Today is guest post day! Client, author (LOSING THE LIGHT, Simon and Schuster/Atria Books 2016), and social media expert Andrea Dunlop is here to talk about how to embrace marketing your book. Don’t panic! She has all the answers. (And if you like what you read she is now taking on clients herself as a consultant.)
Having worked with authors for over a decade—first in publicity, now in social media—I know how reluctant many feel about marketing their own work. And as a newly-minted author myself, I can completely empathize. I often see authors with new books out—a time that should be exciting and celebratory—wracked with misery, guilt, and even outright panic. A little of this is expected, just as with any big life event (weddings, births, new jobs) it can be unsettling. But often the level of despair leaves authors unable to enjoy their momentous accomplishment. And it bums me out! In fact, it’s become part of my personal mission to change their (and perhaps your) perspective on what it means to launch a book.
I have some insight in to what’s beneath this misery. For one thing, it’s such hard work to get a book published. For most of us, it takes years and years of polishing work (only to throw it out to write something better), withstanding rejection after rejection, and struggling to hold onto our faith in ourselves. To be then told, after finally having a book published, that this is only the beginning is something like being told upon completing a marathon, that wow, that’s great, but actually the race you’re in is an ultra marathon, so you’ve actually got another forty miles to go. This is not what they trained for. Compounding this is the fact is that publishers—for a whole of host of reasons—are often not as clear as they might be about the whole marketing process.
But I promise you, marketing does not have to be miserable. Here’s how:
- Put Yourself in the Driver’s Seat: When it comes to marketing your book there is a lot you can do. Which is good because what you do is the only thing you have any control over. And trust me, it will feel better to have control over something once the book is out. So what does that entail? Organizing your contacts and sending books with handwritten notes to anyone influential, learning how to use social media tools and using them strategically, rallying your friends and family for support, paying in person visits to local booksellers to sign stock, connecting with fellow authors to cross-promote, visiting book clubs. The list is endless. And yes, I know that not all (or even any) of the things on that list might be within your comfort zone. Welcome to life in the 27th However, some of that discomfort can be mitigated by point two.
- Focus on What’s Fun: Yes, I know, you just want to write your books. I get it. But that’s not the race you’re in my friend. You already sailed past that mile marker. Here’s the thing, there are a million things you can do to promote your book in the modern landscape, and all of them can be effective if used consistently and well. The exercise metaphor is especially apt here. Maybe I already lost you on the long-distance running front (I’m with you there, respect to marathon runners but no thank you); but we all know exercise is one of the best things we can do for ourselves—and much like marketing, there are a million ways to do it. From yoga to tennis to boxing to dancing: any of it will get you fit, you find what you like to do and use that. Go in with an open mind: don’t assume you’ll hate Twitter if you’ve never used it for more than a day for instance, and don’t assume an idea won’t work because you haven’t seen it done before. Bestselling author E. Lynn Harris built up his original fan base by taking his book to Atlanta beauty salons. Genius! Get creative. Once you figure out something that works, double down.
- Have a Plan: One of the quickest routes to misery is trying to market by doing all the things, especially if you started off doing none of the things. This is why you need not only marketing tactics (social media tools, in person promotion, media placement) but a marketing strategy (which tools you’ll use, why and when and how much, who is your target audience) complete with a way to measure what is and is not working. What I often see is authors going about their own piece of the marketing efforts in a completely ad hoc and disorganized way and then quitting in frustration: this is why I often hear things like “Social media doesn’t work/ sell books”. This is like a person who wants to lose weight but refuses to do any meal planning or step on a scale saying “diets don’t work.”
- Understand the Roles: this is an area I see authors struggle with a lot. This is not by any fault of theirs. Those of us who’ve worked in publishing for a long time can forget how absolutely byzantine the industry is to outsiders. So authors go in blind: and this often results in not understanding who is taking care of exactly what. I wrote in depth about this here, but a key point is to remember that no one on your team actually works for you but with you. Your publicist, editors, agent, etc. are all working on other books simultaneously and are juggling those competing priorities. Guess who only has one book to worry about? You! Come in with a collaborative attitude (yes, even with your hired guns) and it will go better.
- Try to Detach: Your book is not your baby and most it’s most definitely not Sound harsh? It’s said with love, because I know it can feel like both of those things. But it isn’t. The agreement that you enter into the world when you publish a book is necessarily one of letting go. Once you have a book published, it is loose in the world to be judged on its own merits; it’s not yours to defend or protect any longer. The worst misery I’ve seen authors go through is when they take everything that happens to their book personally. They take the reviews personally, the marketing plan personally, and every little piece of criticism or indifference the world has to offer them becomes a critique on their very humanity. Miserable? You bet. And yet authors absolutely cling to this stance as though they somehow become lesser artists if they give up the attachment. But from my perspective it’s for naught: save that energy for the creative process, don’t waste it on the marketing process where it doesn’t belong. The book is already done. Do what you need to protect yourself and your sanity (you choose whether you read reviews or not) so that you can write the next book, and the next after that.