In case you haven’t been following our marketing toolbox series, you can find the first part here and the second part here. In the first, we looked at important steps toward preparing your marketing plan and your book release. Part two identified the keys to maintaining your marketing plan. In this final segment, we’ll look at the long term planning and steps you’ll want to take in order to keep selling copies after the initial promotional push.
Considered broadly, your long-term marketing plan for your book is actually pretty simple. Basically, you’ll just extend the initial plan to a less intense degree. Social media, emails, and consistently generating content for your author website/blog will still be priorities. This may seem obvious, but once that initial surge of marketing and selling ends, I’m guessing you’ll want a little break, then you’ll dive into your next project, be it writing, editing, or designing your next book.
Eventually, that book will be done, and you’ll start the process all over again. Right?
Well, sort of right. You don’t want to just stop marketing after your book’s release and initial push. Think about it from a reader perspective. For a few months or so, your readers see social media and email updates regularly, they buy a copy of your book (Yay!) and they get to understand your author brand. Then all that vanishes. The might read your book and drop a review on your Lulu page, or maybe on the book’s Goodreads page, but they stop interacting beyond that. And they will stop interacting unless you keep prompting them.
So how do you keep marketing without a book to directly promote?
I’m glad you asked! Today we’ll focus on four points that can help keep on track with promoting your author brand, selling your book(s), and making the marketing side of self-publishing a regular part of the whole experience. We’ve looked at developing a plan and enacting that plan in our previous two articles, and much of what we touched on last week applies to your long term goals as well. The seven keys to following through on your marketing plan remain unchanged in the long term, and you’ll need to be consistently creating and sharing content across your platform.
Think about this article as a second guide to your marketing plan. You’ve laid out the initial plan, plotted the release of the book and the sales promotions surrounding the release, and you’ve begun establishing yourself as an author brand. The long term plan will be essentially the same in concept, though you’ll be stripping out a majority of the work and focusing on small efforts to keep your presence felt without overloading yourself.
In the interest of keeping your long term plan simple, we’ll look at four points of importance that can guide you as you continue to market and promote your book after the initial push. As I’ve mentioned in the previous two articles, these suggestions are just that: suggestions. Other factors may be more or less important based on your book, your market, and your goals.
One piece of terminology I’ll use today that may be new (in publishing and book marketing terms) is a follower.
Of course, in social media, a follower is anyone receiving notification or updates regard specific content. You’re mailing list, blog subscribers, Facebook likers, and anyone who can see your content when you make it available qualifies as a follower. Rather than thoroughly defining the group of potential readers, you’ll appeal to with your efforts, we’ll examine how your strategy will apply to the broad group of followers you’ve connected with during your initial marketing efforts.
With that in mind, let’s explore how you can stay on track with your marketing and sales goals for the long term!
We’ve talked a lot about this, but it bears repeating. Content is the heart of your marketing plans. Post on social media. Write blog posts regularly. Send emails regularly. All of this trains your followers to expect content from you. Don’t lapse on giving the public what they want.
Content is the glue you’ll use to bind followers to your brand. All the initial contact may have been a result of a sale or a recommendation from someone you’re already connected with, or perhaps even in person signing or sales events. However you did it, you’ve got a list of social media followers and email addresses. You cannot allow this resource to go unused! Nor do you want to be posting on social media or email promotional content all the time. Email spam filters will start to absorb your correspondences, and social media users will begin scrolling past without reading or engaging with you.
You need relevant and quality content to keep your followers engaged. If they find you interesting and keep up with your content offerings, they are that much more likely to notice your next book launch. Content can do this for you. Sharing interesting articles about publishing, writing, or books in general, writing blog posts that engage and reveal something about the life of an author, the way you write, or the publishing process, and even personal content like funny pictures of your pets or mention of other significant achievements in your life are all valid and useful pieces of content you can use.
Balance posting book and publishing related pieces with some personal stuff. Your followers need to get to know you, and your work. The more topical your content, the better, as it will speak to current and trending questions or concerns your readers may have about publishing and authorship. Think about it: your readers will almost all be just readers, but they will be interested in your process, how you navigated the work that goes into publishing, and they may even become interested in self-publishing their own work!
You may wonder how to keep a continuous stream of content flowing. That’s a great question.
I don’t mean the grocery store around the corner. I don’t mean just the sales pages online for your book either. The publishing market is a big and often shifting thing, encompassing publishing and book selling in all its forms. Scour the Internet for sites and pages offering industry information and newsletters. A couple of good ones include Publisher’s Weekly and Digital Book World. Another important site to keep an eye on is Author Earnings for sales trends and genre popularity tracking.
Keeping your eye on the market serves a number of important ends. As we’re assuming you’ve already written, published, and released a book, the ever-changing trends in the market will help guide your future market planning, as well as providing data to understand what readers are looking for in books. Imagine you’ve written a mystery novel with strong romantic overtones. If you see that romance is much more popular than mystery at the moment, you might reconsider how you pitch your book. The book itself – the story you’ve woven – remains unchanged, but the direction you take with things like the market plan and cover design might change a little.
