There's really never been a better time to be an author. There is a lot more competition than ever before, but there are also a lot more opportunities. For the first time in the history of publishing, authors have direct access to their readers. Our new world of direct access to readers requires authors to spend more time and effort to get the word out about their books, but with that investment there is great reward.
Authors are building community, making a difference and finding great joy in the process. I own a digital publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors and I often hear from authors who feel overwhelmed with the process of building a brand or finding an audience. Social media has opened the door to a world of possibilities, so where to begin? If you are an author, here are 14 questions you can answer to begin expertly marketing your book.
1. Who is my book for?
Answer this question on paper and a picture of your audience will begin to emerge. Once you can describe your audience, you will have a better understanding of where you can find them online.
2. Who do I want to help?
Think of the problems you want to help solve for your audience and share your knowledge. Create connections through online conversation. Offer value with solutions, ideas, resources or expertise.
3. What does my audience care about?
Don't follow the next shiny object online; take time to consider what social media platforms make sense for your brand. Just because a social media platform exists or there's an app for it, doesn't mean you have to use it. Decide what sites and tools you will use to find and communicate with your audience. To avoid overwhelm, start with a website and one or two social media platforms. You don't have to do everything all at once.
4. What's my digital reputation?
Your name and reputation are at stake when you build your brand. You can get help with your social media efforts, but make sure you invest your own time to safeguard your brand. If you outsource some of your social media efforts, make sure all the messaging is consistent with who you are and your personal brand. Your brand is your reputation or story.
5. What's my top goal for writing my book?
Identifying your goals for writing your book determines your priorities. Nonfiction writers are often driven to write a book to shed light on an untold story, help others with their expertise, build a business or acquire speaking engagements. What's your top goal? Keep your top goal in mind to decide how to spend your time online.
6. What can I do today?
You don't have to go viral to gain an audience. Sustained small efforts to keep people talking can be just as effective as a campaign that goes viral. Your ongoing conversation with your readers can result in speaking engagements, paid blog posts, interview opportunities, more fans on your Facebook page, more traffic on your site, increased sales and a recognition and expansion of your brand -- Brand YOU. Think of what you can do daily to keep the conversation going.
7. Does the content I share on my website or on social media entertain, enlighten, inform or educate?
If it doesn't, don't share it.
8. What's my purpose?
Your purpose for your book is your most meaningful goal as an author. Maybe you want to help people, make a difference or offer solutions of value. Those goals have a deeper emotional hook than wanting to sell books. As author Seth Godin so aptly put it: "Build it and they will come" is only for the movies. Publicity won't happen because you have a desire to sell books. Connecting to your more meaningful goals is how you can make things happen. Give value and you will receive value back.
9. Is my website about me and is it professional?
People follow people, not books. When you build your website, make it a website about you first and then your book. A professional website is the single most important step toward your digital marketing plan because it's your home base. Make sure you update your content is current and you update it regularly. Make sure your site is linked to any other social media sites where you are active. If a person cares enough to come to your site, make sure their trip was worth the effort.
10. How much do I know about reader?
Do you know if your reader is male or female? Young or on the older side? What are the values of your reader? Education level? Where do you think your reader is online? What social media sites? The more you know about your reader, the easier it will be for you to find them online. When you know your reader well, it becomes easier to know what they want, provide content of value and stay in your lane of expertise.
11. Am I investing in the relationship with my audience or community?
Assess today if you are truly investing in the relationship you have with your readers. Readers today expect more from authors than just a book. Readers want a relationship with writers. Are you invested in their interests? Do you answer their questions? If you help your audience, they will feel connected to you.
12. What is my dream for my book?
Determining your dream can fuel your motivation to dig in and build your brand for the long haul. Building your brand and marketing your book is a marathon and not a sprint.
Be on TV?
Become a columnist?
Speak at conferences?
Offer consulting services?
Sell movie rights to your book?
13. Does all the content I produce sound like me?
There is no competition for you. No matter how much you like how someone else's brand or business, you won't be effective if you try and be someone else. People will be drawn to you when you are authentic and people can relate to you. Be uniquely you.
14. Am I super to my super fans?
If someone takes the time to sign up for your newsletter, that person is a super fan. Treat your super fans as such! Communicate with your super fans by thinking of what you can content of value you can provide for them. When you keep the interests and needs of your community top of mind, you can't go wrong with what you share.
While it will take work, enjoy today's direct access relationship with your readers. As you build your audience, you will simultaneously create opportunity for you and your brand, while you make a difference in the lives of other people.