How well are you marketing your books, your blogs, your writing services?
If that question makes you want to crawl beneath your writing desk, you’re in the right place.
You’re a creator.
Your domain is words, stories, big ideas.
Marketing and self-promotion feel like foreign concepts.
After all, you’re an artist, and you appreciate the solitude and introspection a creative life affords. It’s one of the reasons you’re drawn to writing.
You can’t imagine a career in sales.
But what if you could bridge this gap?
What if you could learn to market your work effectively without betraying your true nature?
What if you could sell your writing without selling your soul?
This article offers you a path forward, a way to implement genuine, effective strategies.
You’ll learn how to reach your audience in ways that feel natural and authentic.
And don’t worry…
Entering the spotlight doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable — like an interrogator’s lamp.
How about a warm, inviting glow that highlights the best of your work?
To begin your online marketing journey, let’s talk about your credentials.
Build and Exhibit Your Credentials
The first step in marketing yourself is establishing yourself as an authority, as a unique, worthy voice in the marketplace.
No one knows you on the internet, so you’ll need an effective way to introduce yourself, to stir up interest in your products and services.
Posting your credentials builds trust and credibility with your audience. Think of it as an icebreaker.
Take some time to gather and publish your credentials. Consider the following items:
- degrees and/or certifications
- prior works/portfolio
- awards and accolades
- positive reviews
- social media presence
- personal blog or website
Many writers feel uncomfortable discussing their credentials. If this sounds like you, it helps to pretend you’re writing about someone else. Better yet, act as though you’re getting paid to present this emerging author in the best light. If you’re still struggling, pretend your boss or company requires an in-depth Linkedin profile to continue your employment. You can do this. Most everyone in the business world has a Linkedin profile.
The first thing you can talk about is an undergraduate degree in English, Journalism, Writing Studies, or Communications. If you have an MFA in Creative Writing, that’s a great place to start.
After your education, you can display your former works. Whether you’re traditionally published or not, you can offer samples of your work on social media, on your website, on sites that publish in your genre.
In your bio, you can discuss the years you’ve spent honing your craft, your Genesis story as a writer, the poetry contest you won in the fourth grade (the one that sparked your writing journey).
And remember that authors come from all walks of life: business, law, sports, education, healthcare, and homemaking. If you can provide an interesting background story, your audience will want more.
If you don’t have a degree, you can still position yourself as a worthy voice with a few glowing reviews. Positive reviews speak volumes.
Before you have a well-known brand identity or a traditional publisher handling your marketing, you’ll need to convince buyers/readers that you’re worthy of attention. People buy from people they trust.
Think of your writer identity as a business. Make sure you’re developing a brand that lines up with your goals and values.
Purchase a Domain, and Host Your Own Website
Begin by hosting your own author blog or website–not a Facebook page or a page on someone else’s site. It’s important to own and control your own real estate. Every time a social site changes their algorithm, your traffic and visibility will suffer.
Go to Godaddy, and conduct a domain name search for your name. Ideally, you’ll want to find a dot com domain. They’re easier to remember, and they’re more trusted than a dot net or dot info, etc.
Everything You Need to Know About Domain Names
If your first/last name (or pen name) combination is already taken, consider adding author or writer to the name.
For example, search for JaneDoeWriter, JaneDoeAuthor, WriterJaneDoe, AuthorJaneDoe, or JaneDoeWrites.
If you want to find clients as a freelancer or ghost writer, try adding freelancewriter or ghostwriting to your domain name search.
Be willing to spend time researching the perfect combination for your long-term web identity.
Once you have your domain name, set up a blog or website offering excerpts and links to your writing on the web. If you’ve kept everything to yourself, take some time to submit to online journals. Getting published on another site adds credibility. Add a portfolio page to your website or blog. Start sharing blog posts to give readers a taste of your writing style and perspective.
When your self-owned and hosted site is live, spread the word on social media. Connect with other writers and readers. Join the conversations, and offer support and resources. You’ll be surprised how quickly your name gets around.
Some might think being humble would rule out self-promotion. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can find countless examples of principled, kind, talented folks marketing their work.You can always promote yourself ethically and remain humble. Too often, writers assume they have to be loud and overbearing, that they have to be selling all the time. Click To Tweet
You can always promote yourself ethically and remain humble. Too often, writers assume they have to be loud and overbearing, that they have to be selling all the time.
The internet doesn’t work this way — at least not for up-and-coming writers and artists.
Humility and empathy will open far more doors than the typical, spammy, narcissistic approach to audience building. I’m sure you’ve encountered aggressive marketers on social media, in the news media, and in your email inbox. They’re in your face 24/7.
It’s simple to spot them and just as simple to avoid their approach.
They’re all about ME, ME, ME, MY, MY, MY, and I, I, I.
They feel entitled to your time, your attention, and your money.
Focus on your audience. Focus on what’s in it for them.
Instead of selling, try sharing.
Offer freebies. Find out what they need. Find out how you can assist them in reaching their goals.Get real with your audience. Show your weaknesses, your blind spots, your failures and personal struggles. Click To Tweet
Get real with your audience. Show your weaknesses, your blind spots, your failures and personal struggles.
While we’re at it, ditch the fake filters, the Photoshop, the compulsion to share only Instagram-exotic vacation pics, so everyone will think you’re amazing.
These fake approaches may work for some in the short term, but remember you’re a writer, not a Kardashian.
Share your hard-won wisdom and experience in a blog post, a Medium post, a social media update. Network with other authors. Find like-minded subgenres to increase your circle: indie authors, cat-loving authors, dog-loving authors, pantsers, planners, coffee mates, and wine-drinkers.
Ask questions, create polls, share memes, poems, recipes, and famous quotes.
