Q and A – Marketing strategy for authors

Here’s the first in an occasional series where I answer questions on my blog about anything from my book, to writing, to book promotion – anything people want to ask me.

This first question comes from lovely Carol Hedges a very experienced author with a great blog you can see here. Her new book Diamonds and Dust is just out. Thank you for your question Carol!

I’d be interested in your marketing strategies?

Carol Hedges

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that these days when two or more authors get together they will talk not of plot devices or great works of fiction but of marketing strategies.

My simple answer to Carol’s question ‘what’s your marketing strategy?’ is ‘not as good as yours!’ but I suppose I have picked up a few notions since my book came out which, while they may be well-known to Carol, might help first time authors.

BookspileBefore I was published I assumed my publisher would do all the marketing for my book and I suppose in an ideal world those who knew about writing would write and those who knew about marketing would market. Sadly, publishers have a zillion books to plug and no time to do it so it’s up to the author to get stuck in, if they don’t want their baby do disappear without trace.

My strategy, such as it is, has been simple – become visible.

When you start out you are invisible – you have no identity or brand, you probably have no social media presence to speak of, you have no blog. So a basic ‘author platform’ consisting of a blog like this one supported by Twitter and Facebook feeds is a good way to start letting people know you exist.

My strategy has been to build up my social media following as much as I am able as this provides a way of talking to the outside world. I now have more than 15,000 followers on Twitter @ChilledCH for example. I have also made a point of blogging regularly (once a week) on issues concerned with writing, reading and books, in the hope of attracting and engaging potential readers.

I would say I am good at interacting with people, but not so good at selling. There are some authors, particularly among the massed ranks of the self-published, who are brilliant at marketing. If it’s not too mean to say this I suspect that some (not all!) are better at selling than they are at writing.

I’m no salesman unfortunately. I don’t like, for example, to say to an individual person ‘buy my book’. I wouldn’t do it in person and I don’t do it online. Instead I try to engage people and include mentions of my book as a footnote to allow anyone who is interested to sample the book and buy it if they wish. This approach may seem unduly reticent but it also makes sense – nobody likes a hard sell.

It’s not good practice to constantly spam on Twitter every hour with the Amazon link to your book as some authors do. What I try to do instead is engage people. This can be through discussions on my blog, simply by retweeting any of my followers on Twitter who want me to do that for them or by asking light-hearted questions on Facebook and Twitter and having fun with the answers.

Does this sell me any books? I don’t know. It’s fun and it draws people in so I think the answer is yes – maybe not directly or straight away, but eventually yes.

Another part of being visible is appearing on other people’s websites and blogs. I have done quite a lot of that and I am always happy to do more. I’m also happy to promote other writers on my blog. Sometimes you find people have reviewed your book on their blog too – and I pick those up and let people know about them through social media.

644586_10151128774778167_2119918862_nOffline I’ve appeared in various newspapers, magazines and on radio talking about my book and about writing. These are mostly local to where I live or where I grew up. I do them whenever they are offered though I don’t necessarily think they put you in touch with potential readers as well as a targeted approach through social media does. I also do readings, when I am invited to, at literature festivals and the like.

But for me the big thing has been the world of social media – which has suddenly made it possible for an unknown first-time author like me, with a literary novel published by a small press, to reach people all over the world. That’s an amazing thing, and something which simply would not have been possible just a few short years ago.

Thanks very much to Carol for that question. If you would like to comment on the issues raised in this post of have a question for me please let me know in the comments below!

Song of the Sea God visualDon’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

6 thoughts on “Q and A – Marketing strategy for authors”

  1. Thanks Chris — and for the kind refences. I agree with this totally: you have to be visible, but engage. I bet most, if not all of my current sales are coming from ”friends” on social media…. many of whom are telling me. If I hadn’t built up relaationships, this wouldn’t happen. Nor would invitations to do blog posts. I DO advertise, but try to do it in a quirky way, and change the tack wheneveer I can. But you are right, and we have both said this oveer and over again…you caannot expct your publisher to do it for you – you have to be proctive!! Great blog post..and a very happy christmaas to you!

    1. And to you Carol,and it would be lovely to talk to yo about your new book on my blog in the new year. I think this business of becoming visible is tough for many authors who naturally prefer to retire into the background – they are often natural observers rather than showmen (or women).

      1. Some really good points. I’m an observer in life, so the marketing strategies are difficult for me, but I’m learning! You’re very right that you need to be visible. I’m finding that most book sales are from word of mouth, so it’s good to get yourself out there and show who you are rather than slam the book down people’s throats! I never respond to ‘please buy my book’ posts, I engage with the author and find out about their style first.

      2. I agree Lisa, it’s something a lot of authors find they have signed up for which they didn’t expect when their book was published. There are fun things associated with it of course, such as all the interesting people you meet. It does amaze me that so many writers persevere with the book-link spamming approach – I can’t believe it really works for anyone.

  2. Great blog, Chris. I recognise something here. “I am good at interacting with people, but not so good at selling”. I think that goes for many of us and is an integral part of being writers as well. You have made the crucial point that the publishers are not going to do your marketing for you. They can help, but these days, I notice that they really don’t do all that much. The writers have to decide how and what they can do and just get on and do it! I prefer blogging to both Twitter and Facebook as a way of being visible, but the latter two are definitely how to get the visibility ball rolling. It’s introduced me to great people like you and Carol, for a start, so it’s got to be good! Happy Christmas to you and your family, Chris!

    1. Thank you Val – happy Christmas to you and yours too!
      I agree with you about what I suppose one could call the incidental benefits of book marketing – in that it introduces you to very many people you would not have found before. That’s been the great joy of it for me above and beyond anything about selling books!

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