Why Authors Need to Know Marketing
Years ago you would write your novel, print it on good stock paper and mail it off with a query. If it was good enough, an agent would sell it to a publisher who would give you copy edits, a professional cover and crank up their marketing machine to help sell it. I’m betting anyone reading this post has never had this experience. It’s rare these days. Margins are thin for publishers and there’s less risk-taking on unknown authors. The landscape is also full of disruptors – the people and technology that have innovated to change how we publish, buy and read books.
For these reasons and more, authors need to know how to market their work. This is part one of a series I’ve put together to give you ideas of how to do this effectively.
First a few pre-work assumptions:
- Your novel is complete
- You’ve invested in a professional copyedit
- You’ve invested in professional cover art
- You’ve formatted, published, and polished your novel
Part 1: The Press Release
Without jumping ahead too much, you need to have a few key words in your toolbox. Think about who you are trying to reach and how they are searching for what they want to read next. Key words should be aligned to your book’s subject and genre. If you write zombie vs. vampire alternate history fiction with a political twist, you’ll want to be sure to have those words in your press release. Keywords are picked up by search engines when you Bing or Google for books with some or all of these elements. SEO, Search Engine Optimization is nothing more than making sure the key words that would help a search find you are in your content.
By now you may have realized that press releases have evolved from the news feed days of print newspapers. A smart press release is optimized for online consumption while providing the key facts needed by an editorial desk at a traditional press.
There is a basic format for all press releases starting with the Headline. This is the perfect place to use key words. The headline should be attention grabbing and is every bit as important as choosing the title for your book. This is followed by the date and location, a brief introduction, book details, contact information and boilerplate.
Here’s an example:
Soaring Book Sales (Headline)
For Immediate Release
Strong Press Releases Sell More Books (Subtitle: Add specifics to your topic)
(Date & Location) December 19, 2014 – Charlotte, NC (Introduction) The introduction is the classic Who, What, When, Where and How you learned in English class all those years ago. I worked nine years in a TV newsroom and over and over I saw producers pull an entire story from a press release because it was written well enough to make their jobs easier. I’ve also seen press releases reprinted in trade publications almost verbatim. The introduction should have a journalistic feel to the writing. Proper grammar and punctuation count, so turn on your grammar checker and pull out your Strunk & White.
(Book Details) Next, add the book details that make readers want to buy your novel, such as an overview of topics for non-fiction or an abbreviated synopsis for fiction. It’s also a good place to add a quote from a respected source or early review. This adds credibility.
(Purchase Information) Now let readers know how and where to find your novel. List your distribution outlets by name. Do not put in a string of links. If you are doing author appearances, list locations and times.
(Contact) Closing out the main section is your contact information. This should be your email, a phone number if you prefer personal calls, and your website site. If you have a publisher, add their contact information as well.
(Boilerplate) The last component is the boilerplate. It sounds intimidating, but it’s simply an anachronism for stating your credentials. Let the reader know why you are qualified to write about your non-fiction topic or that you’re an award-winning fiction writer and this is your 10th novel. This section builds your credibility and lets the world know this is not your hobby, you are an author.
Add an image of your book cover and links to your online distribution at the bottom of the page. The links should be a hyperlink within the retail store’s name like this: Amazon.com.
Distributing Your Press Release
At this point you have a carefully written and proofed press release that is SEO optimized. Think about your tribe of fans, the niche readers who love books just like yours and where they go for information: online searches, trade magazines, and sometime traditional media. Look for established communities where they network. Here are a few suggestions:
- PR Log
- PR Web
- Writing Networks, Groups or Associations (SavvyAuthors.com, NC Writer’s Network)
- College Alumni Associations (Many publish magazines with articles on graduate’s accomplishments)
- LinkedIn (Get your profile in All-Star shape and add posts and news to reach your network)
- Social Media (Share the link from PR Log or LinkedIn) & ask for RT’s
- Your website (Consider a special promotion for your blog followers to reward their fandom)
- Local news media (Many interview authors for Public Radio & local interest news)
- Tap into niche online communities. Be sure to follow their guidelines for posting press releases and book promotions.
Networking in a digital age gives you a lot of control over how and where you promote your writing. The options above can all be done online for free. There are other PR distribution services that charge a fee, but I would recommend using the free tools you have on hand first. Everywhere your press release appears, whether it’s a link on social media, an online profile, or a handful of blogs, you have increased your discoverability by search engines and readers. For the same reason, it’s important you use multiple distribution paths.
Now that you have this tightly written and smart promotional copy, you can repurpose it over and over again. If you guest post or hop on a blog tour you can pull bits for your author bio, it’s the basis for a strong query letter, and it can be used in part on your product description for your online points of sale.
Links to Sample Press Releases
- Finding Your Audience
- Content Marketing on Social Media & Community Building
- Curating Content
- Engagement Marketing
- Added Value
- Designing a Marketing Plan & Experimentation
Wired by Judith Gaines
Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past.