Making time for writing is a daunting challenge in itself. But the reality is that your job as a writer goes far beyond putting pen to page. Regardless of how your book is being published, much of the work of marketing will likely fall on you. If you want to give your books the best chance of finding readers, you need to incorporate some marketing efforts with your writing ones. And yes, these are likely in addition to your day job, your family, and whatever other obligations you have. So how can you maintain a balance and avoid burnout? How can you make the marketing end of this process something that’s nourishing rather than depleting?
Because your promotional work will amp up significantly when your book is about to go on sale, I’ve divided this list into two sections: For Life and For Launch.
Being an author means more than producing material for books. It means that you’re part of a community. Building networks long before you have something of your own to promote is vital. If you expect others to care about your work, you need to show you care about theirs. You probably understand that intuitively, but what does it mean practically?
Be a patron. Is there a fabulous indie bookstore in your area that you would love to see your book on the shelves of someday? Then don’t be a stranger! Buy your books there whenever possible; engage the staff by asking them for reading recommendations and telling them how much you like the store; attend store events; talk them up to friends and on social media. Even one great indie evangelist can make a huge difference to the life of your work.
Be a pal. If you’re an author, you’re certainly a voracious reader as well. When you finish a book you loved, take five minutes to post about the book on Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter—wherever readers are likely to see it. For you extroverts out there, maybe even drop the author a line and offer to buy them a drink!
Be social on social media. Social media is powerful because it’s interactive. So rather than using Twitter to post what you ate for breakfast, engage other writers and readers using the hashtags #amreading and #amwriting (perennially popular) to talk books and promote stuff you like. Comment on blogs that you enjoy and pipe up in forums. Make yourself a known quantity.
This isn’t a ten-day diet; it’s a lifestyle. Pick a strategy that will actually work for you. If you only have fifteen minutes a day to spend, great! Comment on one blog per day. Add to a hashtag on Twitter. Have an hour a day? Blog, post on forums. Have only a couple of hours a month? Post reviews of every book you read online. Attend one conference per quarter or one reading per month. Do what you can, and do it consistently.
If you treat this process as a chore, it will show. Take the time to find out what works best for you. If you’re an introvert, you can engage purely online. If you love meeting people but can’t spend another moment staring at your computer screen, readings and conferences are where it’s at. Maybe you loathe Twitter but you love Pinterest. Don’t spend time trying to force yourself to do things you don’t want to do. Find ways to engage on a genuine and enjoyable level. Remember that all of the things on this list—from attending events to using Twitter—are things people do for fun.
Think of your launch as the three- to six-month period before your book comes out and the several months after.
Get help. Consider budgeting some money from your advance if you have a book deal, or allocating part of your budget for self-publishing your work to hire someone to help with publicity and marketing. If you have an in-house publicist, find out what her or his plan is and work to supplement it. In-house folks usually focus on traditional media outreach (print, radio, and television), so you’ll need a strategy for online and social media regardless. Whether it’s paying for a onetime consultation or for someone to do a full-scale campaign for you, expertise can go a long way. If you have more time than money, avail yourself of the many great online resources and books on the subject of marketing. Not sure if you should hire help? Read this.
Have a plan. You’re much more likely to stick to your goals if you outline them and give yourself targets and a to-do list. Treat your promotional goals like a business plan or a diet; give yourself a structure for success. How many blogs posts will you write a week? Which fellow authors will you reach out to and when? Which local indies could you approach about hosting an event? Set goals for three months prior to launch, one month before, one month after, et cetera.
Ask for support. Now is the time to reach out to all of those people you’ve been steadily building relationships with. Even though this is your big moment, remember that making it fun and mutually beneficial is the way to go. Invite everyone you know to your favorite local bookstore for a launch party and reading. Entice people to come to said party with wine and snacks; see if another author wants to read with you. Offer to guest blog for someone, or ask them to guest blog for you. Offer giveaways online. If friends tell you they loved your book, ask them if they’d mind posting a review online. You don’t have to be a pest, but now is not the time to be bashful. Writing a book is a big accomplishment so be proud! You can go back to being self-deprecating later.