So I wanted to share a few specific tips for the authors who wants to sell their books as well as write them. The focus here is on on-line resources. Some of these tips are pretty basic, but I figured I'd include them because they're new to everyone at some point. As with all suggestions, take what works for you!
A version of this article originally appeared (https://booksbywomen.org/things-i-wish-id-known-about-book-marketing/) on Women Writers, Women's Books, which has dozens of articles about both the craft and business of publishing. Check out their website or join their private Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/WWWBMagazine) for more insights and industry insider knowledge!
(1) When people ask me how I found my agent, I tell them about Publishers Marketplace https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/. This is an enormous database that lists (nearly) every book deal, as well as the deals for movie/TV adaptations from books. It covers all genres, from cookbooks to YA to picture books to romance to historical fiction to biographies. Each entry (I’ve included an image of mine as a sample, above) provides the author, the agent, the publisher, and a brief synopsis. The database is also searchable. So when I was looking for an agent, I typed in: “Historical Mystery Agent.” This produced a list of dozens who describe themselves as interested in “historical” and/or “mystery,” including the seven agents who requested my manuscript and the two agents who offered me representation. You can also find their websites, where they will explain how to query them. (Perhaps it goes without saying, but follow their instructions. Most want submissions by email, and if they ask for “one chapter pasted in the body of an email,” do not send them two chapters in an attachment. You are not twice as likely to have them open it. Attachments can contain viruses.) The subscription to PM costs $25 for the month, and in addition to this database, PM provides news articles with invaluable information about the industry. You can join for just a month, but I ended up subscribing for several months afterward as well, just for the industry scoop.
(2) As many book marketing people will say, grass-roots marketing and your “brand” begins with your website. I am utterly inexperienced in website design, so I worked with a freelance website designer, who used the design program weebly (https://www.weebly.com/), which is easy for a novice to navigate, once the framework is in place. (Other favorites, depending on what you want and how adept you are include GoDaddy, WordPress, and Wix.) Weebly also hooks to mailchimp (https://mailchimp.com/) for easy administration of your mailing list (more about mailing below). Whether you are an aspiring writing or a published one, I would suggest getting your website up and running at least 3 months before your book publishes, if not more. If you have not yet created a website, take some time and review a variety of websites for other authors in your genre. Develop a checklist of things you’d like to incorporate into yours. A starter list probably should include most of these:
• links to your social media (Facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc.)
• “Buy Now” buttons
• your bio with a headshot
• cover shots of your book (s)
• a synopsis and maybe first chapter of your book
• a place for reviews
• a tab for your blog
• a tab for "Keep in Touch"
• a place to list upcoming in-person appearances, podcasts, and blogtours
(3) With multiple book review platforms, sometimes it's hard to know how best to use them. When you have a book published, reviewers will be able to post on Goodreads before your book’s pub date (for those reviewers who have been provided ARCs, or Advance Reader Copies). This is different from Amazon, which only accepts reviews after the book is published. While some authors advise, “Never look at your Goodreads reviews,” my experience with Goodreads has been positive overall, in that I’ve found people who gave 4- and 5-star reviews to my first book, A Lady in the Smoke; after my third novel was published, I messaged those people via Goodreads (there is a “message” option), asking if they’d like to read another, and most said yes. It’s a vibrant, engaged community with avid book readers including “Goodreads librarians.” Before your book is published, get on Goodreads and set up your author page; also go to Amazon and set up your Amazon Author Page (here is mine: https://www.amazon.com/Karen-Odden/e/B0186FIQF6/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1) which is where people can find out more information about you, including your bio, your website, and your blogposts. Other book review sites I like are Library Thing and Bookbub.
I have found it is best to use these platforms as both an author and a reader. That is, when you read someone else’s book, write a review (assuming it’s positive). That review of their book becomes content for you. Post it on any platform you use, including these four sites and Instagram or facebook or twitter. It helps out your fellow author and gets your name out there, too.
