Must-Haves for the Indie Author, Part Three: Marketing

…marketing is a multi-headed beast.

For many authors, marketing is a multi-headed beast. A necessary, bewildering, ever-changing and confusing evil providing cascades of frustration and angst on a daily basis.

Wait. That might be just me.

In any case, it cannot be denied that marketing is complex and multi-faceted. Anyone lacking several extra pairs of hands is probably going to need assistance. Or at least some books on how to grow them. To make matters worse, the publishing world is changing so fast that what worked this morning may fade in effectiveness by this afternoon.

Ok, maybe not THAT fast, but you get my point.

However, there are some things that are fairly stable, and there are some resources to help you navigate the wicked marketing seas.

…building a fan base…

Social Media: Whatever the platform, the purpose of social media is garnering and engaging with new followers. In general, outside of ads, your goal here is not immediate sales. Instead, you are building a fan base, getting to know them as you allow them to get to know you.

And by you, I mean your best version of yourself. Choose carefully what you say and how you engage on social media. More than one career has gone down in flames for authors who didn’t. A good rule of thumb is to refrain from saying anything that you wouldn’t say as a guest in someone else’s living room. That someone is not your best friend. They are a person whom you have met several times, but whose views on politics, religion, child-rearing etc., may not line up with your own. Courtesy and respect are their own form of currency.

Facebook is everchanging, but it is still a great platform for hosting fans and reaching people. Having an author page and/or a reader group is a great start for any author’s platform.

Building and maintaining a website has been seen by some as a time wasteland, but that may be changing. With the increasing ease of adding a shopping cart to your site, personal online stores may be on the rise, allowing for an increase in profit from individual sales, as well as a platform for increased visibility. It also provides a home for your blog, which can be used to increase reader engagement through comments.

Twitter: Not a great venue for sales, but it can be a good way to raise your visibility as an author. Twitter is a great place for engagement, but the inhabitants get testy if they start to see your profile as a sales venue. Be careful.

Instagram is also on the rise for authors. Creative graphics, ads, etc. can all be used here. Unfortunately, you can’t put links in an Instagram post. So, consider putting a landing page link in your bio for ease of update and versatility. You can build a link list on your website, or use one of the apps like Link Tree, specifically tailored for that purpose.

Ads: Pardon me for a moment while I fight the urge to run away. Ads are hard. I have not mastered them yet. However, there are folks who have, and I urge you to read them, take their advice and take the plunge. Because Amazon, Facebook, and other ad venues are an effective way to market your work. Before you buy a book, do a little research. Be certain that the author has found success in his or her fiction (if that’s what you write) work, and check the publication date. A book written as recently as 2017 is likely out of date unless it has been updated to reflect current market conditions.

Here’s a short list to get you started:

Chris Fox has several books that are helpful. Visit his author page and take your pick. Mal Cooper is getting ready to release an updated version of her Facebook ads instructional, and will be releasing a new marketing book soon. Penny Sansivieri is a bit of an Amazon ads guru and has just updated her Amazon ads instructional as well. Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind that ads require a time investment as well as a monetary investment. You cannot just “set it and forget it,” and expect to succeed. Sure, it could happen by accident, but the odds are against it.

In addition, you may consider Bookbub, The Fussy Librarian, ENT, and other subscription-based reader newsletters. But again, do your homework. Some reader newsletters can provide a wonderful boost to sales, others none at all. A great deal depends on their reach in your particular genre. They may, for instance, have sixty thousand readers, but only ten thousand of those are interested in sci-fi. Avid readers tend to gravitate to one or two genres, so marketing a fantasy novel to a sweet romance reader, for example, may be an exercise in futility.

…raise your profile.

Networking: One of the key factors in marketing is visibility. Networking is a great, and usually free, way to raise your profile. Most authors have a blog, a podcast and/or a reader group to which they are only too happy to invite you for a guest spot. One of the biggest challenges in these venues is filling available slots. When you are willing to host other authors in turn, it is a win/win for all involved. Readers get to meet new-to-them authors, hosts get more traffic, you get more readers.

So, writing guest posts, appearing on podcasts or youtube videos, and taking over a slot on a Facebook reader party helps both of you. Just have a clear idea of your goal for the individual activity and tailor your interaction to suit the audience, venue, and purpose.

What is the blog/podcast/reader group’s audience? Are you after book sales, new fans, or networking? What is your call to action? Join my newsletter or reader group? Buy my newly launched book? Visit my signing? All these are legitimate and have their place. Being clear on where you are headed with them will help get you there.

A beast indeed.

Marketing is a huge subject – a beast indeed. This covers SOME of what you need to think about. What other marketing opportunities have you found? How do you make them work for you?

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