Yep, you need to tell people about your novel. Lots of people. In many places. And often. Keeping up that momentum can tire out even the most caffeinated writer.
That’s why it’s good to start thinking about marketing even as you’re still polishing up your manuscript. Here are some useful tips to keep in mind for each marketing stage:
Stage 1: Excitement
When you finish your novel, screaming loudly about it will come easily. After all, you just accomplished a huge goal and you’ll want to let every human you know hear about it.
Go ahead, tell your family, friends, and even that ex you want to make regret dumping you. In the excitement phase, you should push your personal and professional network to the limits.
Here’s a rubric I used: Is the person breathing? If so, then tell them about your novel.
I’m not saying you are going to spam people every day with novel news. I’m just saying that your network is a powerful and easy way to get the word out. So why not encourage them to help spread your book news?
Start thinking now about all the people who can lend you support once your book gets published. Make a list. Seriously, write names down and what social media platform they are on. You’ll want to have support on every platform.
BIG AWKWARD HINT: When the time comes, you will literally need toask people to share your posts. This is important. And this is the part that can feel icky: YOU NEED TO BE DIRECT.
As a writer, I’d rather stay home with my dog than look people in the eye, so this was hard for me at first. But I realized if I didn’t say, “Hey can youshare this post about my novel,” people would just like it and move on.
So yes, I’m encouraging you to use your grandma to the fullest. Especially if she’s on Facebook and in a book club. (For the record, I did a lot of book clubs through friends and family.)
If you’re thinking, how many social platforms do I really need to be on? The simple answer is: As many as you feel comfortable with. But the real answer is: Many.
Depending on what platform you are using, you’ll have to tailor your messaging accordingly. And don’t discount professional sites like LinkedIn.
While this is a tricky platform to get right if you have a job unrelated to writing, you can always post while giving some love to your daytime job. I’m a freelance writer by day, so I knew I needed to assure my regular clients that my novel was an exciting extension of what I do, and that I’d still be available for them.
And while initially I was a bit hesitant about sharing on LinkedIn, I knew my professional network was very different from my other social platforms. Sharing turned out to be good for extending book sales and even inspired a few older clients to reach back out for freelance writing.
Stage 2: Exhaustion
Releasing a book will be a flood of feelings and marketing efforts. It will also feel like being pulled in 300 directions all at once. But any weariness will be a good sign that you are on the right marketing track.
A writer recently reach out to me during her debut week and said, “Am I supposed to feel this emotionally exhausted?” Yes.
During your first push of marketing, your book should be as many places as you can be. And this means going beyond social posts, reviews, blogs, giveaways. It means stepping away from the comfort of writing and embracing the awkwardness of…talking.
Speaking engagements for many writers are hard. (Yeah, I just raised my hand.) But we all need to do it. Podcasts, IG live, book signings, reading, booktok, book club author meet and greets – wherever you can share your story. You’ll want to do it.
If you found writing the synopsis of your book difficult, explaining it can be more daunting. So, start practicing. Rando asks you at a party what your book is about? Great. Tell them.
The more you explain it, the easier it becomes. And don’t worry, once your book gets published, you can ask for podcast questions beforehand so you can feel smooth at the start.
Practice talking about your novel to your dog. Dogs don’t judge. Cats might.
Besides pushing yourself to uncomfortable limits and filling up your calendar, why else is this stage so tiring?
Every week you should be doing something to promote your book.
And that means supporting those endeavours with content. And if you’re an indie author like me, that means budgeting time to plan ahead, since I work full time too.
For instance, doing a takeover for an online Facebook book club is fun and an amazing way to talk directly with readers, but it also means creating engaging posts and marketing materials to go with them.
You should learn a site like Canva, where you can whip up some posts with your book or your gorgeous face on it, but you should also know a site like Unsplash where you can grab imagery related to your book that’s free to use. I like free. Free works well with my budget.
Start playing and getting comfortable with sites like this now. You will need to create endless content and imagery for your book. Begin highlighting key calendar dates your book might correspond to.
For example, my novel features a scientist who studies breast cancer so I knew I’d want posts during breast cancer awareness month. My book talks about grief, so grief awareness day is also important.
Stage 3: Strategy
When you start to feel like even you are tired of seeing your book, that means you’re doing a great job. Now will come the most important part – learning. (If you score a big fancy well-established publisher you maybe be able to skip this part. Also, let’s be friends.)
Your sales data on Amazon will become your compass. You can check it to see if there are any spikes in your sales that correspond with your efforts. It was really easy for me to see when I ran my bookbub promo, since I saw a huge lift in eBook sales. I could see that when I did a blog tour, there was a solid increase in sales.
But strategy isn’t just about sales. It’s also about engagement.
What posts are doing well? Did certain images get more shares? Your social channels will also give you instant feedback on what messaging is working. Pay attention. Write it down. You will forget.
As an author who funds her own marketing efforts, I have a small wallet. So, I like to learn what’s worth it and what isn’t. I also like to share what works with other authors; we’re all in this together, you know.
Speaking of other authors, do you have any that you are jealous of? Perfect. Pay attention to what they’re doing. Your jealousy can lead you to sales.
Write down any award, article, reviewer, blog, podcast, whatever they are doing that you want to do. Then you’ll have a list that you know you want to do too. I learned about a lot of opportunities this way! Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to your nemesis and ask them specifically about something.
When I saw a recent debut author’s book being shared EVERYWHERE in places I was very jealous of, I wrote them. And asked for their secret. Turns out their secret was a publicist. And I now have their name, which I’m considering using for my next novel.
Because the one thing I learned most during all these stages of marketing is that you can never have too much coffee, or too much support.
About the Author
Julee Balko is a freelance writer, advertising guru, and recent debut author of the novel:The Things We Keep. You can learn more about her by visiting her website here, and you can purchase her novel here.Julee just finished her second novel,The Me List,and is looking for a literary agent and publisher who loves women’s fiction and rescue dogs as much as she does.