Sure, you’re a great writer. But can you sell yourself (and your work)?
By Jessica Ferri
It’s not enough to have a great book on your hands, or even an idea for a great book these days. You also need to have a personal brand and be willing to do a fair amount of self-promotion, namely on social media. Old-schoolers might roll their eyes, but it’s a fact that both agents and editors (and employers in general) are looking for content that has a clear idea of its purpose, its audience, and how to market itself. Here, what you can do to succeed in the business of self-promotion.
Spend Money to Make Money
The golden age of publishing, with corporate expense accounts and huge book tours, is long gone. Most authors will find that the budget for publicity and marketing on their book (especially if you are a first-time author) is very small. This means that in order to sell your book and to reach as many potential readers as possible, you will have to spend some money in marketing it and yourself. You’ll need to have a web presence: that means having a website with active links to purchase the book and updates on events. You may need professional author photos taken, which could include hair, makeup, and wardrobe help. If you want to shoot a book trailer or do any other multimedia promotion, that could come out of your own pocket, too. Sometimes, you’ve got to spend money to make money.
Know your audience. If you write nonfiction this is especially important. Agents and editors want to see evidence that there is a solid audience already in place, eager to read your book. You can show this through competitive and comparative titles, but one surefire way to illustrate that an audience exists is by creating a following on social media. This also shows agents and editors that you know your audience. It’s a built-in group of people (a demographic) that your publisher can sell this book to, increasing their confidence in your project and lessening their marketing workload.
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat… pick your poison. Though, if you’re prepared, you’ll have a social media presence on nearly every social media platform that exists. Why? It’s free marketing. Depending on your project, one social media platform might work better for you than others. Do you have something historical, visual? Then Instagram’s your best bet. Are you looking to engage with a slightly older crowd? Try Facebook. Are you writing about politics? You’ll want to be active on Twitter. Start building your social media presence as soon as you can. Being active on social media lets you update your audience with progress made on your book. And people love to feel included on that journey.
Media and Marketing
Is yours the kind of book you’re hoping will receive lots of media attention? Great. How are you at public speaking? Giving interviews? Are you camera shy? Or do you get nervous and clam-up? These are all things to consider given your project and what will work best to sell you as its author. If the idea of appearing on television terrifies you, this is something you’ll want to discuss with your publisher in terms of how they will market the book. Maybe you’d like to let your work speak for itself. Just make sure you are on the same page as your marketing team. If you’d like to be more camera-ready, think about investing in some extra publicity help outside of what your publisher can offer.
Knowing the community around your book is slightly different than knowing its audience. Let’s say you’re writing a book about the history of birdwatching in the United States: Do you have relationships with the Audubon Society? With the national parks? With prominent birdwatchers on Instagram? On PBS? The Zoo? These are members of your community and an essential tool to marketing your project, in many cases, for free. The network that expands from an already-established community is perhaps the most important resource to mine.