Recently, an author friend of mine discovered the realities of publishing: Authors market their works book by book. Marketing is a continuous thing, and there is no kicking back and resting if you want people to buy what you write.
Sadly, there is no magic formula for marketing. There are no guarantees that if you “follow these ten steps and your sales will increase 1000%!” I hate to be the one to break that news to you, but if you know me well, you know that I tend to be pretty blunt about things.
So, in the sense of sound copywriting strategy, since I’ve just presented the pain, it is now my duty to present my readers with the solution to all their woes.
Unfortunately, I can’t. I just don’t have the definitive marketing solution for writers. No one does. And if someone says they do, they’re pulling your leg, to put it nicely.
HOWEVER, what I do have is some lessons learned from experience. There are a lot of marketing tools and techniques out there in the industry that are perfectly suited for writers. You should endeavor to use as many of them as you can if you really want to turn your writing into something financially profitable.
I also recognize that few authors are true marketing experts. Nor have I met many who want to be. So, I have compiled a list of the top five marketing tools that I feel are MUST HAVES in the publishing world – those things that constitute a minimum requirement for authors who take their writing – and sales – seriously.
1. An Author Website
Have we done this one to death yet? Obviously not. I still see the majority of authors either ignoring the need for a website or creating websites that don’t shine in a professional light.
If you have a website, you have access to free marketing. Even if just five people stumble upon it a month, this means you’ve put forth absolutely no effort, but (hopefully) caught the interest of five people who would have otherwise remained ignorant of your existence.
Another point to be made here is that modern society simply expects anyone who is serious to have a site. Maybe even everyone who is not serious, as well. So, if you elect to refrain from entering modern society, you take the risk of people not believing you are a real, serious writer. They won’t even consider becoming loyal followers.
This is true if you create a sloppy, unprofessional site, as well. Think about it – if you’ve not even bothered to proofread your site and it’s full of grammatical, punctuation and layout errors, how can they really take your writing seriously? Do you think they will want to buy a whole novel from someone who can’t even get copy on their website correct?
It was a rhetorical question – the answer is pretty self-evident.
2. Business Card
There is nothing that stirs up more interest than letting people know you are a writer. Just saying it will create interest. But when you hand them a card that says – in writing – that you are exactly what you claim to be, well, that just takes it to a whole new level.
Business cards are the bread and butter of sales. No salesperson worth their salt takes a step outside their door without one. You may be a writer, but writers are in the nasty business of actually selling what they write – they have to be if they ever want to be recognized. I mean, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears…well, you get it.
3. Sell Sheets
When I first heard of a sell sheet, I admit I had to run to the computer and look it up. I had absolutely no clue what they were. Technically speaking, a sell sheet is ideally a one-page brochure on a book that you have in print or that you will have in print soon. You create them to send to book stores, conferences, conventions, libraries and the like, or include them in a press kit. It includes information on your book, such as:
The title of your book
A short bio of the author
A photo of the author and one of the book cover
How to find (and buy!) your book, including ISBN, format (e-book, hard cover, soft cover, etc.), ordering info and date of publication
Your contact information
Any reviews you’ve obtained
A sell sheet is intended to do exactly what it says: SELL. Do you really want to give the same verbal spiel every time you run into a potential sales resource? Not me. I find it’s easier to create a sell sheet, hand it to a potential contact, and then answer any remaining questions. It’s also nice to know that they’ve got something visual to take with them and consider long after I’ve left the room.
4. Press Release
This is probably the most essential piece of copy writing you can create for yourself. Not only do you have to write it, you have to send it somewhere, as well. There are quite a few free and low-cost press release services out there that can help get your release in front of the right people – journalists being some of the ‘right’ people.
Believe it or not, journalists hunt the press release sites looking for news. They have to fill pages with content and there’s only so much they can write about famous murderers or the economic situation. In fact, they seek out feel good stories. A new author, a new book – these are feel good stories.
It’s important to take advantage of your local market – local papers, radio stations and television stations. How many areas have a published author living within their midst? They want to make you famous – they love having you as a part of the community. Your local community is one of the best potential sources of loyal followers. For each person in your area that loves your book, they will spread the word to more and more people outside your community, creating a regional – and perhaps national – base for sales of current, future and past novels. PR can have exponential sales benefits – USE IT!
5. A Marketing Plan
You aren’t going to get very far unless you have a plan on how you are going to sell your books. As many authors have learned the hard way, books don’t magically sell themselves. You have to let people know YOUR books are out there, waiting to be purchased and enjoyed.
Your plan should encompass the following:
The date of final editing and submission to the publisher
Estimated publishing date
Date to finalize sell sheets, press releases, synopses and final bios
Local media targets and sales outlets where you will concentrate your first marketing efforts
Regional media targets and sales outlets that will receive a secondary marketing focus
Potential national media targets and sales outlets that have the best chance of accepting your work and passing on the word
A list of upcoming book conferences, seminars, workshops, etc., where you can talk up and sell your books
And this is just the start. The more lengthy, wide-ranging, and detailed you are in your marketing plan, the better your chance of seeing true sales success. You can even draw up a separate social media plan – it’s free PR, after all.
Darcie Carsner Torres is a professional writer and editor with over 20 years of experience. She provides editing and critiquing services through CanAm Author Services, [http://www.canamauthorservices.com]http://www.canamauthorservices.com, and editing and ghostwriting services through Pen & Pestle, [http://www.penandpestle.com]http://www.penandpestle.com. Her mission is to help budding authors improve their writing and get published.