There are so many things to being an author that are often overlooked. It’s not just writing a captivating story, it’s also querying to agents or publishers, learning to self-edit, navigating the world of self-publishing if you decide to take that route, and marketing yourself as a creative. It’s a big, scary world that comes along with storytelling that you may not always feel prepared for. But maybe we can help! Here are some marketing tips — take these… It’s dangerous to go alone!
1. Social Media for Authors
As Ron Swanson once said, “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” When it comes to social media, consistency is key. You’ll pack a bigger punch with one or two well-maintained platforms than you will sporadically posting on all of them.
What platforms you use comes down to where your audience is. Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram all have active “bookish” communities. However, each one presents its own pros and cons. Twitter is a great place to connect with other authors and publishers (check out #PitMad and other pitching events); Instagram is full of dedicated and active readers (#bookstagram); TikTok has a wide range of book reviewers that drill down into niche genres (#BookTok). Taking some time to read up on where you audience is will always pay off. Once you locate them, dedicate your efforts to that platform.
Bonus tip: claim a username on all platforms – you can always redirect. If your name is “Super Duper Author Extraordinaire” save that username on all platforms and make your bio “Official account – active on (insert active platform usernames).” This can help catch the audiences on the platforms you’re not actively using and save you a little grief if you want to expand your social media presence later!
2. Two-Way Marketing
This one may seem obvious, but if you want to start a conversation, you must be open to having one. This can be done in many ways — asking your audience who their favourite character is, using comment boxes on your Instagram story, using polls on Twitter, participating in popular TikTok trends — the list is endless!
Sometimes when we take off our storytelling hat and put on our marketing one, we forget that at the base of all communications is community. We don’t want to talk AT our audiences, but with them. Not every single communication you put out must be two-way (it’s totally fine to tweet where to purchase your story — in fact that’s important) but remember to present opportunities for engagement too. Maybe asking what followers’ favourite mythical creatures won’t directly relate to you selling copies, but it’s gets them involved and builds a community. That community will rally behind your stories!
3. Build an Author Website
Since building a community and finding your audience is important, having your own space online may help with that. Say someone came across your name on a bookshelf at the store. They are intrigued, but not sold just yet. If they put your name in a search engine, what will come up? If you have a website, it will likely be the first result. On that website you should have information about who you are as a creative, what kind of stories you tell, ways to engage with you and your work, and links to where readers can buy your books.
4. DO Judge a Book by its Cover
Though the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” is admirable and important when applied to people, it is less accurate when applied to books. A book’s cover gives the reader a summary of what to expect. In the same way a picture of a meal on a menu reflects what you’re about the be served, the cover of your book needs to be appetizing and give the viewer a decent idea of what they are about to consume. For example, The Martian by Andy Weir show us a solitary astronaut on a foggy red planet. It doesn’t give away the plot, but it nods at what exactly to expect (otherwise, we might have wondered if the tale was about a tentacled, green alien). On the flip side, Twilight by Stephanie Meyer shows us pale hands holding a vibrant and lively apple. It certainly doesn’t scream “vampire,” but it does depict something cold and lifeless embracing something very much alive. This isn’t to say you must shell out all your budget on a cover, but do think about basic design principles and imagery — colour, contrast, hierarchy, balance, visual rhetoric, etc. — it sends a strong message to the reader.
5. Be Yourself!
Having your own voice is the most important part of being a storyteller. You are selling a piece of yourself, a story that was born and raised in your own juicy brain. Being a writer can be challenging, but the blessing of it all is that you are using your voice to tell your story. How incredible is that? What’s even better is that’s exactly what readers are looking for. The authors we love the most are the ones that have a distinct voice. We relate to them and fawn over the way they form sentences or view the world or build the world. If there is one thing that you desperately need to do, it’s be yourself. You are important. You have important things to say. You have wild and wonderful stories to tell and there’s only one of you! Marketing is all about finding your niche, and what could be more niche than presenting yourself as the individual that you are?
So get out there! Tell your stories in your own voice and you’re sure to find a community of people who want to listen.