I recently got an email from a new author asking for advice on how to get her book noticed. I wrote her a short reply about The Long Road and The Immediate Fix. Then I got to thinking that I really didn’t cover it enough so I thought I’d try to tackle that today.
First of all, I will say that while I am a marketer with an M.B.A. from UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Business in Entrepreneurial Marketing, and I started a company, Aquent (renamed from MacTemps), out of college that landed on the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Private Company six years later at the #12 spot, I have never worked in children’s book publishing nor marketed a book.
I do, however, know how to get bloggers to notice your book, from the backwards perspective of publishers, PR folks, and authors asking me to cover their book. And I also I think that building the brand of YOU, THE AUTHOR, is not so different from building a blog following. Over the past seven years, I built a blog audience of 100,000+ page views a month, and a social media following:
I have a Twitter following of 76,900
My Pinterest following is 143,700
My Google + network is 11,200
My Instagram following is 7,600
My LinkedIn connections total over 3,500
and I can share with you my learnings and takeaways.
So read on if you want my 2 cents …
First of all, I noticed that publishers don’t spent a ton of time or money on most authors. Sure, if you are Rick Riordan, they go crazy with a huge marketing campaign, but for most authors, it seems to be about a three week campaign. And here’s why …
Think about how many books publishers launch each year. And when they reach out to bloggers, the emails asking for coverage can feel like too many times to the well. Bloggers like myself stop reading and responding to these requests. Blog tours get harder to set up. You see where this is going … publishers want authors to set up their own blog tours. It’s because that a personal request from an author is going to get noticed a lot more than a mass email from a publisher or a PR firm.
Marketing for books is generally a “set piece” comprised of:
- Advertising (consumer, trade, school, library)
- PR (bloggers, publications)
- ARC distribution
- Promotions (Goodreads, school and library conferences, trade shows)
- Author appearances (school visits, book store events, conference events)
Authors get a budget based on how many books they are expected to sell. ARCS and advertising are hard costs. PR and outreach are staff time, and I am guessing most likely email blasts to internal lists.
None of this really causes a book or an author to “break out of the pack” though. And there might be 35 middle grade books released that month from all publishers competing for air time. And that’s not including other children’s book genres!
So now the marketing burden of a successful book launch falls on the shoulders of the author, more so than it ever has.
I realize that writers are not marketers. These are two very different skills, and frankly, most authors are really not into marketing themselves or their own books. It’s completely out of their comfort zone, and it’s not their background, training, or interest.
What a dilemma! But marketing in the social media space is not the same thing as marketing in business school or for a corporate entity. It’s not “Marketing Strategy” or “segmenting your market” or 4Ps and 3Cs of marekting.
Here’s another way to think of marketing for authors:
- Social Media is a CONVERSATION
- Marketing is BUILDING A COMMUNITY
This is very different from “I’m an author plugging my book. Look at me! Read my book! Buy my book!” You can do this!!! You really can!
Where to Begin … Social Media for Authors
Setting Up Your Social Media
I wrote this post, Bootstrap Marketing 101 for Authors, that goes over different social media platforms to match up your social media platform to the audience of your book. You don’t have to be on every social media platform. You don’t have to be active every day. But you do need to know WHO your audience is (or who is actually buying your book, mom versus kid). Then, you need to find the right social media platforms for where they reside. And gravitate to the social media platforms that work for you and that you feel comfortable on.
So… pick a few social media platforms to try out and see which ones feel good to you: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Blog, Google+, YouTube, Tumblr, Periscope, etc.
Personally, I hate Facebook but I like Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I have more followers on video social media Flipagram than I do on YouTube. I am experimenting with Google+. I am kinda/sorta on Google+ but I post to it because it helps my Search Engine Optimization.
I wrote a post on how to use Twitter, Twitter Tips and how I got 55,000 Twitter Followers, for whom Twitter is your jam. It’s my jam.
I can write posts on how to use other platforms (Instagram, Pinterest) or direct you to power users that I personally know. Leave me a comment and I’ll direct you to helpful information if that’s you jam and you want to be a power user on that platform.
Now that you are on social media platforms, the next step is how to rock it.
Social Media is a Conversation
It’s easy to fall into the trap that social media is a kind of virtual direct marketing … like a postcard with your message that you pump all over the planet. Think of it instead of going to a cocktail party and striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know. One interaction at a time, you are making new friends (and fans), and spreading good karma.
Building Your Social Media Following
Growing your following will relate to topic 2 below, Marketing is Building a Community, but the ins and outs are very similar to how I grew my Twitter following. It’s true that different social media platforms have their own unique ins and outs of growing your base, but the fundamentals are the same:
- Have a consistent schedule of how often you share and interact. It doesn’t have to be too ambitious but try to be predictable.
- Share good content that relates to what you talk about but that you don’t create yourself. For Twitter, that’s retweets. For Facebook, that’s Facebook shares. For Pinterest, that’s a repin.
- Follow those who seem interested in what you are trying to create and get in a habit of trying to grow that number weekly. Follow/Unfollow works for many of the Social Media platforms and there are apps to help do that efficiently. The idea here though is to find your tribe.
Marketing is Building a Community
The idea behind marketing is to first identify your market niche and then reach these people. You can do it in a very time efficient and cost-effective way:
Linkys: Bloggers host link ups which means your link will get read by at least one blogger and, most likely shared on social media. That’s not a bad return for a few minutes of work. I host Kid Lit Blog Hop (monthly) and #DiverseKidLit linky (twice a month) on my blog. I found a directory of Link Up Parties on My Joy-Filled Life.
