So You're an Author. Now What?

Marketing & PR Ideas for that important next step in the journey -- selling your work

An author writes. That's what we're supposed to do. The greatest challenge facing authors isn't the writing; it's the marketing of the work we've written. So how does an author market their work? That's the business of writing.

Best writing Author vs. Best-Selling Author

Whether you recognize it it or not, as a writer, you're in the sales and marketing of writing from the moment you publicly declare your work for sale. This is why it is important to become acquainted with books and blogs on sales, marketing and public relations. I was once told that best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame noted that the most coveted prize for writers isn't best writing author, it's best-selling author. What does that tell us? JV Crum III of Conscious Millionaire says it best when he says that writing is 5 percent and marketing is 95 percent.


Know Your Audience

From the time a writer has a firm idea as to the direction of their work, be it a novel, a book of poetry, a memoire, or a nonfiction work, knowing your target audience and how to get your work in front of them is paramount. Often the misjudgment is made that promoting the book can't be done until the work is completed. I would argue the opposite. Promoting the work while you write it ensures that the work gets done. You're leveraging audience expectation to guarantee your own success. To do this, take the time to know who you're writing to. An exercise as simple as creating an avatar, a fictional character on paper based on who your ideal reader is, helps you to stay on target with your message and your marketing. Answer questions like "What do they look like?", "What are their book buying habits?", "What do they most like to read about?", "Where do they like to find information on their favorite authors within your genre?" These and other audience-specific questions can help you to flesh out a profile that you can keep with you as you write.


Brand & Promote

The journey to bestselling author involves three key steps: promoting, marketing and selling.

The best first step is to build your brand. Your brand is what you want to put before the public. It's how you want to be perceived by your audience. Take the time to create a good logo, business card and website to represent you. Your business card will primarily serve as a way to guide potential readers to your website where you can learn more about you and your work, but where you can offer them perks in exchange for their email address. When they sign up to receive marketing from you, perhaps you can send them a sample chapter from your book (a great way to sell it!), a video tutorial, a chance to win a book, or some other offer with perceived value. You can also hold contests on your website for those who read your book and leave ratings on Amazon.

Mobile technology has made it easier that ever to stay connected to your audience through social media. Apps like Typorama and Word Swag allow you to take images and overlay type on them to create inspirational messages, share excerpts from your work, and create quick hit ads to use on any of the major social networks. In a podcast interview I did with New York Times bestselling author john David Mann, he points out that writers who want to move the needle with agents and publishers need to master social networking. It is in their best interest to build their online audiences as social proof that they can draw crowds, sell books, and expand their influence.

Lewis Howes, a best-selling author and top influencer created a street team to get the word out about his new book. He gave away copies of his book in exchange for readers signing up for his email list and agreeing to read his book within two weeks, review it on Amazon on launch day, and then promote it on social media.

Go Public

The challenge facing any authors is the natural inclination to just want to write, press send and hope that the book sells. It's this introverted nature that keeps some of the best books unread. The way to combat it is through targeted public relations and networking.

Using PR can be as simple as sending out press releases related to your book, and not just one. Become a newshound. Use Google Alerts to notify you of activity that may warrant a press release. After sending your initial press release for your launched book, look to send others. If you have written a book on climate change, sign up Google alerts that specifically address climate change. When one comes to you, and if your book addresses the topic, then contact the writer of the story, the show producer, or the editor and send a press release about your book, how it addresses those newsworthy topics, and offer to share your expertise.

Other forms of PR include book launch parties, public book signings and book readings. You can also offer a free copy to your local library and in most cases they will invite your local media to cover the event. That's free press.

Shake Hands & Kiss Babies

Finally, face-to-face networking is among your best strategy for effectively promoting your book. Attending book fairs puts you in front of your audience, but also exposes you to new connections. Tasha Fuller, a children's book author based in Woodbridge, Virginia, says she found her illustrator by attending a book fair. You never know who may be floating around in chamber of commerce events, networking functions and at open houses. If there is one thing to learn about the old Kevin Bacon game most of us played as children is that we are all closer to an influence than we thing. It's a matter of finding the people who know them. Says Sara Bolme, co-founder of Christian Small Publishers Association, "Marketing is not a one-time thing. It is an ongoing process that you must keep doing to continue selling books."