A while back I asked you to suggest some topics for my blog. There were several good suggestions and I’ll try to answer them all soon. Today I’m going to take up Ace Collins’ question. BTW, Ace is a very accomplished author. Check out his titles on Amazon. Ace asked: What marketing really works in the information age? What can writers do to get the word out without spending a great deal of money?
I asked two people I trust to respond. Tom Umstattd of Author Media responded briefly but effectively by saying:
To successfully market a book, authors need to be either cash rich or time rich. Often the kind of authors who are unable to spend money on marketing are also unwilling to invest the time needed to learn the craft of marketing. They end up darting from one “silver bullet” to another and never sell many copies of their book. For the author on a tight budget I would recommend that they read Free Marketing: 101 Low and No-Cost Ways to Grow Your Business, Online and Off and Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. Plan to spend 30-100 hours studying marketing. These books are a great place to start. This is a lot of words to say “there are no shortcuts, marketing is a profession and not something you can learn in a weekend.”
Thanks, Thomas. Next I turned to Christianne Debysingh, at Harvest House Publishers. She reinforces and expands on some of Thomas’s suggestions.
We all want to discover the next best ‘thing’ that will amaze everyone with our creativity and skills. But, something that I am constantly reminded of is this—there are no substitutions for mastering the basics. Mastering the basics means that you will have an incredibly strong foundation upon which to build. The question at the top of the page is a huge one, and cannot be adequately addressed in one sitting. So for this post I’m choosing to focus on the area of mastering the basics as a starting point.
Whenever I’m working with authors who become frustrated with marketing or seem be to be stuck on where go next, I always take another look at the strength of their foundation. To build a strong foundation you have to do three things very well.
1. Core message. In other words what are you known for? Or in current terminology, what’s your platform or brand? Are you a jack of all trades and master of none? In today’s world that won’t cut it as an author. If you’re a fiction author, what genre are you passionate about—historical, Amish, suspense? If you write non-fiction what’s your focus—marriage and family, depression, apologetics? The point is know what message you’re passionate about and become an expert. Some examples of easily recognizable authors and their messages they are known for are Dr. James Dobson on family; Stormie Omartian on prayer; and Joel Rosenburg on Israel and the Middle East.
2. Engagement. Who are you writing to? Do you know your audience? If you’re a first time author you probably don’t have much of a fan base if any, while an experienced author may be seeking to increase theirs. Whether you are for or against social media I believe it’s one of the best ways to reach and build a fan base if done well. If you already do speaking engagements you have an audience that can be turned into loyal followers. If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. do you know who is following you? Do you read their comments, know what’s important to them, and what they need? Equally important, does your audience feel as if they know you? I’m not talking about sharing every intimate detail of your life, I’m talking about being real with them. Ann Voskamp, Lysa TerKeurst and Pastor Tony Evans are examples of people who each have large fan bases on social media. It’s not just having thousands of people following you, the question is how active are your fans? Don’t believe me? Check out the social media sites for yourself and see how many people are talking about them at any one time. At the time of writing this post Tony Evans has over 180,000 followers on Facebook with more than 76,000 talking about him.
3. Value. What value do your fans get from you? “Takeaways” have become very important. What practical truths or principles do you provide which they can take and apply for themselves. Does it make them feel as if you really understand and are speaking directly to them? Do they perceive that their life has somehow been enriched by you? Personally, those are the people that I follow. This can also be a good place to incorporate actual giveaways of product or other related items. If all you do on social media is shameless promotion of your book, you will lose your followers.
I believe that if you do these three things with excellence you will develop loyal fans who keep coming back for more and will invite and tell others about you. It’s a grassroots approach.
Thanks to both Thomas and Christianne for their insight. As writer who likes to hop from genre to genre, I realize it’s that much harder for me to succeed in a market that appreciates authors who find a genre and stick to it. That requires some adjustment on my part.
Next time I’ll try to answer two or three questions you posed.