Facebook Groups: Closed Facebook groups are pre-screened with like-minded individuals. Find the groups where your audience hangs out. Personally, Facebook is not my favorite Social Media Platform, but I would recommend doing Facebook searches to find your audience.
Google+ Groups: Google+ has groups too. Promote Your Book has 14,000 members. The group that I’m most active on is Great Books for Kids with 16,000 members. There are also tons of parent groups like The Go-To Parents Community with nearly 100,000 members.
LinkedIn Groups: I like the education focused groups like Elementary School Teachers of America, and International School Educators, but honestly, the dads hang out on LinkedIn and they read the posts that flash by at work.
Pinterest Collaborative Boards: Pinterest is a good place to find moms, especially if you create content via an author blog or want to post a book review. Ask the owner of the collaborative Pinterest board if you can join. It will be the first person listed on that board. I have two collaborative boards on books: Best Books for Kids with 32,400 followers and Multicultural Books for Kids with 13,400 followers.
Hashtags: For most social media, hashtags help you find and build community. You can research hashtags or go with ones you notice other people using. Are you trying to reach a certain group: educators, librarians, moms, book bloggers? Hashtags help everyone find each other. I tend to use #ReadYourWorld for diversity books, #KidLit, #EdChat, #picturebook, #chapterbook, etc. Once I researched hashtags by platform extensively, but I haven’t done that recently. Most social media platforms will show you related hashtags and trending hashtags.
The big picture to Marketing is Building a Community is to actually build a community. Usually this will be around something bigger than yourself or your book. It might take a while to find what coalesces too. This can be an organic thing. My advice here is to be yourself. Be authentic. If you are bold and want to declare what you believe in, that will help you build a community. If you don’t want to make waves or enemies, you can build community that way too. My community is loosely moms who value education and are interested in diversity and multicultural books for their kids. And it took me several years to realize that this is what I was all about.
Everything I wrote about is The Long Road. The Long Road is you building your brand. It’s like an annuity that you create. It’s portable. You own it. You can use it again and again, no matter what you decide to do with your life. You build it brick by brick in a very solid way.
The Immediate Fix
If you are “this is all well and good but my book is coming out in six weeks and HELP! I need to do my own marketing,” let’s cut to the chase. This is your check list of what to do to build excitement before your book launches.
Blog Tour: The fastest way to set up your blog tour is to target 25 or so book blogs. Do the following for the first five blogs ONE TIME:
- Leave a thoughtful comment on their blog on their newest blog post.
- Follow them on all their social media platforms.
- Like and otherwise engage them on their social media.
Now go to the next five blogs on your list. Repeat. Do this for two weeks and then write them a custom email. Use their first name. Tell them that you follow them on x, y, z social media platform. Talk about their blog. Ask them if they will be part of your blog tour.
Cover Reveal: Ask one of your new blogging friends or an author with a blog to host your cover reveal. It helps to build excitement.
Book Trailer: It doesn’t have to be fancy but make a book trailer. I use Flipagram to easily edit a video. iMovie is pretty easy too. Hire a teen to help you.
Author Kate Dopirak asked me to upload her book trailer for Your My Boo to my YouTube. I only have 55 YouTube subscribers but this video received 231 views.
Book Trailer Reveal: Why not? Ask someone to host a book trailer reveal for you.
Book Giveaways: From your new friends on social media and blogs, ask if they want to host a giveaway of your book. Sweeten it by making a signed, personally ascribed book. If you can illustrate, add a custom drawing. You’d be surprised by how much this little touch can make a difference.
Other Giveaways: Can you find ways to promote your book with other giveaways? A t-shirt with the cover? A print of the book turned into art? It doesn’t have to be expensive.
Make the Ask: For anyone who gets a copy of your book or ARC, ask them to post a review on GoodReads and Amazon for you. And why not Facebook too?!
Make the Ask Part 2: Add that the best way for anyone to help you with your book is by Pre-Ordering it! And give the link.
Ask for Volunteers to Help Promote Your Book: Ask using any means at your disposal — email, Facebook, whatever — for volunteers to help you promote your book. Sign them up using a Google form. Then email them with instructions. If you want to get tweeted, WRITE them a tweet. Supply an image. If you want them to post to Facebook, WRITE them a Facebook post. Don’t forget to link to your book! Who can help? Neighbors, friends, family, co-workers from past jobs, your critique group, your church members … make the ask and see who wants to help.
Also ask this group to leave comments, like the post on social media, and even share all the posts on your blog tour.
Is There a Related Cause to Your Book?: You can reach out to that group and you can also promote this cause as part of your book promotion. Maybe you donate part of the revenue to the cause? Maybe you just want to help drive awareness? Maybe you want to donate books to them? Maybe you can do an event with them?
Guest Post: One easy way to get blog coverage is to offer to guest post. This works better if you have a relationship with the blogger so see Blog Tour strategy above for tips. Also, ask those bloggers who opted not to join your blog tour with their own post if you can supply content instead. There’s also Nerdy Book Club to guest blog but you need to sign up 9 months before your book launch as spots are in high demand. Ask your author blogger friends if you can guest post. Caroline Starr Rose has a great author blog that I really enjoy (and she’s an author, a full time teacher, and a blogger!). [sorry, I didn’t mean to go all Tiger Mom on you.]
I know this is a lot of information coming at you. Pick and choose. Start small and add on. Try and experiment to see what works for you or what you enjoy doing. This is a marathon not a sprint. You will have other books in the hopper. Just like you learned to become a good writer of books, you can learn to be a good marketer of books. No one cares more about this book than you do. You are the best emissary for your book.
I hope this was helpful to you. Please share your tips for getting your book noticed! Thanks so much!
p.s. Related posts:
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.