How to Market Even Before You’re Done Writing
by E.T. Carlton
Book Marketing expert Seth Godin famously advised self published authors to start book marketing 3 years before publishing. While that may seem far-fetched (how do you market something that doesn’t exist yet?) marketing your book online takes planning and patience and it’s best to start as early as possible. In the highly competitive world of self publishing, the earlier you start, the better your chances are to connect with potential readers.
The key to understanding why authors need to market their books early is this: in self publishing, it’s the author that’s the product. In other words, authors need to brand themselves well before they publish, so that, by the time their first book appears, they have established an online presence and have created relationships with influencers and readers.
But how do you, as an unpublished author, start the process of branding yourself? It may seem impossible to sell yourself as a writer when you haven’t written a book yet, but there are 2 crucial steps that you can take right now — wherever you are in the writing process — to start marketing your book. The book that doesn’t exist yet.
1. Start an Online Author Platform
An author platform is usually a website or blog. Why do you need a website and blog before you’ve published? The older your site is, the more trusted it will be by search engines. That will translate to you being more easily found online. But simply registering a domain name isn’t enough to establish an online presence — in order to do that, you’ll need to add content to your website on a regular basis.
Yes, that means blogging and no, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
You don’t need to blog daily or even weekly to have an effective online presence. They key is setting a schedule and sticking to it. That could mean posting twice a week or once a month, as long as you do it on a regular basis and as long as you post interesting, helpful content that showcases your personality. If the thought of blogging feels overwhelming, take solace in the fact that not everything you post on your blog has to be written by you. Let’s repeat that: you can post content from other websites on your blog, as long as you link to the original source and give the source credit.
If you’ve decided that you want to post new content to your author blog twice a month, that might mean that once a month you write something original, and once a month you post something from another website.
- For ideas on what to write about, look at other author blogs for ideas and by all means check out this article on author blogging ideas.
- Not sure where to find articles written by other people to post on your blog? Search press release sites for book news; set up Google alerts for terms like publishing news, self publishing, book news, and authors and new content will be delivered to your inbox; use feed aggregator sites like Alltop Literature and Bloglovin; and feel free to use articles you find on this site.
Bonus to Having an Author Website: You Can Collect Email Addresses
Collecting email addresses from potential readers is considered by many the best way to market your book. There are several ways to capture email addresses on your site, and many of them are inexpensive or free. Our recent article on how to start an email list outlines the benefits of email list building and provides a step by step guide on how to do it. We even give you examples!
2. Network on Social Media
While there are any number of companies that will post information about your book on social media for you, the real purpose of social media for authors is to establish relationships. Remember that the key to marketing a book online is marketing yourself, not sending out repeated messages to buy your book. How do you market yourself on social media? By posting interesting articles and links and by interacting with other users.
Getting Started on Social Media
If you are new to social media, start with the basics: Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. Yes, Google Plus. Really.
- Google Plus: It’s run by Google…the same people who control the search engine. Your website will rank higher in search results if you share your blog posts on Google Plus. It also has hundreds of book-related communities you can join. If you’re not sure how to find communities, check out the communities Readers+Writers Journal is connected to.
- Twitter: Probably the best place for making connections with book blogs and influencers in self-publishing, if you use it correctly. That means following Twitter lists, re-tweeting frequently and using the correct hashtags. The Book Designer’s “Ultimate Guide to Twitter for Writers” is a comprehensive guide to everything you need to get started on Twitter, from how to write your bio to how to size your profile picture to how to navigate around the site. Also see Readers+Writers Journal’s articles on Twitter lists and how to write a great tweet that gets attention.
- Facebook: It’s not just for cat memes and secretly gloating over how poorly your high school boyfriend aged. Facebook can be a powerful book marketing tool. Once you’ve published, you will want to set up a book page, but even before you publish, consider setting up an author page that is separate from your personal profile so that you don’t wind up bombarding your personal friends with book-related information. The other bonus of having an author page: fans can follow your posts without you having to accept them as friends. Once you become a famous author you won’t want to be bothered with hundreds of friend requests a day.
Depending on the genre you write in, you may want to consider joining other social networks. Writers of novels for young adults may find it useful to be on Snapchat, for instance. Non-fiction and self-help authors can establish themselves as experts on sites like Quora.
If you’ve already published a book or even a series of books, you can still benefit from the suggestions above. As you set up your blog or social media profiles, keep in mind that book marketing is really about author marketing — it’s about creating an image or brand and making connections. Corporations use branding to sell an image and form relationships with consumers — people line up to buy Iphones on the day they’re released because of the Apple brand, not because of the phone’s new features. By marketing yourself as an author before you publish, you can establish the same kind of loyalty and have readers lining up to buy your first book.
E.T. Carlton is a writer, blogger and digital marketing consultant for brands, companies and authors.