In order to build a career as an author, you will constantly be seeking readers for both your newest book and your previous ones. Ideally, someone buys a book, falls in love with your writing, seeks out more of your work, becomes a fan, and then tells all their friends about you. The more books you have available, the more possible ways there are to be found and therefore the more potential income to be made from book sales. Therefore, the more possible ways you have for new readers to discover you, the better. That’s why these ongoing book marketing tools are so important to get your message out there to the world.
Tool #1: Leverage your existing platform-building activities. You’ve already built a website and established a presence on several social media platforms so just keep on sharing quality content that invites more followers. Within the stream of posts and tweets, continue a trickle (notice the implied ratio?) that features quotes, memes, and review snippets from all of your books. Don’t worry about overwhelming your current followers with things they have seen before because our memories are short and many won’t have seen the post in the first place. Not to mention, as your social media platform builds, your brand new followers will be seeing these for the first time. Content recycling programs like Social Jukebox or Edgar make it easy to put this type of ongoing promotion on auto-pilot so there is no excuse to stop talking—a little bit—about your books.
It’s also important to make sure that your profile pictures and banner images online reflect your growing number of books. If a potential new reader stopped by your website, how far would they have to look before they could identify your newest book and estimate how many books you have already published? There is a balance here to avoid visually overwhelming the visitor, but a single picture of a stack of books with the newest standing beside it would go a long ways. While you are updating the pictures on your website and social media accounts, it’s a good idea to sweep through those profile bios, links, and assorted pages to make sure everything is current.
Tool #2: Build your email list and then write great newsletters. It was easier when you were pushing a new book to entice people to join your email list, but don’t let that stop you from finding creative ways or new incentives to add names to your list between books. One way is to have a contest or giveaway with an email list sign-up being a requirement. Sites like Rafflecopter (which we talked about before during a book launch), KingSumo on your WordPress blog, or BookSweeps will help drive your list-building activities with the built-in incentive of winning a prize.
Online entrepreneurs talk a lot about lead magnets as a way to lure people onto email lists because there should be something of value that you will offer in exchange for an email address. Buyers—and readers—want to know what’s in it for them. If they are already an avid fan who loves your writing, the simple opportunity to get news first might be incentive enough. However, most people are hesitant to hand over their email address and open their inbox up to potential spam without a perceived value. That’s why some authors give away a free book from their backlist or a glimpse into the first chapters of an upcoming release to their new subscribers. One idea is to offer a prequel novella to introduce a series and perhaps have it be the same novella that readers would have to pay to get elsewhere. You could also offer a genealogy character chart of your series, a detailed map of your fantasy realm, or a handy reminder checklist from your non-fiction book.
Once you have that list of email addresses, you need to communicate with your subscribers regularly enough that they don’t forget who you are and in a way that makes them want to open your email and actually read it. The best way to do this is to study other authors and see what appeals to you…and what makes you want to unsubscribe. I know of a few authors who give away something to a few random subscribers every month so that encourages people to actually read the newsletter when it comes. Another author I know wrote a series of short stories and released one each month to her email list subscribers. A serial novel released one chapter at a time would serve the same purpose. Other authors share funny stories from their personal lives, include recipes, link out to a helpful tip they found, or even share what books they are currently reading in addition to actual book news about a sale price, new contract, cover reveal, or pre-order link. The point is to build relationships with the your newsletter readers to the point that when your next book comes out, you’ll have a build-in audience eager to pre-order it themselves and then help spread the word.
Tool #3: Enter contests with your published book. This one involves an expense (entry fees plus the cost of the required number of books and postage) and a delicate balance with your ego as you weigh the potential notoriety with the more-likely rejection when numerous well-edited and published books go head-to-head. It’s not like those unpublished contests with the wider range of skill stepping into the ring. However, beyond an ego boost which could also be gained from reading reviews, there is a huge opportunity to build name recognition, add a credibility factor for your bio, and position your book alongside similar titles that would arouse curiosity in avid readers who see the list of winners or finalists. Also, the judges themselves are often avid readers who love to talk about books with their friends, so even if you don’t place in the contest, there is still opportunity for some exposure.
When it comes to contests, you are only allowed to enter a book that was released the previous calendar year so there is a limited window of opportunity. Plus, different contests have vastly different deadlines so you will need to do your research early to make sure you don’t miss out on a great contest. We can all name a few prestigious contests in the realm of publishing (like the Rita for romance, the Christy for Christian fiction, or the Agatha for cozy mysteries) but don’t overlook smaller or more genre-specific contests. You can discover new contests by eavesdropping at conferences or stalking—er, learning-best-practices-from—other authors to see what contests they have won. Some author-related websites like the Seekerville blog post a monthly list of upcoming contest deadlines, while many writing organizations or conferences also sponsor a contest. The Publisher’s Archive contains a comprehensive list of contests by genre and includes deadlines. Like all marketing, you’ll need to weigh the cost against the potential return-on-investment…and may conclude that this tool is not for you.