Today’s guest post is from Kristen McLean, “book futurist, consumer zoologist, and idea omnivore,” as well as founder and CEO of Bookigee, a Miami-based tech startup that builds products and analytics for the book-publishing ecosystem. Kristen is passionate about helping authors navigate the abundance of options, tools, and channels for producing and distributing books. She’s an eighteen-year veteran of the book business, and as a leading industry analyst, she speaks around the world about the digital transformation of books and reading. In this post, Kristen talks about why one size doesn’t fit all. She said:
I’m super passionate about helping authors navigate this amazing (and sometimes daunting) publishing environment. On one hand we have an amazing abundance of options, tools, and channels for producing and distributing books. On the other, we are writing and publishing more books than at any other time in human history, and all that *noise* and conversation is making it hard to figure out how to reach an audience. You still have to write a great book (which is no easier than it ever was)…maybe BETTER THAN EVER to stand out. I do my best to help authors with good tools and helpful information. Because I love entrepreneurial authors who are paving the way for everyone in this kooky business.
Follow Kristen on Twitter.
Understanding the Five Phases of Book Marketing: Why “What’s working?” is not one size fits all
It is an amazing time to be a reader or a writer in today’s publishing landscape. We are reading and publishing more than at any time in human history, and it has never been easier to produce and distribute a book.
However, that same abundance is a double-edged sword, especially for writers who are trying to figure out how to get their work into the hands of their potential audience in such a noisy & overwhelming environment.
Up until now, the publishing transformation has largely focused on three things: new forms of production (self-publishing & print on demand), new forms of distribution (tablets, e-books, online reading communities like WattPad, Smashwords, and Kindle Direct), and new channels for sales (online retail, apps, supermarkets, big box stores, the Kindle & Nook devices, Kobo – basically everyone but the traditional bookstores).
But for a book to successfully find a reader, there are two big things missing from this “new publishing” equation: Marketing and Discovery. In other words, how do we (the content creators) tell people about our work, and how do they (the readers) find new things to read?
Traditionally, bookstores have had a very large role to play in both of these functions. Bookstores were the place where readers went to browse, and publishers could reliably reach those readers by working with bookstores and reviewers to get their books front and center. But now, there are a million channels competing for a reader’s attention, and we have not successfully duplicated the bookstore experience online—especially in a way that authors have any input.
For today’s entrepreneurial author, marketing is largely going to be about finding an online strategy. And it’s also important to understand that you, the Author, need to treat marketing yourself and marketing a book as equally important in the age of Social Media.
And when it comes to this stuff, “What works?” is the number one question authors ask me all the time.
My answer: it really depends on where you are in your career, and what your goals are.
The Five Phases
Through my work on the WriterCube Book Marketing Database—a product we developed specifically to help business-minded authors by collecting the best information and contacts they might need to market into a single database—I’ve had the privilege of talking to dozens of authors this year.
And I’m starting to get a very clear idea that we need to approach marketing more as a progressive and phased activity. A mix of different strategies is required at each phase, and authors will move up and down between phases kind of like shifting a car.
P1: Industry 101 – “Where do I Start?”
Goal: learn everything you can about publishing & writing (in whatever genre you are aiming for)
Essential activities: web research, social media research, finding, following & friend-ing the top 50 online sites, magazines, reviewers, and authors in your target genre. Read one or more of the following: Book Business: Publishing Past, Present, and Future by Jason Epstein, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, and The Business of Writing for Children by Aaron Shepard.
P2: Building an author “platform” – “Here’s Who I Am & What I Do”
Goal: Create a unified web presence & systematically build a following & community
Essential activities: Setting up Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, accounts as well as a personal website. Create brand materials, bios, designs and a consistent personality in all of these places. Make it a goal to interact with each of these platforms on a regular basis. Follow & study the following social media gurus: @Steveology, @danzarrella, @BBorowicz. Read my previous article for more guidance on this idea: Topsy-Turvy: A new roadmap for book marketing.
P3: Pre-publication engagement – “It’s Coming – Get Excited!”
Goal: Build a traditional pre-publication book-marketing plan
Essential activities: Accelerate your efforts to build your social media following as above. Concentrate on building a following, but DO NOT promote your book continuously. Read What To Do Before Your Book Launch by M.J. Rose and Randy Susan Meyers. Do everything it says.
P4: Post-publication marketing & publicity – “It’s Here and it’s Hot!”
Goal: Sell books
Essential Activities: Switch your online social media focus from building a following to traditional book promotion. Run online contests. Submit to bloggers for review. Do readings at local libraries & bookstores. Read any and all to prepare: How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn, How to Promote Your Children’s Book by Katie Davis, The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Publicity by Lissa Warren, Red Hot Internet Publicity: The Insider’s Guide to Marketing Online by Penny C. Sansevieri
P5: Ongoing or backlist marketing – “Opening Doors & Creating Opportunities”
Goal: Everyday marketing that leads to income opportunities through more sales, events, speaking engagements, or new projects
Essential Activities: Daily online engagement with your audience, creating reader’s group materials or educational kits for books, outreach to libraries, schools, and non-profits likely to appreciate your work, periodic traditional marketing outreach on older titles to find new audiences. “Re-launch” or “birthday” events for your projects. Applying to speak at regional associations, groups, or tradeshows on your area of expertise—sell your books onsite. Write new stories in the world of your fiction & post to reading communities like WattPad or release as short stories on Byliner or Kindle. Hustle, hustle, hustle.
Each of these phases deserves a separate article of its own. I have grossly over-simplified here—there are many wonderful books on each aspect of these activities. However, the key takeaway of this should be that each phase requires a specific developmental strategy, and they are progressive. You can’t market a book if you haven’t done your work to build a necessary community online or locally. And, you don’t build your website AFTER the book is out.
At Writer Cube we are working hard to help authors navigate this new and tricky environment, and we do our best to empower authors, because you CAN do it. It’s not easy, and it requires consistent work, but if you are willing to do the research and put in the time, every author can improve their online marketing & find new readers.
What are some of the things you’ve done to market yourself or your book? Did some of these activities work particularly well? Are there other activities you feel weren’t as effective or didn’t work out as well as you’d hoped?