Marketing is different from branding. Marketing is the act of pushing your book/brand/product out into the world.
I think this is one reason indies get branding and marketing confused. We’re often told to start marketing ourselves before we have a solidified brand, or before we’ve published a book.
Build your brand (remember, that’s who you are as an author) by blogging, tweeting and posting about what interests you. You need to build your brand, then market that brand.
What can you do to prepare to market your brand?
Start a Blog
But who are you blogging for: readers or writers? They usually are not the same audience. Joanna Penn is a good example of this. Joanna Penn writes non-fiction to help indie writers like herself. Her blog contains information for indies. But she also writes paranormal thrillers under JF Penn, and JF Penn writes a blog for her readers about her books. Right out of the gate I’m going to guess you don’t want to run two blogs. So choose who you are writing for. Then when you have a following you can use your blog to market your book by posting snippets of your WIP, short stories, etc. Hopefully, you’ll be cultivating your blog followers to want to buy your book when it comes out.
Tweeting is easy, but again if you dive into Writer Twitter you won’t sell many books. Writer Twitter is helpful to your author brand if you can cultivate a helpful image. Offer to beta read. Retweet helpful articles about the publishing industry. Follow agents and retweet their query tips. Network with others. Make writer friends.
This is also helpful if you ever decide you want to dive into non-fiction to help your fellow authors. I’m currently outlining a self-editing book. If there is something you know about the publishing process and you can help others by writing a book about it (you just might want to someday!) Writer Twitter is the perfect audience for a helpful resource book!
My favorite indie nonfiction books:
Join Goodreads as a reader.
Read books in your genre and join discussion groups. This can take years, but the idea is that your friends on the platform will organically want to read your book after your release. If you read the study released by Goodreads about Celeste Ng’s book Little Fires Everywhere, it explains why and how her book was so successful. One of the points was that she was an active member of Goodreads for 10 years before she published. Her network helped make her book popular.
This platform is the only one where I get personal. I’ve posted selfies. Pictures of my cats. Things that are interesting to me. And as my numbers grow I do post graphics with a line or two of my WIP, to build buzz for my books. I don’t do it often, maybe one photo ten will be something about my book.
Instagram is a good example of both branding and marketing. My photos allow my followers to get to know me. Chocolate. Cats. Books I’m reading. Pretty scenery. I’m a chocolate-eating, coffee-drinking writer who loves to read. I hope my Instagram reflects that.
For a good list of writer hashtags you should use when posting a picture, look here.
Start a Facebook group for readers who love your genre.
Because not only do you write [insert genre here] you’re supposed to be reading it, too. Announce a book every couple months then talk about it. Authors these days, if you tell them their book is featured, may even participate in a question-and-answer discussion. If you read indie, that’s a win-win. A win for the indie author because it gives them exposure. A win for you because you’re networking and supporting a fellow author.
These types of marketing ideas are connected to your brand. You are a nice, friendly writer who writes yummy books your readers will want to devour, right? Right.
There are other marketing strategies that don’t take so much time and/or participation:
Pay for promos. Pay for Amazon ads. Pay for Facebook ads.
After you publish, use your promo free days if you are in Select to build buzz, or if you’re wide, price a prequel novella to a series permafree.
If you’re just starting out, you may not have a series, or a novella for that matter, which brings me to a good point: it’s easy to get caught up in all of this brand-building and not have time to write a word. Remember, you don’t need a brand if you don’t have something to sell. Get your book written. Blog about it – post snippets. But in the end, the following/readership you’re building will eventually want to see some progress. Namely a book they can buy to support you.
So where do I fall in all this? I don’t market much. I play on Twitter, but as I said, Twitter doesn’t sell books. I buy a promo here and there. But to be clear, even though I have my trilogy and a standalone, and another standalone I hope to release next month, I still consider myself a baby in this industry. I do very little with my author page on Facebook. I’ve heard popular indies post two or more times a day.
I’m liking Instagram more. I bought the Canva app, and I’m playing with that so I can post cuter graphics on the platform. I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet, as it’s a little different from the desktop software.
The strategies I’m living by right now?
Blog. I like to help; it’s part of my brand.
Write. There’s no better marketing for your book then releasing another.
I’m going to keep studying. I read a ton of self-publishing books. Marketing books. Editing books. That may not do too much for me marketing-wise currently, but they’ll help me write better books and market them more effectively in the long run. And anything I learned I pass on to you. 🙂
Throwing money at, and trying to market, one or two books won’t do you any good. Fiction is a long-term game, and your focus should be on building your backlist.
But by the same token, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and there’s no harm in building your brand. Eventually, you’ll want your brand and your backlist to meet where your marketing efforts will do something rather than waste money. I’ve been publishing for two years and still at the foot of the mountain. I won’t reach the top for a long time. But that means I won’t stop trying.
It will take a while, but you can do it!
Tell me what you think.
Happy writing and book selling!