That Won’t Cost Anything

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I like your essential lesson that you noted at the beginning: “Marketing isn’t sales; it’s education.” I think so often what goes wrong is that people try to do something new or trendy when it doesn’t fit into the message they’re trying to share or the overall feel of their personal brand. Great phrase to think about marketing in a new way!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I come across a lot of authors who say they hate marketing. That’s mostly because they don’t understand marketing isn’t sales. Thanks for making that point!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great tips on marketing! Especially liked the “A good cover can sell a poor book but a poor cover will never help sell a great book line! So very true! Also like the distinction one should make when talking about politics and when not.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s definitely really helpful. I’ve just published my first short story and am trying to prime the waters for my first novel in the next couple of months, and this helps a lot with trying to figure out what to do now! Thank you for your help!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jacqui,

    As always you’ve featured some very smart tips for those seeking the best approach to marketing. What’s cool about what you shared here is that these tips can be applied to just about any career choice that involves sells. I love expressing myself with words but am I a novelist? Nope, I don’t think so. True, I am an indie author of one…count it one, children’s book but I that’s not a true passion with me these days. I hope someday to find my place again writing but for now, I’m just enjoying doing my own thing in Blogosphere which means being a friend first. You, however, are not only a friend but a savvy book marketer. You’ve taken what you’ve learned and put it into action. I applaud you! I’m sharing this today. Thanks so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice tips. I find the brand thing difficult. For the vast majority of fiction writers, the author should stay out of the book. Readers interact with the narrator and the characters, but not the author. But you’re absolutely right that readers want a sense of the author’s personality in marketing-related stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, so true–the only ‘brand’ sort of stuff in the actual writing would be the author’s voice. The rest–readers I think like to quickly identify the author wherever they are on the internet and branding makes that happen.

      Like

  7. A street team! I love that you included this for marketing, because it’s so true. I had thought of most of the items you included, but (being a solitary writer) I didn’t think to include others into the equation. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Solid ideas all around. I think finding one’s own voice would probably be the trickiest. I know many “don’t hear their own accent” and don’t recognize the smells that are native to their region.
    I do agree that there’s a real need for honest and earnest engagement, a conversation, and if “my story” becomes relevant to the conversation, I may mention it, but won’t “aim to”. I think that’s where blogging offers a unique opportunity. Much of social media is so “brief”, and as a writer I tend to be a bit verbose, though I am gradually learning to engage Instagram and Twitter, if only to offer a brief nod to blog posts as I release them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow – so much great information in one package! I’m with you on the political rants on Twitter – all of them. Not amusing, not helpful, not enjoyable. Like others have mentioned, I’ve unfollowed some people because I just can’t stand the incivility. Your final quote cracks me up. As a lawyer, I can tell you, truer words were never spoken! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post, Jacqui! I don’t have a slogan either. I’ll have to ponder that one. It took me all year to come up with the final title for the book I’m about to tie a ribbon around. Sometimes titles are so easy for me; other times? Pound my hands on the table and yell!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing that, Raimey. I’m definitely at the ‘pound my hands on the table’ spot. I’ve even checked with my dog, see what he thinks. That’s desperate. He’s a lab, not one of those clever breeds!

      Like

    • You mustn’t worry about that, Erika. You do what you have time for and then you’re done. That’s where the social media comes in. They’re time suckers! Cut a few out that don’t work for you so you have that time to spend on other things.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Great tips! The social media one always is a stumbling point for me. Hard to settle on just a couple of platforms when you see/hear other authors striking gold elsewhere–then you add those to your list, and it just starts to get cumbersome! Still trying to find my sweet spot.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh, yes to the politics point!!! I’ve unfollowed otherwise entertaining people, just because the constant rants became soooooo tiresome. (But that could easily turn into my own rant, so I’ll leave it there 😉 ) Thanks for many excellent tips 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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