Find & Apply Leverage
Leverage can be a slippery term, meaning different things to different people.
Let’s break it down with a simple analogy.
For a moment, compare your writing products and services to a food truck business. Instead of selling books or writing services, you’re selling gourmet pizzas!
Your pizzas are awesome. They feature fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and a few amazing signature combinations you’ve thoroughly vetted on your friends and family.
But where do you start? Where do you park your truck to begin capitalizing on your gourmet pizza company dreams?
Consider the following options:
- A) You park it in your driveway, hoping people notice that you’re open for business.
- B) You rent a space along a high-traffic highway for visibility.
- C) You set up shop in the parking lot of a large convention space with a crowd of 10,000 people milling around for a 3-day conference.
If option C caught your eye, you’re on the right track.
Too many people release their books, websites, and blogs without a plan, hoping they’ll get lucky. They wait for their audience to find them.
Like the food truck vendor, they assume a one-of-a-kind, gourmet pizza will be enough to launch a business.
Hey, it can happen, but most will fail.
Let’s assume you already offer a high-quality product or service like our gourmet pizza vendor. What can you do to find leverage?
You need leverage because you have multiple forces working against you:
- limited funds for buying advertising
- lack of viable connections
- a limited audience
- zero brand recognition
To find leverage, go out and find a crowd — a big crowd. Better yet, find a hungry crowd — a big, hungry crowd. Find out where they’re already hanging out on the web.
After you find the crowd, find out what they need, what they worry about, what keeps them up at night, what big problem they’re trying to solve.
Last of all, find out what they’re willing to pay for.
So, you’re new, trying to break into a complicated, crowded market.
What can you do to find leverage?
Find Your Tribe
Find out where the crowds of writers, readers, and folks looking for writers already exist. This will bring you leverage.
After finding and leveraging the crowds in your niche, you’ll no longer have to sit and wait for people to find you. You’ll have big numbers, and when you have access to those kinds of numbers, your chances for success increase exponentially.
Within this crowd, you already have a captive audience, a group of people gathering around a topic or genre that fits perfectly with your products and services.
When you’re surrounded by like-minded people, it’s easier to make connections and grow relationships.
So, how do you find your crowd and begin growing an audience?
Consult Google. Ask this question on Quora. Make a list of social media sites with large communities of writers, readers, businesses and individuals looking for writing services.
If you’re looking to connect with readers and writers, consider Facebook communities, Twitter, Reddit, Goodreads, Smashwords, etc.
Go where the traffic and niche-specific audience already exists.
Go to them. Don’t wait for folks to come to you.
Find & Apply Leverage (where is your audience hanging out?)
Share Your Work Everywhere
As a writer, it’s important to expand upon the typical definition of work. Everything you share, everything you commit to print constitutes your work.
This includes your books, blog posts, social media posts and replies, online comments, online reviews, etc.
Even that snarky response you posted on a Reddit thread last year constitutes your work.
While we’re on the subject, you’ll want to consider everything you share online as a direct reflection of your brand. So, be careful and kind out there. Internet posts can last forever.
Think about it. This is good news.
Every time you interact on the web, you’re promoting your brand, and you don’t have to limit yourself to sharing links to your latest publication.
Every time you log in to the internet you have an opportunity. Without thinking about it, you’re always marketing yourself and your writing.
The trick is becoming conscious about it.
Every time you post a comment on a blog post, a reply to a social post, you’re sharing a piece of yourself and your brand online.
You’re being “seen.”
Without realizing it, you’re placing an advertisement for your brand (and your products) each time you click post, reply, or comment.
If people perceive value in your post, they’ll click on your profile icon to find out more about you.
So, think deeply about what you’re communicating, about all the free advertising potential you’re tossing around out there.
After you become conscious, you’ll see a rich, new world of opportunity for making friends, followers, connections, and future buyers.
They’re all connected.
First, you make a connection. The connection becomes a follower (or sometimes a friend). If you provide consistent value, the follower later becomes a client. Notice you don’t have to become everyone’s friend to get to the buyer/client stage. Being friendly will suffice.
So, realize that marketing is happening all the time. It’s important to become truly conscious about your online interactions and activities.
Now that you realize you’re always marketing, consider these many avenues for sharing (and promotion):
- Social media posts
- Blog posts on your own website
- Guest posts on other blogs
- Online journals accepting fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc.
- Blog comments
- Amazon reviews
These don’t have to be plugs for your books, either. Look for ways to add insight, value, support, expertise, kindness.
Too often, we think about marketing in limited ways.
We think only of advertising copy, product stories, and commercials.
We rarely think about relationships.
Nothing happens without relationships, without communities.
Decades ago in the sales profession, I remember training seminars and the sales gurus asking us to join communities: churches, social clubs, sports teams, volunteer work–anything to widen our circles of influence.
The idea was never to pitch products to people, but to forge relationships. After making connections, the sales part came easy.
“What do you do?”
“Ah, interesting. I have a friend looking for one of those. Can I have her call you?”
Why did this work?
People knew me, and they trusted me. It’s that simple.
This is solid advice, and it works online as well.
I’d like to add an important component, something that’s too often missing in online communities and social media spheres – helping others.
Every time you elevate another person, you bring attention to yourself. And that attention is positive and honest. It feels good, and people pick up on that.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that many folks will want to reciprocate, but don’t help with the expectation of a reward.
Find ways to lift others up. Announce your follower’s new book, your follower’s new publication in an online journal. Become a trusted source of knowledge and assistance. Answer questions and join the conversations. It will come back to you in spades.
Hopefully, you’re feeling better about marketing, about self-promotion. You can sell your work online without feeling like a fraud.
How are you successfully marketing your writing online?
Let us know in the comments.