Sell Yourself! (No, I Don’t Mean That!)
by Merethe Walther
Often, a writer feels that their first devotion should be to their craft, and this is true—partially. One of the hardest things about writing a book comes in knowing that you’re still a general unknown in the industry. After all of that work, you still have to prove your worth to those who aren’t friends or family, and will judge you with a critical eye.
Writing a book is a great accomplishment. You took several hundred pages of nothing and turned it into something, and that is a prolific task that many are not capable of. However, writing a book is only one small step on the ladder to authorship. How can you get people to read your book and see that skill?
Self-marketing will be both your best friend and, probably, your worst nightmare; but it is a necessary evil.
Targets Aren’t Just for Guns
Target audience is crucial to developing your presence as an author. If you’ve written 1000 Ways to Cook Beef, your target audience isn’t going to be vegetarians, vegans, or pescetarians. It’s also not going to be for children or people who eat out, or those who aren’t interested in cooking. While this might seem simple to understand, many writers aren’t really aware of their market, even when the book is done—and if you don’t know, how will your audience?
By the time you’re ready to seek publishing, you need to have gathered an idea of your book’s target gender, age range, and social leanings. This means that if you’ve written the above cookbook, most likely, you will try to reach non-vegetarian females, aged 25-40, with a moderate income and a religion that doesn’t include the worship of sacred cows. Realistically, you’re looking for a housewife or working mom who needs quick, easy recipes to feed her family.
You must understand who you’re targeting, because you’re sowing seeds for future returns.
Being Attractive (Online) is Everything
You’ve got your target audience down, and you’re ready to hit the marketing! Where do you start? How about with that webpage you haven’t updated since 2009? If your background has sparkles, GIFs, or looks like a teen girl’s webpage from 1998, then you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Everything online that represents you should showcase a professional, sleek, and stylistic profile that makes people think you’re capable.
Fair? No. Necessary? Absolutely!
This is judging a book by its cover—your audience won’t ever get to the book if your page is filled with buttons, dazzling pictures, and chaotic links.
As a writer in this day and age, if you aren’t online, you’re going to suffer in reaching your audience. You should have at least three sites to reach your following. Some of the best ways to do that right now are Facebook, Twitter, and blog sites, which will give your audience an interactive format for getting to know you and your work.
Your sites should also have a feeling of continuity and connection to each other. Try using the same profile photo, and a similar, if not identical background image, and color scheme. This, too, is a part of your “brand”, and will help people identify with you. Make your pages simple and easily navigable, and make sure that you don’t have broken links! Your images should reflect your genre, as well as yourself. Use your sites to plug your book as frequently as possible without being over-the-top.
Maintenance Does Not Mean Cleaning
Anything that lets your audience feel connected to you is key. Share life stories, occasionally—even disappointments when it comes to writing or publishing. These are human things that people can relate to, and will make them drawn to not only your work, but your personality as well.
In order to reach people, you have to, y’know, speak to them. This doesn’t mean you’ll need to write everyday, or post witticisms every half hour, but maybe one to two times per week, let them know what you’ve been working on. Share helpful quotes, or let them know where you’ll be for a book signing.
Speaking of book signings, you must help orchestrate them. One of the best ways to let people know about you is by going to bookstores, coffee shops, and anywhere else that you can hang out and share your craft without fear of reprisal. Head down to your local bookstore and introduce yourself to the manager there. Offer to let them sample your book, and ask if they’d like to stock a few copies on their shelves. Try to arrange meetings and book signings, if it’s applicable.
If you’re an eBook author, maintenance is still important. Obviously, you can’t have a Kindle signing at your Barnes &Noble, but you can make certain to have appearances, answer fan questions, and even do Q&A at local conventions. Going to your audience is the best way to make sure that they are connected to you, and will continually reinvigorate your fan base, regardless of its size.
You’ve done the hardest part—you wrote the book. Now, get out there and share your vision.