First-time authors rarely make good marketing agents. We end up breaking laws, employing outdated techniques, and losing out on sales through sheer ignorance. Increasingly, authors need to think of themselves as part of the marketing process, and can build their authorial identity through social media campaigns and diligent attention to current trends. If you are new to the indie-publishing scene or just haven’t yet had the success you desire, there are a few mistakes you will want to avoid.
Breaking the Law
The irony of writing a bestselling crime novel, only to be fined for breaking local or federal marketing laws is rather supreme—but it happens. If you are not yet familiar with marketing and advertising law, you need to invest the time necessary to be certain that your book is within all local and federal guidelines. For example, you need to ensure that anything your book claims (awards, research, funding) is true and that any endorsements you make are your honest opinions. You will want to be even more careful if your book makes any health claims of any kind, otherwise, you may face serious charges.
Your skill is writing. You know how to craft sentences, build high drama, and write dialogue that captures the reader’s imagination. You’ve probably spent hundreds of hours reading, writing, jotting down ideas, and mapping out narrative arcs. What you have not done in that time is receive formal training in marketing.
A marketing manager spends their entire career building the knowledge and skills necessary to make marketing projects work. They know SEO inside out, can spot a trend with the use of complex analytics, and work full time on behalf of clients to ensure your book or product takes off. They can also figure out where you’ve been going wrong and can make adjustments necessary to boost sales.
You do not necessarily need to hire a marketing manager full-time, but you should at least consult with one to see what they can offer. Oftentimes, you’ll just need a few strategic meetings with marketing managers to get started in the right direction. They can suggest ways to build your writing brand, can improve your web presence, and can help you appear more often in online store searches like Amazon. This frees up more of your time for writing and will reduce the stress you feel around marketing as an author.
Not Building Community
The writing process is typically pretty lonely. Most of us sit at a keyboard, blackout, then come back to reality after a few thousand words have been typed up. My personal opinion is that this process is wonderful and deeply meditative. However, if you want to increase your chances of selling your book in volume, you are going to have to interact with the outside world eventually!
The best place to build community is with other writers. Forming meaningful bonds with other writers will help you pick up insider tricks and can give you the encouragement boosts you will need. In addition, those same authors who help you proofread chapters can direct even more traffic to your website and social media sites by spotlighting your awesome publications. It might feel a little machiavellian, but treating your writerly connections as professional contacts will pay off during the marathon that is marketing in indie publishing.
Not Creating a Social Media Presence
Social gatherings might not be your thing, but social media should become a part of your marketing practice. The reason is simple: you likely do not have many total leads as a first-time author, so the total number of converted leads (i.e. readers) is going to be low. Creating an effective social media channel can change this. However, when creating a social media following, be sure to provide content that people are actually going to enjoy. Just reposting images of your novel’s cover art is not going to cut it. Instead, post about topics you enjoy and are related to your novel. That way, folks with similar interests will find you (and those readers are much more likely to purchase your novel!).
Overnight success in self-publishing is rare. That said, the industry is changing and gaining traction. Technological changes mean that more of your potential readers can find you, and the indie authors actually earn a larger chunk of revenue from each book sold. That all means that it is worth taking the time to develop a strategic, professional marketing campaign to match the quality of your novel.
Marketing seems simple but rarely is. What’s worse: it comes at a point where you’re likely burnt out from hundreds of hours of writing. But, by employing a marketing manager and creating a web presence you can regain the momentum you need as a first-time author in the age of social media.