Being an author isn’t just about writing anymore. If you want to be successful in today’s highly competitive market, you must be able to promote yourself and your work.
It is not as daunting – or as expensive – as it sounds. First, grab a clean notebook. Make this notebook your strategic planning area, and keep it nearby to refer back to when you consider taking on something new.
Write a mission statement. For example: To write stories and novels that entertain youth and to achieve financial success as a published author.
Next, make a wish list of your goals. These can include anything from the number of books you want to write for what genres to the number of hits you would like to see on your Web site or MySpace page each month.
Separate the writing goals from the marketing goals. An idea for a series of books would be a writing goal. Web site hits falls under marketing. Prioritize both categories. You will find, in most instances, that in order to meet a writing goal, you will need to meet one or two marketing goals. For example, to sell more books, you might need to participate in three additional book festivals a year.
Create a timeline for your plan. Using your list, make short-term goals and long-term objectives. By using this format, you can create manageable chunks of goals over a one-, five- or ten-year period.
Now it’s time to figure out how to accomplish your marketing goals. Here are key questions to ask yourself:
- Who is my audience? (Age, salary, location)
- What other authors do they read?
- Where can I find them? (Youth at high schools, seniors at senior centers, etc.)
- How can I use the Internet to reach my audience?
- What websites do they visit?
- What blogs do they visit?
- Do they use sites like MySpace.com?
- Do they podcast/videocast?
- What forums do they belong to?
- How can I use the Internet to publicize my work?
- What book review sites would review my novel?
- Can I sign on for an Amazon.com blog?
- From which websites should I purchase advertising so reviewers and other media know about my work?
- Could I start a blog to publicize my work? Should the blog be for writers, reviewers, editors and agents, or for my audience? Should I have a blog or website for both?
- Mass emails to readers? How can I find them?
- What types of materials do I need to publicize my book?
- Sample copies?
- How can I get these materials into the hands of readers, reviewers, booksellers and anyone else interested in my work?
- What’s my budget? How much am I willing to spend to publicize myself and my work?
- What should I include in my media kit?
- What is a media kit?
- Are there any writing conferences I can sell my books at, or possibly serve as a guest speaker?
- Who can I enlist to help publicize my work?
- Who should I send review copies of my book to?
- Are there any newspapers, magazines, web columns or radio shows that would be interested in interviewing me about my work? (Your local publications and stations are a great way to start. Then, expand yourself outside of your comfort zone.)
These will get you started. Once you have the answers, refer back to your timeline and see how this information can help you reach your goals. A complete marketing plan should share a symbiotic relationship with your writing goals. To move forward in publishing, you need an audience, to build an audience, you need a solid outreach plan, and so on.
To be effective with marketing, you must plan for it each week. Marketing is serious business. I find three to five hours of solid marketing each week makes an incredible difference. Start with the minimum amount of time and work your way up. If you find certain things too tedious – like making and accepting friend requests on MySpace – then find someone who likes to do it and is willing to help you out for a nice lunch or a gift certificate. (Children and grandchildren work wonders on social networking sites. Don’t be afraid to tap into their online energy for help!)
In today’s market, the bare minimum you should have is a Web site and a MySpace page. If you don’t already have these, get them. Once you are comfortable with what you have, add additional social networks like Facebook, Ning.com and AIM Pages. You should have a presence on Author’s Den and Author Nation, and become a member of one or two forums where you post once per week.
And, more importantly, you should be enthusiastic and determined about promotions. I have met many authors who ride a cloud of forced enthusiasm for promotions, then fizzle quickly out within three months. They go back to their writing and stop worrying about marketing because it is just too hard, too many headaches and just not what they want to be doing. Do not fall into this trap. Continue working, doggedly, steadily, to fulfill your goals. Enlist the help of reliable friends and family who believe in you and are willing to lend a hand on the tasks you find much too tedious. (Finding MySpace friends seems to be a time-consuming aggravation for many authors.)
I recommend the first year, you do most of it yourself. That way you know what it takes to accomplish, so if you eventually have the extra cash to pay a publicist, you will know exactly what services you are buying and how much time it really takes compared to the publicist’s bid.
All you need is to create a list of goals and objectives for your writing career, with ways to fulfill those goals and objectives lined out in a long-term marketing plan. You don’t need a marketing degree to do this. You just need the determination to be successful and the willingness to follow through with your plan.
Copyright 2008 Angela Wilson0