After experiencing the excitement of being a debut author, there is one thing I know for sure. What is that one thing? For me, trying to figure out how to market my debut book became a daunting task. With that in mind, we asked Eleanor Elliott, Director of Digital Properties and Social Media for Harlequin and Carina Press, to give us recommendations on marketing a debut book.
This is good stuff, gang!
Making a list, checking it twice…
I love lists. I love the clarity and order they provide, and crossing off an item on my to-do list gives me a very tangible sense of satisfaction. When a project seems overwhelming, the best way for me to get a handle on it is to sit down and write out a list of the individual tasks I need to do. It’s so much easier to tackle something huge when all you have to worry about is the next immediate step. And I doubt there are many things bigger in the life of an author than the launch of their first book! So when RU faculty asked me to write a marketing checklist for debut authors, I was happy to oblige.
I know ‘marketing’ can seem daunting to an author, but it doesn’t have to be! It really boils down to one simple thing: get readers interested in your book. There are many, many ways to do that – but just remember that the core of it is about your book, and about getting into the hands of readers who will love it as much as you do.
Note: I’m going to assume you’re working with a publisher – for self-published authors your experience will be different and much more of the marketing load will be on your shoulders, but many of the recommendations below will still apply.
And now, onto the checklist!
Congratulations! Your book has been acquired! Contract is signed, you’re working with an editor, and you’ve been told your release date. It’s 4 months away.
- Work diligently with your editor on any revisions you’ve been asked to make. I know, this isn’t marketing – but always remember that marketing must come secondary to ensuring your book is the best book it can be.
4 Months before launch day:
- Figure out what your author-brand positioning is, and come up with a statement to describe it. Your author brand is a promise to your readers – what they know they can expect from you. A couple of well thought out and executed author brands from authors I’m familiar with:
- Maria Zannini – Maria writes paranormal/science-fiction/fantasy, and that’s very clear on her website, both with the visual design and her tagline: Tales of Otherworlds
- Shirley Wells – Shirley writes mysteries, and communicates her positioning as: Dark Crimes, Deep Secrets, Powerful Stories. What I love about Shirley’s website is that it’s simple design is quite in line with her brand. Now, if Shirley wrote sexy historical romance, I’d have quite a different opinion!
- Start a website or blog under your pseudonym. I recommend the WordPress platform because it functions as both a blog and website. The website should be simple and clear and should be a visual reflection of your author brand. Do you write romantic suspense? Flowers and butterflies might not be the best way to convey that visually.
- Start a Twitter account and Facebook page under your pseudonym. BUT, only if you can commit to participating for 10 minutes per day. To effectively utilize social media, you have to be an active participant. Follow & ‘Like’ other authors and industry professionals and engage in dialog with them.
2-3 months before launch day
- As soon as you receive your cover (and you’ve received to go ahead from your publisher), post it on your website for the world to see!
- Write a press release about your book to send to local news media. Include the cover of your book, an author photo, details about your book, and any interesting facts that might make your story relevant to local media: is your story set locally? Is there an interesting connection between you and the stories you write (i.e. were you a vet and now write shifter stories?)
- If you receive digital or physical review copies of your book, reach out to bloggers and ask them if they’d like to receive a review copy. Many publishers already make your book available to reviewers, however, it does not hurt to reach out directly.
- Reach out to your publisher to discuss their marketing plans for your book. They may have developed marketing materials or a tagline that you could use in your own efforts; they may also be interested in knowing what plans you have in place so they can develop complimentary plans or have suggestions for you.
1 month before launch day
- Develop a plan to engage potential readers on Twitter and/or Facebook. Come up with a series of tweets/posts that are related to your book in some way. You want the posts to be interesting enough that readers will either ReTweet or ‘Like’ them, thereby sharing your content with their followers/friends. For example: Does your heroine love to bake? Share recipes cleverly retitled to reflect themes in your story. Is your story set in ancient Egypt? Share cool facts/quotes about the setting and why it inspired you. Always link back to your website/blog where you make the connection to your book/characters. The campaign should begin about a week or so before launch day.
At least once per week until launch day:
- Blog about your experience of getting your first book ready for publication. If you have more to say, blog more frequently. But try not to blog less frequently than once per week. Whenever you post a new blog post, make sure to post a link on your Twitter and Facebook feeds.
Every day to launch day:
- Participate for at least 10 minutes in social media (Twitter, Facebook). Developing a direct connection with potential readers is a great way to build an audience.
On launch day:
- Participate in whatever marketing activities your publisher has arranged for you (i.e. blog tours, posts on the publisher’s social media properties, etc).
Remember that marketing doesn’t end on launch day! Keep up your social media campaign for at least 2 weeks post-launch (so about 3 weeks total). Note any positive reviews that your book gets, and forward those to your publisher. And start working on your next book. Your best marketing tool is your book. The more you write, the more you will publish, and the more you publish, the more marketable you become (because your backlist serves as great promotion of your backlist and vice versa!)
Ok, I know many of you will read this and think….uhhhh….but what about…? What about promo items? What about advertising? What about GoodReads and Tumblr and my Amazon author page?
Yes. There are many more activities you CAN do to market your book – but it’s my personal belief that it’s better off for an author to focus on fewer activities and do them really well, then to spread themselves too thin on activities that don’t have as big an impact.
So, in summary, a really simplified checklist:
- Make your book awesome.
- Have a clear understanding of your author brand
- Create and maintain a simple author website/blog
- Develop an active social media presence
- Engage local media
- Reach out to reviewers
- Develop and launch a book-specific social media campaign
- Keep in contact with your publisher about your plans, and take advantage of whatever opportunities they present you with.
- KEEP WRITING!
RU Crew, here’s your chance to ask a marketing professional for help. Go get her.
Thank you to Eleanor for the great advice and for hanging out with us today. Join us on Wednesday when author Dee J. Adams shares her tips on pitching to an editor or agent.
Bio: Eleanor Elliott is the Director of Digital Properties and Social Media for Harlequin and Carina Press. She’s worked in the digital space for 15 years, and in publishing since 1999. An avid reader since childhood, she always has at least 2 books on the go at any given time. She loves almost every kind of genre fiction, but has a soft spot for sci-fi and fantasy romance.
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