By Tim Riordan
I remember that thought going through my mind like it was yesterday. I dreamed of writing books since I was a teenager, but I never considered that there was more to do as an author than just write—a lot more. I have had the privilege of working with authors in a consulting role in writing, publishing, and marketing, and I always ask them about their marketing plans for the book once it’s published. Often times, I get a loaded pause or glassy-eyed stare. Marketing plans are usually not on a writer’s mind. We are writers after all, not marketers. Right?
When I began writing, I didn’t like marketing. As a matter of fact, I hated it. I couldn’t stand the thought of posting “Buy My Book” on Facebook and Twitter. I soon learned that I should probably never say, “Buy My Book,” and that if I didn’t learn how to market effectively, no one would know my books exist.
I learned the hard way that if you’re going to be a successful writer, you must be an effective marketer. I’d like to share with you a few key principles that can help put you on the road to marketing and writing success.
Marketing is more about relationships than sales. It seems like the bottom line must include sales numbers, quotas, and royalties, but ultimately, it must be about something more important. As a Christian writer, I’ve learned that the bottom line is always people. When I embraced marketing as relationship building and focused more on people than sales, I found that I not only endured marketing but also enjoyed it. People don’t join social media platforms to read advertisements. It is called social for a reason. Selling books through social media or any other means should be a product of relational interaction.
The time to begin marketing is before you write your book. You may be thinking that it’s too late because you’ve already written your book. It’s never too late to start marketing, but sooner is always better. A solid book launch and healthy first quarter of sales will come in response to the marketing groundwork we lay weeks if not months before we release our books. We can do this by chatting online in places where our readers hang out, writing blogs about the topic of our books, and interacting with readers through regular emails. Prerelease marketing can build the buzz that leads to your book becoming a bestseller during launch week.
Don’t just learn how to write better; learn how to market effectively. After writing my first book, I realized I was in deep water when it came to letting the world know I had a message they needed to read. I spent many hours, maybe years, working on the craft of writing, and as writers, we know that becoming a better writer is an important pursuit. I discovered, however, the art and science of marketing wouldn’t just happen unless I focused on becoming an expert marketer. I don’t see myself as an expert, but I read many books, experimented on a number of platforms, attended conferences, and learned from the best marketers I could find. Focus on the importance of sharing your message or accomplishing the goals that led you to write in the first place. Your goal was not just to write a book. Ultimately, your goal is for people to read your book and be impacted by what they read. This focus will turn marketing into an essential part of your weekly activities that can be fulfilling as you see the fruit of your toil through increased book sales and reader interaction.
If you self-published, it doesn’t mean that you publish (or market) by yourself. Self-publishing has become a legitimate option for authors. When I was talking with traditional publishers about my first book, a couple of successful authors encouraged me to try navigating the waters on my own before signing a contract. I’ve taken their advice, and now, I don’t think I would publish any other way. I’ve learned, however, that you had better build a team to help you be a success. In writing, this team will include editors, beta readers, graphic artists, and critique groups. Even if you publish through a traditional publisher, it’s best to have a team of people helping you with the writing process before you submit your manuscript. Marketing is the same.
Why market alone? Imagine the power of a twenty-five person launch team helping you to announce your book to the world. Your marketing team can include launch team members, social media friends who comment on your posts, reviewers (whether you know them or not), website designers, graphic artists who help with marketing design, peers who allow you to post on their sites, and fellow authors with whom you may collaborate in the future.
Do you want to be an effective marketer? Do you want to sell your books and impact people? Consider these application questions or ideas you can implement this week:
-Make a list of five books you can read on marketing that will help you improve your skills.
-What can you do this week to focus on relationship building through social media and online activities?
-Write out a marketing strategy for your book. Begin with prelaunch ideas, two months’ worth of launch activities, and twelve months of follow through once your book is released.
-Who can you put on your team? Make a list of people you will contact this week to begin developing your marketing team.
Writing is fun, but it’s also hard work. In the end, it’s quite rewarding. So, happy writing and happy marketing.
Dr. Tim Riordan is the author of The Next Bestseller: Book Marketing for Success and a bestselling author of eleven books including Wisdom Speaks: Life Lessons from Proverbs, which received the 2019 Christian Indie Award. He is a pastor in Newnan, Georgia, and works with various authors through speaking at conferences, consulting, and publishing. You can learn more about Tim or follow his blogs on his website at timriordan.com.
This post is part of the Writers’ Room, a collaborative writing advice column by Christian writers.