When I first started writing reviews, I scribbled them in a notebook. It took me a while to get going with an online review habit, and at first I only published reviews on Goodreads. However, now when I write a review for a book I like, I publish it (with an easy copy & paste) on these six sites: Goodreads, Library Thing, Bookbub, my Facebook page (personal and author), my book blog LoveBooksAZ (http://lovebooksaz.blogspot.com/) and my website, under the “BOOKS I RECOMMEND” tab. I also take a picture of the book and post it on Instagram, with a brief review and the line, “For the complete review, go to www.karenodden.com” and include hashtags. (More on that, below.) From Facebook, I post it on my personal page and my author page and then “share” the post to various pages for groups to which I belong, including (for example) Bookworms of the World, Historical Novel Society, and Women Writers, Women’s Books.
(https://www.canva.com/). The basic level is free, and although you can obtain more designs, fonts, and design assistance from the version you have to pay for, even the basic one comes with some fun pre-made layouts, lots of background colors, and many serif, sans serif, and calligraphy typefaces.
Use this to market your book with images that are professional and eye-catching. You can select which size and format you’d like (e.g. “Instagram Post” “Twitter” “Facebook” or a custom size). I've provided two samples here, just to give you an idea, but if you go to Instagram, you'll find lots of layouts and ideas.
(5) Bitly. This is an amazing resource, and free; find it at www.bitly.com. There are two reasons to use it. First, Bitly takes a long URL and shortens it, so you can put it more easily on Instagram, twitter, and elsewhere. This is especially useful on Instagram because you cannot have a “clickable link” in your caption to your image. You can only have one link, in your bio. So if you want someone to retype into their browser something that looks like this: https://www.karenodden.com/blog/rosy-my-faithful-writing-companion-or-how-i-became-a-dog-person, it’s not going to happen. Whereas something that looks like this: bitly/KarenLovesRosy it might. The second reason is that Bitly also enables you to track how many people clicked on your link on different platforms. This provides invaluable information about how effective your placements are.
(6) A newsletter. Some people like doing them; others don't. Whatever you do, don't send it too often (I send one every 6 weeks) and make sure to have some interesting content and a reason for people to open it, including a giveaway or book news. Develop a recognizable "header," consistent with your brand, so people know it's you. I use mailchimp for creating my newsletter, and I keep it pretty simple, with one column and plenty of pictures. Here is a sample of mine, but I would suggest signing up for several newsletters from authors in your genre, so you can see what other people do: bit.ly/OddenOctNews Building your mailing list can be a challenge, but one thing you'll probably want to do is put a "pop up" window on your website, so people can sign up for it there.
(7) Hashtags. #Hashtagging can be done on virtually any social media platform (twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.). Hashtagging is an art in itself, but eventually you’ll find the ones you use most often to attract interest from people who follow particular hashtags. For example, I would tag A Trace of Deceit with #histfic #historical #Victorian #art #bookstagram #authorsofinstagram #mystery #suspense. #bookstagram is one of the most potent, as the community is very active on Instagram; it is a veritable web of book bloggers, fans, authors, and writers.
(9) The writing life calendar. This isn't an online resource, although I know a lot of people keep their marketing calendar online. I'm a paper girl (it's the Victorian in me) and keep my calendar on paper, on one of those inexpensive year-long calendars. I schedule out any guest blogs, in-person appearances (rare during Covid, yes), bookclubs I attend, planned Instagram marketing posts, and so on. I also include any webinars I'm attending or teaching, as well as the zoom events for Sisters in Crime, Arizona Historical Novel Society, and so on, so I can post about them. I also include deadlines for submissions to anthologies. This is my dedicated writing life calendar, and it not only keeps me from dropping balls and missing zoom calls, it helps me to keep track of what I did three months ago that I might want to revisit or try again for the next book.
If you liked this post, please click the LIKE button below or comment. If this is popular, I will provide another group of marketing and book industry tips next month. Thanks, and happy holiday season!