Authors are some of the worst self-promoters around (said the guy writing a blog post to promote the sale of his book). But I say that because I’ve been a writer for 22 years and know that many writers are loathe to sell themselves.
“We’re writers, not marketers,” they will say. “We don’t sell ourselves.”
Tough. You’re marketers too.
How do you push your brand without scaring people away?
“Because I prefer to write and to talk to writers about creative things, but unfortunately I have to sell as well.”
All statements of “sell or die” aside, there are a few reasons authors need to promote themselves:
- For good or bad, the Internet has made it easier for people to publish, which means there are way more writers than there were 50, 20, or even ten years ago. You need a way to stand out.
- Writing has never been an “if you build it, they will come” venture. You can be the best writer in the world, but if no one knows you, they will not read you.
- Publishers don’t market every author they publish. And even if they do, they don’t sell them all to the same degree.
- Promoting yourself can lead to even more opportunities. Once I knew I could write books, I got a few requests to help write other books.
So how can authors promote themselves? Unless you’re lucky enough to be employed as a full-time writer already and don’t need the cash, you will need to do some online and offline networking.
Join writers’ groups, both online and offline.
All benefits of joining writers groups aside, there is an excellent networking reason to join one/some. Some of your most significant referral sources in the business world may be your competitors. It’s also true for writers as well. If you write business books, and your editor says she’s looking for someone to write a computer book, you can refer your tech writer friends to her. Try to cultivate relationships with writers who do that kind of thing. (By the way, our editor is looking for someone who can write computer books. Contact us if you’re interested.)
Create a blog.
Whether it’s chapters of a book or articles that showcase your writing ability, use your blog as an online writing portfolio and a teaching tool. Alicia uses her NailYourNovel.com to teach people how to write novels. Each post is a lesson for fiction writers trying to learn how to write better. Also, use your blog to communicate with readers. Create a personal relationship with them through this medium, update them with your news, and keep them informed on your progress. They’re more likely to buy your book if they see you as their online buddy or a valuable information resource.
Whether you’re a fiction or nonfiction writer, you can give talks to different groups. Talk to the Kiwanis about what it’s like to be a writer. Talk to business groups about your subject (we do a lot of public speaking about social media and personal branding already). If you’re a fiction writer, give a reading at a book club. If you don’t like public speaking, check out Toastmasters.
Use Twitter. A lot.
That’s how I met Alicia. We started chatting briefly on Twitter, and I became interested in what she does as a writer. As an aspiring fiction writer, I read Alicia’s blog (see #2), where she gives some excellent advice about fiction writing. Alicia has become a valuable resource to me as a writer, and I’m more likely to buy her books as they come out.
Create a Facebook Page for your writing.
This is especially true for writers in a particular niche. You will have your raving fans, your regular readers, and the people who repeatedly come to you for information. So why not treat your writing like a brand? (A brand is an emotional attachment to a company, product, or service. Don’t you want people to be emotionally attached to your writing?) Promote it with a Facebook Page. Get people to “like” it, and recommend it to their friends. Make sure you have links to your other properties, like your blog or website, your Twitter account, and your Amazon page.
Promoting yourself isn’t that hard when you think about it. Marketing these days is all about building relationships. You’re not “selling yourself,” you’re providing value to people through advice and knowledge. You’re making them feel appreciated because you appreciate that they’re readers. You’re giving them samples of your work between bigger bodies of work. But in all of this, you haven’t sold anything.