When I was little, I knew that I wanted to be an author. For years I would fantasize about writing, locked away in a room somewhere, away from people, just myself and my typewriter (then word processor, then computer) churning out stories and watching my books become bestsellers.
What a cute image, right? The problem is that I was not the only little person with those fantasies, and my stories are just a few words in the giant vat of words produced by the talented writers of this world.
Writing a novel is hard work, but it turns out that it is the easy part when it comes to getting your book in the hands of readers. Once my book was published – a whirlwind of its own – I realized that I was now in the business of self-promotion.
With or without an agent or publisher, new authors need to learn how to promote their books. Just the sheer number of books out there is overwhelming. Readers are no longer limited to choosing books in their hometown library or bookstore; when you publish a book, you are in instant competition with millions of people. When the weight of this finally settled on me, I knew that I had to learn how to market myself.
The first thing I did was hire a marketing firm to create a website for me. I know of a lot of writers who do this themselves, but I know my limits both in talent and time. It is important for people to see that you have an online presence, and with your website you can share as much as you want about yourself as a writer that you want to, can push sales, grow an email list, and post some of your work so that readers will want more.
Speaking of online presence, I now have not only a Facebook profile, but an Instagram and Twitter account. Finding time to figure out what to post and how often is a job on its own, because you don’t only want to promote your book – that is boring and annoying for people to see the same content over and over, so it becomes a game of what to post and when. To be honest, this is still something that I am working on because when life gets busy, I forget about this important task. If I had unlimited time and energy, I would jump on TikTok as well, but I am struggling with regular social media posts and do not want to spread myself too thin.
I have also used Facebook and Amazon paid ads to market my book. I wouldn’t say that the goal here is to only make a sale, because what sells anything is repetition. Someone is not going to see my book for the first time and buy it, and I know that it’s more about branding then immediate sales – people need to see it over and over before they finally click and make a purchase.
Getting in the car and delivering your book to libraries and any local bookstore that will accept it is time consuming but necessary to get eyes on your actual product. Contacting influencers and bloggers is also a great way to be seen, as is having an author presence on sites such as Goodreads and BookBub.
The most important thing I have learned is to not be shy – if there is an opportunity to talk about my work, I must take it. That is easier said than done because I feel a little selfish sometimes, but to be successful in business, you must be passionate about what you are selling and therefore ready to sell at all times. I am lucky because my day job involves a great deal of marketing, but even with the knowledge that I brought with me, I still find that marketing my book is challenge because it requires me to speak up from a place of vulnerability, which doesn’t jive with the image I had of myself happily locked away, writing. Then again, stories come from being out in the world and living, and any challenge is an opportunity to grow.