One of the first things I learned about being a published author was that I was going to have to sell my own books if I wanted to be a success. My own publisher informed me (after my book was on the market) that they put 90% of their effort into 10% of their writers simply because the economics of the publishing business dictates that this is so. In essence, unless you are already a bestselling author there is very little chance that a publisher is going to spend up big on pushing a book from an unknown author.
Plugging Yourself in Cyberspace
From my interaction with other authors this is an almost insurmountable obstacle. After all of the toil and sweat that they have put into their books to find out that the completion of the manuscript was only the beginning of the whole job can be soul destroying. As a pragmatic soul I took this information on board and decided that I needed to learn about how to market the books that I write and since the publication of my first novel Loot in 2009 I have become much more adept at selling my work. My latest book, The Sword & The Serpent has sold much better than that first effort, due largely to my increased ability as a marketer (for example the way I worked the plug for it into this post).
The internet is the best place to market yourself as a writer which kind of makes sense because mostly what people do online (when they aren’t watching pirate movies or looking at porn) is to read. It follows that if you are looking for a market of readers then a place where billions of people go everyday to read things may be a good place to start. So I did.
Many of the writers that I have run across on the interwebz have been under the impression that their book just needs to be printed and the readers would just turn up like worms in the Field of Dreams. The pragmatism that I have already noted above told me that if I was going to be an overnight success that I had better plan on working at it for a decade or so and so I developed a long term strategy. I have written about the business of writing at great length on this blog already so I won’t reiterate here. Suffice to say that I can now also recognize someone who really has a handle on the business of cyber marketing and who I can learn a trick or two from for my own personal gain.
Getting it Right
Recently I had an experience of an author that is successful because she is doing it the right way and all of us tadpoles in the literary pond could take a leaf out of her book. The lady in question is Suzanne White whose book The New Astrology was published in 1988 and has remained popular for a quarter of a century. In fact this conflation of the Western signs of the Zodiac and the animals of the Oriental Horoscope is a favorite reference work for my wife who looks up the correspondences of every person whose birthday she learns. Consequently I have also become familiar with the book and while it is a bit simplistic for my particularly esoteric tastes in occult literature I found the idea of conflating the systems very intriguing.
So when I found Ms. White on Facebook I clicked on like and I have been following her posts ever since. What I like about the way that she is using social media to market herself is her genuine engagement with her fans on the site. This is the vital aspect of using social media that most business people don’t handle very well and the most critical part of book marketing for an unknown author. One look though Suzanne’s Timeline shows that she posts regularly and doesn’t just post pictures of cats or the latest popular meme but really uses her posts to create interesting and, more importantly, shareable content.
I have been impressed in the past with the way that she is so obviously the one that is making a personal reply to a comment and that she just as obviously enjoys this engagement with her readers. This is why she is still selling books after 25 years and the first lesson that new authors could learn from the way that she does business. The second thing that she has done to market her books that has impressed me involved the way that she has chosen to market her latest books.
The original volume is something of a tome because it cross references twelve signs of the zodiac with the twelve animals of Chinese astrology resulting in 144 separate profiles being produced. This year Ms. White has released a series of twelve books, one for each of the Western signs and in each one the twelve animal signs are described for people under that sign. This has allowed her to create a range of books that is tailored to individuals rather than just a single product that covers everyone. This clever use of the e-book is the sort of thing that every new writer should be aiming at.
The Value of Personal Engagement
The other thing that Ms. White is really nailing with her marketing is the freebies and samples that she uses to introduce her work to new readers. Recently she posted on Facebook that if her followers e-mailed her with their birthday that she would send them a copy of the book for their sign. As the missus is a fan I thought it would win me some brownie points and so I e-mailed Suzanne with the (top secret) date. I was expecting the standard form e-mail thanking me for my interest with a link to a free download site but was pleasantly surprised to receive a personal reply from the lady herself with the promised e-book attached as a PDF.
This kind of profile building strategy works in many ways. Firstly your readers will make a better connection with you and be more interested in your writing if they feel that they can communicate with you and taking the time to reply in person instead of having an assistant do it makes your readers into your fans and encourages other people to like your page creating even greater potential in your Facebook market. It is also a great way to collect e-mail addresses to use for later book marketing efforts, the premium quality advertising medium of the 21st Century. The direct delivery underscored the personal nature of the connection and meant that I had the book to read straight away- an all round winner.
Writing is Only the First Half of the Game
Most writers are fairly solitary creatures and so this kind of social networking can be a challenge. Many of the questions from first time authors on writers’ forums are centered on this issue which seems to a source of much consternation for many. The fact is that the important half of the business of being an author is the marketing because that’s the bit that pays. In order to succeed it is necessary to overcome the introverted urge at least once in a while to sell some books.