That’s one benefit of knowing your market. Another involves our previous point: Content. I may sound a little like a broken record here, but the content is a vital piece of your author brand. Content marketing, in general, might be a popular trend at the moment, but for authors, there will always be value in offering content. You’re a writer! It should be easy and fun to create small pieces of content to share with your followers, and as they come to know you and your content better, they’ll be eager to support you by purchasing your book(s)!
A good sense of the market can inform your long term strategy in more immediate ways. Think about it like this: let’s say the initial push is over, you’ve had some sales, and now you want to wind down those efforts and start working on your next book. The long term plan might be a couple blog posts a month, email newsletters to go with those posts, and once a day social media posting. Seems like a simple and low-effort marketing plan for a long time frame, right? But because you’re putting less effort into your marketing after the release efforts, you can benefit from a bit of careful targeting. Notice a lot of talk about books or readers in your genre floating around on the Internet? Might be a good time to send a promotional email to your subscribers or run a series of straight promotional posts on your social media to capitalize on the uptick in interest.
Overall, it’s just a good idea to be in the know as much as possible about the industry, the trends, and the genres that are selling well. Knowledge is powerful for a writer, and you can translate industry knowledge into content, marketing plans, and even a strategy for writing. If your goal is to sell copies of your book, you have to know the buyers and the other sellers you’ll compete with as thorough as you can. Then use this knowledge to appeal to the followers you have – they’ll appreciate your knowledge and your willingness to share it.
If you follow the Lulu Blog, I bet you’ve seen the phrase “writing is a community activity” at least once. I tend to say it a lot. And for good reason. Writing may seem very solitary but in reality it’s not. You write for an audience. Why, then, would you not want their perspective and advice while you write? Same with other authors. Yes, they might technically be “competition” in terms of making sales, but if you ever meet an author so cut-throat in their desire for sales that they eschew the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with their peers, I would avoid that person.
Building relationships is a common piece of advice you’d hear from anyone in any industry. Entrepreneurs – and make no mistake, if you’re selling your book and marketing it yourself, you are an entrepreneur – find their success not just through offering an innovative or highly needed product, but also by knowing the right people, and making the right connections. Imagine you met and exchanged contact info with a well known and popular author, as at a book expo or in-store event. Then you release your book and offer to send that author a free company, asking very nicely if they might consider dropping you a review. If they like your book, they might even recommend it to their network of followers, and just like that with a simple meeting and an email, you’ve tapped into another author’s network and gained a wealth of exposure.
Relationships need not be so grand or one-sided either. Forge bonds with other local authors and writing groups. Even if a portion of these connections shares your social media, blog, or other promotional material, you’ll be extending your reach to their networks.
While you’re in the long term piece of your marketing plan, relationships are a great point of focus. Go to writing groups, other author signings at your local bookstore, and larger events like expos and conventions. Make the connections you’ll need to consistently grow your author brand and see increased sales with each subsequent book you release.
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that the last step in your long term marketing plan is relevant to all aspects of your writing and book selling goals. But it is worth looking at particularly when it comes to the continual marketing of your book(s) and your brand. Managing one’s time is a challenge we all face in many aspects of our day to day lives.
You’re a writer, so it’s safe to assume you’ve got a good sense of managing your time. Finding the hours to write your book, edit it, layout it out, and all the other self-publishing prep works likely ranks you among the best at time management. It is even more important then that you do not let your marketing plan slip. Block time regularly to perform the tasks you’ve incorporated into your plan (social media posting, researching the industry, blogging, etc.).
Managing your time well, in an organized and consistent fashion, will keep you on track with not only your marketing plan but also your writing.
The reason to bring this up specifically regarding the long term marketing strategy is that your workload will be shifting post-release. For a period of time, you’ll be putting all your focus into selling and promoting your new book. Once that period ends and you transition to writing or editing your next piece, the time you spend promoting your book(s) and yourself will naturally decrease. But you can’t allow it to grind to a complete halt!
Plan time to make those social media posts, set aside time to blog weekly in your regular writing schedule. Consistency in your marketing, both for the book(s) you are selling and for yourself as an author, is crucial to maintaining an ever-growing base of followers – the very people who will be the buyers of your next book!
If there’s one major take away from this series of book marketing, it should be PLANNING. Some authors will tell you they plan out their book from start to finish, others will write freely and let the story evolve. Be creative in your writing methods. But when it comes time to sell the book, the more preparation, and planning you can dedicate to the project, the more successful you’ll be.
I cannot reiterate the importance of planning enough. Do not expect a great deal of success in selling your book(s) without a dedicated marketing plan. It might happen, but I would chalk that up to luck more than anything. Or maybe you’re the next Stephen King and your books are just so good they will sell themselves. But most of us are expecting reasonable sales – and to make that a reality, you need a solid plan in place.
Last thing I want to mention again. My strategies here and in the previous two pieces in this series are advice. No one plan or idea is a sure thing. And if your book or your audience seems likely to benefit from some unique marketing strategies that I didn’t mention, by all means, explore them. More than any one piece of advice, marketing in the self-publishing world is about trial and error, being willing to put in the work, and consistently giving the audience you do have content and reason to keep an eye on you (for future sales).
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, responsible for all the words you see on our site (misspellings included). He also manages the community site – http://connect.lulu.com/en/ – and in his free time, he’s an avid reader and short story writer.