It’s the dreaded M-word again, that most artists shy away from. Heck, isn’t that the reason you became a writer in the first place – to be creative and let your imagination run wild rather than be a sleazy Mad-men style executive? Like it or not, marketing is today an integral part of the writer’s job description. And the last thing it has to be is sleazy.
In an ideal world, you sit down in your cave with a year’s supply of coffee and whisky, crawl out after a couple of years, knock on your agent’s door and let the wide world marvel at your masterpiece. Unfortunately, the real world is messier and doesn’t often work that way. As a writer, you have to pick yourself and build your own brand that your audience can relate to.
“Our cultural instinct is to wait to get picked. To seek out permission, authority and safety that come from someone who says, ‘I pick you.’ Once you reject the impulse and realize that no one is going to select you — that Prince Charming has chosen another house in his search for Cinderella — then you can actually get to work.”
Seth Godin in The Icarus Deception Pg 48-49
It’s imperative, as a writer, to not think of marketing as evil or manipulative. It also greatly helps to understand that marketing is quite necessary and the rules of the game are changing faster than you can say ‘traditional publishing’. In the end, remember that the best marketing tool that you have is still a work well done, but it is seldom sufficient, especially for new writers.
The Utility of an Author Platform
The idea of an author platform isn’t new and is growing fast especially in the new/indie writing community. However, beware that it can be a great marketing tool or a black hole that sucks out all your time. It is always good to have an author platform – an active blog, a great website, an interactive Facebook page and a magically updating Twitter chatter. That being said, it can be a huge time investment.
An author platform is extremely beneficial to non-fiction writers (think Malcolm Gladwell) or those who are much more entrepreneurial (think Seth Godin) and there is no way getting around it. However, for fiction writers, it is still a trade-off that ought to be determined by the writer. If you hate writing a blog, what’s the point anyway? An author platform is useful for all writers, but you should be careful how much you invest in it.
Marketing is About Selling Your Story
So what’s your story? Everyone has a story to tell. If you think you don’t, you aren’t thinking hard enough. Your audience is interested to know more about you and you give it to them – be it through tweets or blog posts. That’s how you build a core group of loyal fans who will spread the word out when you actually publish your next book.
Marketing Starts with the First Word
Ultimately, your work has to speak for itself. Marketing will only help you distinguish your work from a plethora or other good books. Writing something that people will enjoy and is relevant to your audience is of utmost importance.
Remember that your writing should be relevant to your target market and consistent in its content and style. Don’t write a memoir like you would write young adult fiction. Readers will enjoy your work only when it is relevant to them.
Know your Audience
Know your audience. Know their wants. Know their needs. Know their desires. Know their hopes. Know their dreams. Know their ambitions. Know their fantasies. Know their escapes. Know what makes them tick.
If you’re a new writer, it greatly helps to go out and meet you potential audience, be it at trade shows, conventions, or neighborhood meetings. You’ll know a lot more about them and also get a great chance to network and build some connections for future resources.
Tread the World of ‘Free’ Carefully
There is nothing wrong in giving away your work for free. If you are offered a chance to be published in the Op-ed of The New York Times, you should take it even if they don’t pay you. You give away content for free all the time – through your social media outlets, through your blog, and through your guest blog posts.
However, don’t do it as an end in itself. Giving away your content for free should provide you with some tangible benefits – perhaps a link back to your book on Amazon so people can buy it or signing up for your newsletter so they can be informed of your next project. Think of free content as a great marketing tool that needs to be leveraged to build a real brand – you.
Be Visible in your Niche
As a writer, you need to get your name out there in front of your audience. They should be able to recollect your name when they see your work and associate positive feelings with it. Don’t do the Houdini act and disappear after a few articles or books. If you’re constantly engaged with your audience, you will naturally build a great brand around you and when the time comes – publishing your next book, for instance, you’ll have a ready and willing audience who already likes what you have to offer and wouldn’t hesitate to pay for it.
For new authors, it is hard to be reviewed by major publications. In those cases, the internet can provide the next best thing to a level playing field. Try to garner several reviews for your book especially within the first week of launch. You might also consider giving away free copies of your books to regular reviewers at sites like Amazon. Again, it is important to mention that your work needs to be good in order to be positively reviewed. Never try to bribe your reviewers and try to reach out to them before the launch of your book.
Writers need to get comfortable with marketing in order to promote themselves and establish a well-recognized brand. It is an invaluable asset that many artists tend to neglect. As the new forms of media take shape in the world dominated by the internet, it is a golden opportunity for new writers to get ahead and distinguish themselves from the crowd.