Marketing tips from a blogger for anyone working in the publishing business
Bloggers have a unique position in the publishing world. We work directly with writers (self and trad), publishers (large and small) and readers. Through these three we also come in contact with publishing industry service providers: editors, cover artists, blog tours, swag companies, and author assistants. Bloggers are at the hub, collecting and sharing information between the groups. When you come right down to it, bloggers are in the marketing business. I have been co-owner of the review site I Smell Sheep for 6 years and a freelance editor for the last three years. I market authors, as well as our site and my editing services. So what have I learned? There are books written on this topic! I’m just gonna highlight a few.
One link to rule them all!
One key to marketing is make it as easy as possible for people to find the information they want. You need a home base or landing spot online. A place where anyone who would like to get in touch with you or find out more about you can go. This would be an author website or business website. You need to have a website before you publish your first book. Here is a link to a post I wrote, that goes into detail, about the dos and don’ts about author websites, so you don’t end up sending people to a hot mess. http://devilinthedetailsediting.blogspot.com/2014/10/do-i-need-author-website-yet.html Cost: time and no money.
Now you can give out one website address that will lead them to all the others. Ever seen someone’s business card or bookmark with a list of every possible link for every possible social media site and marketplace of theirs (hot mess)? You could be using that space for visuals, like your logo or book covers—things that attract people’s attention (another key to marketing). My eyes glaze over when I see a list of links and writing. You want a business card* and/or bookmark* with your name, catchy logo/cover/tagline, email and website address. And if you want to really make it easy on your reader, put a QR code on the back that goes to your website (free code generator http://www.qr-code-generator.com/) You now have a place for people to find you and your product (your website) and a way to get them there (a business card/swag). Cost: time and a little money.
* I use VistaPrint for business cards and swag. They are fast, easy, and cheap and you can call to get help.
Can you see me now?
You have a great book/service—how to you get the reader/client’s attention?
Know your target audience! This will save you money and time. What social media sites does your target audience hang out at? What times are they most active on those sites? This is information you can research and use. http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/
When people browse online they are in a hurry. Why have a block of text when an eye catching image can say so much more? Be smart, research what images* (covers) your target audience is looking for.
Romance: naked torsos
Dark Romantic Fantasy: naked torso holding a blood covered sword.
Cost: time and no money
*Find image sites with public domain or CC0 (creative commons zero) images.
Social media/social suicide.
The key to using social media is to make connections with possible readers. Do you write about medieval time travel? Then you should be posting fun/interesting/silly articles and images about this topic. Do you have a hobby or maybe you are a pop culture nerd? Post about these things. You will attract like-minded people. If you can become the go to source for all things X…people will come looking for you.
Personal example: I run a book review blog. The people who follow me or I Smell Sheep (we are one in the same) on social media are book lovers of speculative fiction. I subscribe to multiple sites that inform me of free and cheap books in spec fiction. I post links to these books on my social media. I also have the logo to my review site and the link as my banner. The chances are pretty good these book lovers will want to check out my site since we have the same tastes in books. I’ve just marketed myself and product! And because the site’s name I Smell Sheep, all my followers think of me when they see any sheep thing online or in real life. I’ve been sent a lot of awesome sheep images <G>. Cost: a little time and no money
Use social media wrong, by spamming everyone about your book/product, and you will experience social suicide. Your name will get blocked. Behave poorly on social media and you will go viral…not the good kind. Cost: a little time and no money…ever.
Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
Newsletters are the latest marketing tool. This allows you to send out info about your new book/product to the people who care the most. There are lots of dos and don’ts when it comes to newsletters. Just do a quick web search and you will find lots of advice. The big thing is to offer subscribers something for free…like a book of yours or extra content. Cost: Time and no money.
Birds of a feather
Conventions are a gold mine of information and networking. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction with professionals and readers. Pick cons that cater to your target audience. Readers, publishers and authors hang out at cons looking to give advice and share stories. This puts your name, face and book covers in front of potential readers—that’s what marketing is all about. Come with a list of questions. If you have information and advice to share…let people know. They will come to you. What you need to do is stand out somehow. Do you write Regency? Maybe cosplay your character. People will want to talk to you, tell them something fascinating or weird about living during that time. They will want to take your picture and look…there is your book sitting where the reader can hold it while talking to you. Hand them a bookmark with your website…tell them about the free book/extra content they get if they sign up for your newsletter via your website. BAM! You just marketed the hell out of yourself. Cost: lots of time and money, but the knowledge and networking far outweigh it.
Personal experience: I recently attended Concarolinas (SFF con with a heavy writer’s track) as a guest editor and blogger. I bought a hall table so I could advertise my editing site. I needed to stick out from all the other tables crammed in the hallway. My target audience: self-pub authors in need of an editor. So I set up my table to look like Lucy’s 5 cent advice booth in the Peanuts comic. Worked like a charm. Even people who didn’t need an editor stopped by to take a pic or talk books…and hey, maybe they know someone writing a book that will one day need an editor…here’s my card. I picked up 4 new clients that weekend.
One thing I have found about the people involved in the publishing industry is most love to help others. Want to know how to do something? Ask, ask, ask. If they don’t know, they probably know someone who does. Cost: time and no money.
Sharon is the co-creator of the I Smell Sheep website (www.ismellsheep.com). A quirky multi-media review site of Speculative Fiction that also provides author/actor guest posts, interviews, convention coverage and other WTF-ery. She is also a freelance fiction editor (www.devilinthedetailsediting.com). Born and raised in NC she currently lives in the triad area with her husband and their two daughters. She has a BS in Biology from UNC and a masters in Microbiology from NCSU. She loves dark urban fantasy in any form, spaghetti, and is way cooler online.