If your goal behind writing a book is to develop skill, express creativity, and simply be published, then you won’t need a book marketing plan. But if your goal is to write to disseminate ideas to as many as possible, and receive a return on time spent, then you need promotional ideas to get that message out.
For talented novelist and writer’s festival speaker Susan Johnson, having had a roaring writing career in the 80s and travelling the world in the 90s, on returning to Australia and enquiring into publishing, she had a rude shock. No longer did traditional publishers give big advances, and she could not return to teach creative writing at University due to ‘qualifications’ at that point.
Susan told us festival-goers that the average Australian pro writer earns just $14,000 a year. The Guardian reports that the average professional English writer earns just GBP10,500 per year, a 42% drop since 2005, a pittance as they rightly call it. Since she wanted to actually pay the bills, she had to go back to journalism and feature writing at Qweekend, a newspaper magazine. Not yet totally broken from the writing game, her 2014 novel (published by Allen & Unwin) has an intriguing title: My Hundred Lovers.
Luckily, there are alternatives for getting our writing work to pay and our books read. That is, becoming a leader in the space in which you write. Then you will be making the moolah from consulting, e-courses and other gigs. but my ‘space’ is in self-publishing books (completely by accident, I assure you).
So, while a natural-born author would like to spend 100% of her time writing, to have some success in her aim of ‘selling books’ she will need to carve out 50% of her time to do promotion.
This could include guest posting, guest podcasts, speaker presentations, article writing and pitching newsworthy ideas to the media. So in fact, most of these things are based on well-formed, written ideas.
Creating connections with others in your area of interest is helpful too, especially if you seek publicity. This interchange of tips and favours with your peers (or even among people well above your own level) will definitely help when it’s time to guest blog or ask for a review. Without being friendly first, your request will likely fall on deaf ears.
Finally, it’s up to you to make your writing profitable. If you don’t have the gumption to write a few articles with your byline, pitch a couple of story ideas to well-read sites, or ask for a guest podcast several times, then writing books for profit is perhaps not for you. And that’s okay, because writing books for pleasure is quite fulfilling too. Just be sure which side you want to be on, and go forth.
Spend Book Promotion Time Wisely
As a serial self-published writer, I have realised that you need to split your time 50/50 between writing/editing and promoting/connecting. As I fit in client work too, it’s more like 75/25. But at least I have a go.
If you don’t connect helpfully with others, then you’re unlikely to get a guest post (parts from your book) or free book review from a reader. Guest blogging is one of the secrets to getting a strong link profile and online reputation. (The former serves Google rank while the latter is how others see your work).
When other bloggers/reviewers/journalists are talking about your book, then like Michael Bungay Stanier, you’ll come into some good sales. It may be unknown where these sales stemmed from originally, yet it is more leveraged than one-at-a-time sales you do know about. See exactly how MBS published his book and sold 180,000 copies. (Long post warning, and ignore the cost configurations, which are too high for most).
Simple Hack for Book Marketing
One hack is to build a team to do some of the grunt work. An Author’s Assistant would be nice – everyone needs one, even if they don’t earn a thing. There is just too much to do, for example:
- Graphic design of headers
- Writing blog topics and making blog images (e.g. Canva)
- Pinterest followership and Facebook group posts
- Making connections with other authors and offering posts (email or phone)
- Writing press releases / your media information sheet
- Securing an early reader team from your immediate contacts and send book/PDF out to them
- Keeping the CRM up-to-date with queries for guest posts and sending out your latest book to magazine and news editors.
Task Outsourcing is the go for technical setups or errors, as these often take a lot of time and worry for most of us. For instance, I hired a PeoplePerHour assistant to set-up the 10-Day Author Blog Challenge, a course via email. Changing themes? Save yourself the nightmare and get an experienced developer to deal with it.
Nowadays, I have a VA (virtual assistant) who does some of the eternally annoying work of posting to social media, following back, and in future, hunting out speaker events.