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Marketing is a Relationship: A Roadmap for Novelists

by | Jun 1, 2020

By Beth Barany

I recently published a novel, the first in a new series and in a new genre. I’m excited and frankly, out of practice. It’s been five years since I published a novel and I feel a bit disoriented. Maybe you can relate.

Have you ever returned to a place you knew well, maybe where you grew up, and were confused by how you didn’t know the place anymore?

That’s how I feel about book marketing.

So much has changed in the intervening years, but luckily the fundamentals of book marketing haven’t changed.

If you’ve never marketed a novel before but want to, or if it’s been a long time since you have, you may hit some roadblocks as you get ready.

Perhaps you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. That’s a common problem because:

  1. There are so many choices out there on how to market a novel.
  2. There is so much advice on the “right” way to market that clashes — confusing!
  3. You may be afraid to actually to do the work because of well, many reasons.

To bring some clarity and offer an overview roadmap to get you started on bringing your book to the world, let’s start by defining our terms.

What is Book Marketing?

In the broadest sense, marketing in any industry is the activity to reach those people who you wouldn’t normally connect with to share your message with them.

Marketing is a relationship. You put a message out so others can see it in the hopes that people will connect with it and take an action—the action you’re asking them to take.

In today’s online world, we can do this for free. All it requires is our:

  • time
  • attention
  • focus
  • desire

What Message Do You Want to Send?

As a novelist, our marketing message can be many things specifically. In its essence, you’re inviting potential readers and fans into the experience of your book, an experience they want — whether they were actively (consciously) searching for it or not (subconscious desire).

As in all relationships, marketing requires that you know:

  • who you’re communicating with
  • why you’re communicating with them
  • what the give-and-take relationship is

All good relationships involve a fair give-and-take.

By give-and-take, I mean that all healthy relationships are in balance. You give; the other one receives. They give; you receive. It feels good, reciprocal, and fair.

We want readers to buy (or borrow) our books and read them, but we can’t control that part of the equation. We don’t hit that BUY button; the reader does.

What you can control is your messages that you send out into the world.

How to Craft Your Marketing Messages

You’re a writer—a novelist, used to writing long. I know you can learn to write short messages that connect to your readers’ desires, longings, dreams, hopes and fears, just as you learned to evoke emotion in your stories.

Your marketing message requirements:

  • Keep it simple.
  • One emotional experience per message. (Evoke that emotion.)
  • One invitation or request per message. Also known as Call-to-Action or CTA. (See first item.)
  • Craft your message for one audience, not everybody. (More on who your audience is below.)

Types of Marketing Activities

I see marketing as any outreach activity, be it online or in person, that involves your presence or your marketing message. These activities can include but are not limited to:

  • blogging
  • ads
  • live Zoom presentations
  • press releases
  • webinars
  • social media posts
  • your email list
  • newsletter swaps (other people’s lists)
  • Facebook parties
  • virtual book launch

What Book Marketing Isn’t

Marketing is not selling or doing sales, though sales can be an end goal of marketing.

What Are Your Goals for Marketing Your Books?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by marketing your books, as I mentioned in the beginning—but that’s often because we view marketing as a Mount Everest, involving many steps, rigorous training (i.e., expense and/or education), and so clearly unattainable for most of us mere mortals.

But actually, marketing can be simple, within your reach right now, and doable.

Pick one goal for your marketing and use the roadmap below to get from where you are to where you want to be.

You can market to influence people to buy your books, or you could market to spread awareness, or to invite people to subscribe to your blog or join your mailing list, or just follow you on social media.

Pick one for now, so that you can take action. Yes, now.

If you do nothing, you can be assured that no one will learn about your book except by accidentally stumbling upon it.

If you take action, you will increase your chances a lot more that people will see your book, that people will take the action you want them to take, and that you’ll get the result you desire.

Your Roadmap

Now that you have a goal in mind, use this roadmap to get to where you want to go.

Reminder: Like all maps it’s only a way It is not the way.

Here are the steps you can take:

1. Decide you want to learn how to market your books, even though it may be hard, challenging, scary.

You’re smart. You learned to write to novel. You can learn what you need to know about book marketing.

2. Know your WHY… know why you want to market your books.

  • Do you want to leave a legacy?
  • Entertain?
  • Take a stand for your theme or issue?
  • Get on a bestseller’s list?
  • Make a steady income?
  • Something else?

Your why will be as unique as you are. There is no right answer to this question; there is only the true answer for you today. And that answer may change. That’s okay.

3. What are your marketing goals?

Specific outcomes invite you do specific marketing messages. Pick one to start. As you gain confidence and experience, you can pick more than one.

4. Define your values. What’s truly important to you?

Without knowing your values, it’s easy to be swayed to think the next fad is what will vault you to the top of a bestseller’s list or get you the visibility you crave. Not necessarily. It’s hard to sustain action you don’t believe in.

5. Define the values conveyed through your novels.

This is critical because your values will attract like-minded readers.

6. Know your genre and how your book fits in it and is unique.

Do this research if you haven’t already. Talk to your writing friends who write what you do to help clarify how you fit into the category.

7. Define your Author Branding Statement and make it unique to you.

I shared how to craft yours here.

8. Know how you like to do outreach/marketing or be willing to explore what you like and what you don’t like.

Some options:

  • Social media like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn
  • Blogging, on your own blog or as a guest or both
  • Ads
  • Newsletter swaps
  • Word of mouth through friends and family

9. Define your ideal reader by their demographics, and most importantly, psychographics—values, beliefs, and other non-quantifiable important qualities.

Where do they like to be online? How do they make their buying decisions? Find the sweet spot of where they are and how they like to be contacted with what works for you.

10. Decide on a specific marketing message for a specific goal and craft a campaign to make it happen with start and end times.

Start small and build your muscle in this area of your author career. I know you can do this.

Next Steps

Post in the comments what your marketing goal is and your next steps to make that happen.

Want to read more articles by Beth Barany? Click here.

Photo: BigStockPhoto

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