Self-publishing essentials with Ellie Marney: promo, marketing and all that jazz (part two)

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Your book promotion footprint

In the first article in this series on book marketing, we talked about why marketing your book is worthwhile, why you’re the best person to market it, and the differences between promotion and marketing. Now it’s time to talk about the things that make you and your book stand out from the crowd, and how to develop those things organically to create a ‘promotional footprint’.

Your best assets

Before you rush out and make a website, buy Facebook advertising, and sign up for Instagram, it’s important to have a few concepts figured out. It will save you a lot of time (and money) later.

First tip: First, think about yourself: who are you as a person and as an author? Are you outgoing or quiet? How do you best engage with people—in groups or one-to-one? What sorts of social media do you use (if any)? What themes and ideas come to the fore in your books? Apart from writing, what are your personal interests? These things may not seem important, but they can help inform the strategies you use to market your book and engage with your intended audience.

Your personal platform, or ‘brand’, is a combination of your presence on social media, the tone you take in email newsletters and the way you present in public. This should (ideally) reflect who you are in real life, otherwise it will be tiring to maintain and will seem fake to your audience. Are you a quiet, introverted person? Then use social media like Instagram, that’s not too wordy or overwhelming, and engage like a special confidante with your readers via email. If you’re outgoing and extroverted instead, go louder. Above all, for publicity, play to your strengths. Be yourself—just tidied up a bit for public consumption.

Second tip: Think about the things that make your book special. What is it about? Why is it different from other books on similar themes? Why did you write it? What’s unique about it? How does it compare to other books in the same genre or category? Understanding the things that set your book apart can be the key to marketing it effectively.

Promotion is—to a large extent—about making your book stand out from the crowd. To do that, you first need to know what your book is giving your ideal reader. Only you really understand what makes your book valuable. Is it jam-packed with interesting facts? A hugely entertaining page-turner? A collection of special recipes? Whatever it is that makes your book worth reading is what makes it worth buying.

Third tip: Think about that ideal reader: your audience (i.e. the folks most likely to read your book). They’re the people you wrote for. How old are they? What’s their gender or identity? Where do they hang out, in real life and online? How do they like to read—paperbacks, ebooks, from libraries, on their commute? Figuring out as much as you can about your ideal reader is really important for what is called targeted marketing, and you’ll go back to this information a lot later.

You might think marketing is about throwing your book out to the four corners of the earth—not so. Targeting your audience is important, as it saves you from wasting your efforts on people who aren’t ever going to pick up your book. Knowing who to target is also really important for things like advertising, which needs a tight audience to be effective.

Fourth tip: Consider how much time you have for promotion—you might already have a day job, or a family, so consider all the variables. Also think about a timeline for marketing—when and for how long will you promote this particular book? You’ll also want to a timeline for results—when will you assess the effectiveness of your promotion? Be prepared to spend time keeping track of results.

Social media presence, attending events, scheduling advertising … it all takes time. Devoting an hour a day to marketing is about the minimum requirement, so think about where you will fit that in. It’s customary to promote a book heavily at release time, and maybe a while after, but marketing efforts for indie authors (especially on standalone and first-in-series titles) can happen anytime, over longer periods. And you should know what works and what doesn’t—schedule regular checks of your sales against your marketing efforts, to make sure you’re not wasting your time and money.

Fifth tip: Finally, work out how much money you can afford to invest. Paid promotion can be very effective, but it can also be costly, so sort out a budget. And remember, all marketing is a financial investment—the time you spend marketing your book is time you could be using to earn money in some other way, so factor that in.

Don’t waste money needlessly. Work out what things you feel comfortable doing yourself (like posting on social media and sending out your own newsletters) and what things you might need to outsource (like making a website). Tap into your own skills—but remember there are people who can help if necessary. And make a budget for advertising and stick to it.

Next time, we’ll talk about promotional basics and how to get started.

Ellie Marney is a teacher and hybrid YA author. She lives in Victoria with her family, and her latest book, White Night (Allen & Unwin), was published in March 2018. Find her at www.elliemarney.com or on Twitter or Instagram.

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