You’ve nurtured your book and it’s about to be published. Congratulations! But the hard push isn’t over. Now is the time to roll up your sleeves and create a strategic marketing plan. There are countless ways to promote your book but only so much time, money and effort. After all, you want to carve out time for writing for your next book. The following initiatives form a strategic plan to help you reach out to, engage, and retain readers, not only for your current book but also for those you publish in the future.
Your author website is home base for you and your book. Everything you do should link back to your website so fans can buy your book, whether you direct them there from a newsletter, poster, bookmark, reading event, blog, social media, radio interview, video, or any other interaction, either online or in-person.
One benefit is that you have complete control over your site, unlike social media platforms which can change the algorithms and rules of engagement or shut down without warning. A simple and clean site is all you need. Include a Book Page, Author Bio, Book Store, Speaking Page, Blog, Social Links and Email Newsletter sign-up.
“It took me about six weeks (in my spare time) to build my author website using Wordpress and I have reasonable technical skills,” says Wood Barrett. However there are other free, simpler website builders out there, among them Wix, Weebly and Webnode. Alternatively, you can hire a web designer to create a basic site if you are not comfortable technically—and have the money.
The number one goal of your website is to get visitors/fans to sign up for your email newsletter. It’s how you stay in touch with your readers so they know about your latest book, book news, or speaking events. Unlike social media posts, which rapidly disappear in aging feeds, an email sits in the receiver’s inbox until they delete it.
However, people are more protective of their emails these days, so you need to offer something they want or find useful, whether it is: a monthly book giveaway; special discounts; upcoming reading events; how-to content; writing or publishing industry tips; info on your field of expertise; free content such as downloadable e-stories or e-books; or your latest news, blog post, or podcast.
Rather than take a scattershot approach by using all the platforms at once (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn), focus on the platforms where you actually enjoy engaging with others. Social media is the ideal place to interact with other writers and industry professionals in your genre and to connect with fans. Don’t use social solely as a bullhorn about your book, though; engage with others about their posts and share useful, informed or entertaining content of your own.
You can also use your social platforms to invite people to your website (which prominently features your book) to engage with your content (such as blogs, podcasts, and videos) and to subscribe to your email newsletter. A blog can feature content that allows people to see who you are, what you’re thinking, and why. It’s the way people get to know you, your work, and your expertise. A blog can also draw subscribers to your newsletter by offering helpful industry info, craft writing tips, or knowledge about your area of expertise.
Book trailers, similar to movie trailers, give readers a concise idea of your book, opening the door to their curiosity. Also, people love to watch and share videos on social. In the case of Stella Harvey’s novels, her publisher, Signature Editions, produced the book trailers for each of her books.
“I was involved in the direction, content and editing process. My trailers are part of my email signature and I often use them as a way to introduce a reading. They are my calling card, my introduction,” says Harvey.
But not all publishers produce trailers. For example, Wood Barrett created her own Author Tour & Trailer for her children’s novel, My Best Friend is Extinct, with her iPhone. It was filmed by her teenage son and edited on FinalCut Pro. If you don’t have basic editing software, even a short, simple video of you telling the audience about your book and the inspiration for your work will give readers a window into your process and story.
Harvey has vivid memories of every book club she’s visited. “From one man telling me he found one section depressing in my novel, Finding Callidora (yes, war is depressing), to a woman lambasting me for what I did to one of my characters (as if I have any control over my characters) in The Brink of Freedom, to another woman gushing how my descriptions reminded her of her time in Greece in my novel, Nicolai’s Daughters,” says Harvey. “Whether a reader’s impressions are positive or negative, it really doesn’t matter to me. Of course I’d rather all opinions about my books be positive, but what I really enjoy is the discussion, the fact that readers cared enough to invite me to their book club.”
For a time, because we were required to maintain a safe physical distance, gatherings like book clubs ceased. So, what did we do instead?
In mid June, Harvey was fortunate enough to receive a grant from the BC Arts Council’s Microgrant pilot program to produce a video discussing her novel, Finding Callidora. The grant was made possible by a generous donation from the Yosef Wosk Family Foundation. (A side note about grants: do your research when applying and remember to match your ask with the grant requirements. This doesn’t guarantee you’ll secure the grant but you’ll be that much closer.)
Harvey recorded the book club interview using Zoom with the help of Wood Barrett. “It was another inexpensive way to promote my book, and you can get Zoom recording capabilities with a $20 subscription for one month. Here is the video I produced with Rebecca for Finding Callidora.”
These are a few interconnected strategies to get the word out about your book and build a community of readers and fans for the long run. Now, it’s your turn to go out and shine! Build an author website and home base for your books, reach out and connect through social media, and keep fans returning because they want to read, watch, or listen to your content. Figure out what works best for you, change it up if something’s not working, and get your stories out to those who have been waiting to read your words.
Rebecca Wood Barett is the author of the middle-grade novel, My Best Friend is Extinct.
Stella Harvey is the author of three novels, her most recent being Finding Callidora.
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