Congratulations, you’ve completed your first novel! It’s finally time to shop for an agent or, if you’re not into the traditional publishing route, to self-publish. Whichever path you choose to introduce your master opus to the masses, you’re going to face a tremendous challenge at your next step. Your work will be competing for the attention of agents, publishers, and readers against a pool of talented authors and limited publishing opportunities. For the self-publisher, there’s the challenge of connecting with an audience beyond your immediate circle of friends and supporters. For the traditionalist, the difficulty lies in convincing professionals with deep constraints to take a chance on a new author.
Agents and publishing houses prefer to recruit writers who can build a strong marketing presence and a community of fans. Even before you approach that agent, your value is significantly greater if you have an established presence signifying that you, and others, take your art seriously.
Online Marketing Tips for Authors
Social Media: Uncovering and Connecting to Your Audience
Let’s face it — social media isn’t for everyone. The platforms are constantly changing, and there are many social pitfalls that you may prefer to avoid. However, if you don’t mind being adaptive and providing short updates on your progress, this can be an ideal place to slowly develop an audience interested in your projects. Through hashtags and networking, you may connect with an undiscovered audience that could lead to later sales and moral support down the road.
Additionally, for many traditional publishers, they will want to see if you have an established audience before they are willing to gamble on you. The perception of a social following is that your writing may be more likely to succeed on its own without the requirement of heavy marketing investments on their part. They run a business, after all, so anything you can do to decrease their perception of risk, you’ll find, helps you in the long run.
You may even find it useful to invest in yourself and promote the occasional post or run a Facebook ad every now and again. Some authors are resistant to the idea of paying for advertising, either because of the cost associated or a sense of pride. If you consider how much time you’d spend on social media to earn the same 20 new followers that you could likely gain with a few dollar ad expenditure, you’ll be able to buy back hours of your productivity for only a few bucks; a smart investment.
The Website: A Home Base for Your Online Identity
It may seem old-fashioned in the age of social media, but a website remains an important tool for your marketing toolbelt. While other online media are fluid in nature, your site is slightly more static and provides a centralized location for fans to get to know you through your bio, your past works, and an overview of your current projects.
If you’re maintaining a larger presence on the web, this is a fine place to link to all of your social platforms as well. You may also choose to create a contact form or provide an email for business-related queries.
There may be some initial resistance to the idea of a website because of the time involved in building one and the perception that it can be a technological challenge. Although this can be true, for a simple website, you might find that one of the many website builders available online is a great way to help you get started. They often have easy-to-use premade templates that make setting up a very attractive website quite simple.
This is another area where you might consider devoting some personal resources to establishing yourself. Although there are some “free” options out there, you’ll find that free rarely is, and often these can result in time-consuming blunders (unfortunately, this is the voice of experience) that result in starting over.
With most of the majority of these website builder tools, there is a monthly maintenance fee, but it can be pretty nominal if you’re willing to pay upfront for a few years at a time. It may give you sticker shock at first to spend a few hundred dollars on a website, but it will be an investment you’ll be glad you made, particularly when you start blogging.
Blogging: A More In-Depth Exploration of Process
If you’re already sharing your thoughts on social media and you have a busy writing schedule, a personal blog may seem like overkill. Note that you don’t have to write an epic article each time. Perhaps you’d like to share something you discovered in your research, or discuss the path you took leading you to a writing choice. Extra content on your site gives you the added benefit of becoming more discoverable for potential audiences online.
Once your audience has found you, a blog helps readers feel invested in your work and can be a place for you to share links and discuss your process. Social media accounts are considered “micro-blogs”, but space limitations on those platforms discourage more thoughtful, in-depth explorations of your interests. Many writers will develop a blog entry, and then repurpose multiple excerpts on social to drive audiences to their site. One piece of blog content could become 2 Instagram posts, 4 Facebook shares, and 10 tweets.
An added benefit of blogging is it can be a place to jumpstart your writing. When you’ve hit a creative block or don’t know where to take your story next, you may find yourself staring at your computer for endless hours or distracting yourself with well-meaning procrastinations. Blogging gives you an outlet to just start writing, and once your brain is warmed up, you can jump back into your book! There are even writers who leave brain droppings on their blogs, use it as a research platform to get feedback from their audience, and repackage the best-performing entries into a book of their own.
Be Intentional About Your Time Online
It’s not uncommon to glance down at your phone to check an email and find yourself an hour later watching kitten videos on YouTube. Particularly when we have deadlines, it’s easy to get distracted because anxiety can take hold of our productivity. Plan your time online.
When I have major deadlines, often I will temporarily delete the social media apps from my phone. I don’t deactivate my accounts, but I remove the temptation of giving myself an accessible distraction. This may seem counterintuitive to the advice above, but you don’t have to totally disengage with social media. Rather, give yourself scheduled pockets of time for your updates and messages so that you can dodge the mindless scrolling that can often add up to wasted hours of your week.
You’ll likely find that your time spent on these platforms is better used when it is scheduled and you are intentional about it. The internet provides us with self-marketing opportunities that are available like never before. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of investing small amounts into yourself because that expenditure can buy back the most valuable resource of all: time. Once you have that time, protect it, and flourish!
About the author:
Michael Magnus is a Strategic Communication lecturer and marketing consultant based out of North Texas.