Effective Marketing Strategy for Writers-- Creating a Plan for Using your Tools

May 27, 2011

There's an attitude among some writers and authors about marketing that is best described by the groan you hear when they mention it. We are writers, not marketers! they declare. And this is true.

Here's the thing, though. Marketing your own work isn't something to be afraid of. In fact, it's flat out awesome! You, the person who knows your books inside and out, gets to be the one to put them out there. You get to represent your own career! Yes, it's a little work, and yes, it might not be something you're familiar with, but a little knowledge can change that.

No worries, some writers say. I'm on Twitter, Blogger, Facebook, MySpace, Goodreads, Tumblr, and a million other places. Marketing is taken care of.

Well, sort of. Marketing is more than just tactics and tools. You need to have a marketing STRATEGY, and that means you need to know how to use those tools. Strategy is an individual thing, but the basics of marketing are always the same. Robison Wells, author of the upcoming dystopian novel Variant, gave a presentation on marketing at LDStorymakers. And he does this for a living, so he knows his stuff. (If you want his whole presentation, click here.) Let's dive in.

Strategy 1: Define your Brand
When trying to determine your marketing strategy, keep in mind that your direction is determined by your BRAND: a collection of all the impressions readers have of you. Are you sassy, witty, wise, intense, silly, helpful, or anything else? If you want to develop a brand associated with your name, all your marketing tactics (blogging, Twitter, etc.) need to point to the same (few!) impressions. That is your brand. And branding will affect and influence reader enjoyment and their willingness to buy your books. You can start defining this by thinking of the message you want to send your readers about you as an author-- not just about a single book.

Strategy 2: Understand the 4 P's of marketing
Marketing isn't just promotion and advertising. There are 4 basic parts to marketing, and the more you understand them, the more effective you will be.

1. Price - Unless you self-publish, you can't really control this. And if you do self-publish, do your research. There's a lot out there about setting a price high enough to ensure perceived value, and low enough that people will take a chance on you.

2. Place - This refers to where your product can be found: in stores, online, at conventions. It can also refer to self placement in a bookstore. You may also be able to sell your books in uncommon places, depending on what it's about. For authors, it's good to make connections at your local bookstores-- the more the workers there know you, the more they will promote your book to shoppers.

3. Product - What do readers get from you that they don't get somewhere else? This includes positioning, or your niche in the market. It can help to devise an internal statement that can help you determine your position: "For the reader who wants [genre], my book offers [similarity] and [difference]." This can help you promote the book to the right people.

4. Promotion - This focuses on your readers. Reader demographics can be broken into three groups: your fans (those who love you; family, friends, blog readers, etc.), those who will never be interested in what your write, and the swing group. The swing group are those in the middle who could go either direction.

When marketing to your fan group, it's fairly simple: keep them happy. Keep consistent with your brand message, and they'll keep coming. For the swing group, your goal is to pull them into your fan group. So do some market research: find out why the fans love you and use it to promote yourself to the swing group.

Strategy 3: Use your strategy to pick your tools
There are different categories of marketing tools, and some work better for writers than others. You can't use them all, so pick a few.

Advertising: This includes billboards, commercials, and anything that shouts at a customer. Not usually the best avenue for writers.

Public relations: Anything you do that's newsworthy. Getting interviewed on the radio or an online magazine might go here.

Personal selling: This is where social media falls, and it's very effective for writers.

Sales promotion: For writers, this includes things like contests and swag (bookmarks, etc.) This is also pretty effective.

Whatever tools you pick, keep in mind you can do things cheap, fast, or with quality. And you can only pick two of those. If you plan your strategy ahead of time, you have a choice in how you're going to do it.

Strategy 4: Find Friends

Here's the thing to remember about marketing: nobody cares what you say when you're the salesman. When you're "pushing product," people get annoyed and tune out. So what's the strategy here?

What people care about is what their friends say. This is where social networking really comes in handy: it's all about being social. Making friends. That's not to say you should have calculated friendships; that feels fake, and nothing turns people away faster than insincerity. Make friends for real! Talk about a fun way to market.

So, my friends, let's try a little experiment. Remember Strategy 1, defining your brand? Let's do a little market research! I'm curious what your impression of me as a writer (through my blog) is. If you leave a comment including two to three words you think of when you come to my blog, I'll come to your blog and return the favor! Let's help each other determine our direction.

P.S. Don't forget, if you want to achieve a writing goal through the month of June, join me for JuNoWriMo! You don't have to finish a 50,000 word novel unless you want to-- just make a writing goal and stick to it the whole month!

12 comments:

Angela Ackerman said...

Great post & breakdown. Like it or not, we need to put ourselves in the marketing mindset when we sell a book.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Angela Ackerman said...

From looking at your blog and it's tone, I would say your brand is helpful, supportive and enthusiastic. That's the vibe I get when I read your posts! :)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

J.L. Campbell said...

Great article. I don't do enough to market my books, even though I did write a marketing/promo plan more than a year ago. :(

I think of you as someone who's always learning and sharing information on writing, both the craft and the business.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Enthusiastic. Fun. Friendly. Writer.

Thank you for making marketing actually sound like fun! (Maybe) I'm (sort of) not as scared of it now. :)

Amy

Kimberly Krey said...

Great tips and perfect attitude! Nicely done! :)

Julie Daines said...

Great post about marketing. Nice job breaking it down into what's important!

C. K. Bryant said...

I get something totally different from the others. I feel magic, creativity and a sense of confidence. Someone I'd definitely like to get to know better.

Great post. I learned a lot.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Confidence. Fun. Helpful.

Branding is so so important.

MKHutchins said...

You always come across as enthusiastic, upbeat, and supportive to me. I went to this breakout, but you summarized it better than I could. Somehow, Robison made "marketing" sound as unintimidating as brushing your teeth and putting on a good blouse before a meeting.

ali said...

Fantastic advice Shallee. Thank you!

Suze said...

Okay, I'll be honest, I zoned out at about strategy three and the truth is I really need to read this stuff!

My query letters are deplorable, which astounds me-- I'm a writer for goodness sake, why can't I write a pitch to sell the work I've slaved over?

Well, the truth is my distaste for marketing has eclipsed almost everything else but I know that I need to somehow get over that (in all likelihood psychological) hump. Reading this post was my first step!

(Well. Reading the beginning of this post.)

Thank you. :)

Medeia Sharif said...

This is a wonderful, informative post. Thanks for writing it.

 
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