Having an audience is an essential part of being a published author. I assume this is something we can all agree on, I don’t need to make a case for it – without readers, you’re sending your book out into the void. Curating your audience is an important part of creating your author brand, but there’s more to your audience than just readers. You need a network of reviewers, bloggers, influencers, media outlets, and other authors to expand your audience and grow your author brand.
Important Tools to Have in Your Toolkit
In this blog post we take an in-depth dive into the marketing tools and planning opportunities at your disposal, but I’d like to take a second to talk about the most basic and yet most important tools you need. When pursuing any kind of publicity for your book – media outlets, bookstore or library events, blog features, etc. – chances are very good that you’ll be asked to provide some, if not all, of the following:
- A high-quality cover file (a jpeg, png file, or a flattened PDF is usually best)
- A concise author bio
- A high-quality author photo
- A clear synopsis (also known as cover copy, or flap copy, the book summary that appears on the back of your book, the interior cover flap, and on your buy pages)
In some cases the photos may be reproduced, so it’s helpful to have any necessary photo credits available. If you hired a cover artist or a professional for your author photos, keep their information available! Save yourself the effort of having to collect all of this each time – and more importantly, keep your branding consistent – by having all of the above readily on hand and available before you begin your efforts to grow your author network.
The Elevator Pitch
Another helpful tool for your toolkit is an elevator pitch. Basically, you want to sell someone on the idea of your book – at the very least intrigue them enough to keep reading your email, press release, or message – in one sentence. Maybe two. If helpful, find 2-3 books, movies, tv shows, or fanbases to compare your book to; just make sure these comparisons are actually accurate. Consider these two examples of a good, concise elevator pitch:
- Red, White, and Royal Blue is a charming novel about a forbidden, trans-atlantic romance, coming of age in a political world, and finding yourself. Perfect for fans of The Wedding Date, The Princess Diaries, and West Wing.
- Disney’s Land is an incisive look into how Walt Disney’s groundbreaking amusement park grew from an imaginative dream to an incredible reality. Perfect for fans of The Imagineering Story, The Devil in the White City, and for Disney enthusiasts around the world!
Where Do You Start Building Your Author Network?
Now that you’re fully armed with all your publicity materials it’s time to start making the connections you need to grow your author network. The good news about the ever-growing, ever-connected world we live in is that it’s possible to make networking connections now that never would have been possible 20-30 years ago. The bad news is that with that many options available to you it can be daunting to try and figure out where to start. Here are a few ideas for where you can start your search:
Book, Author, and Writing Associations
No matter what genre you’re writing in – fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir, etc. – chances are good there’s a writers association for you. Crime novelist? Try Mystery Writers of America. Interested in writing your memoir? Check out the National Association of Memoir Writers. Or, if you’re interested in broader, less nuanced organizations, be sure to check out groups like the Nonfiction Authors Association and the Independent Book Publishers Association.
These organizations can provide incredible networking opportunities, resources and useful information to help you through every step of your publishing process, and can connect you with other authors that may be able to help your publicity efforts. Plus, many of them host annual conferences around the country, which brings us to our next point.
Like writing associations, there are an incredible number of book and publishing conferences, conventions, and festivals hosted locally and globally every year. Some, like BookExpo America, BookCon, and the London Book Fair are massive, industry-wide extravaganzas. Others, like Thrillerfest, Book Lovers Con, and YALLWest, are genre-specific. Even more, like the San Francisco Writers Conference, IBPA Publishing University, or the StoryShop Summit, focus specifically on the craft of writing and publishing.
Conferences can definitely be costly to attend – even if the badge price is reasonable there are often additional expenses, the hotel and transportation and the miscellany can add up. If attending a major event is out of your budget, check your area for a smaller, more localized meet up. You can also keep an eye on places like Facebook groups or message boards for the larger events – even if you can’t physically attend there are often networking opportunities in their online communities!
Ask Your Audience
Your audience isn’t just a stone wall to throw your promotional efforts against – they’re at their best when you’re engaging with them and they’re engaging back! Ask them who their favorite authors are. Ask them about their favorite person to follow on Twitter. And Ask them what other books they’ve read that are similar to yours. Before long, you might just have a list of new contacts to reach out to.
Take Your Search Global
Thanks to the internet, we’re not limited to contacts in our immediate area. Also thanks to the internet, we live in a time where there’s a niche market out there for just about everything. Are you specifically interested in exclusively independently produced horror? There’s a site for that. Do you write historical cozy mysteries? There’s a blogger that only reads cozy mysteries that take place in historic Pennsylvania, out there waiting for you. Did you write 200 pages on one specific species of roses? There’s an influencer dying to photograph your book in their garden.
Niche Media Outlets
Do a quick Google search for your book topic or genre and chances are you’ll come across at least one media outlet – a news site, a blog, a YouTube channel, a podcast, a radio show, etc. Take a moment to draft a quick introduction email to an appropriate editor, PR rep, or general inquiries contact. This is where you say that you are an author, newly or soon-to-be published, include your elevator pitch for your book, mention why you believe you and your book are a good fit for this outlet, and ask if there are any opportunities for collaboration!
They may do book reviews – which, score, there’s a great review for future use – but even if they don’t there are still plenty of potential opportunities for publicity. Maybe they’d like to do an interview, or a Live Q&A, or have you write a guest blog post. It’s always worth asking.
Blogs, Bloggers, and Influencers
Bloggers are the future of the publishing industry. They are also, in some genres more than others, your new best friends. More often than not bloggers are writing about books solely for the love of them – what an incredible audience to have available to you. Even better, much like those niche media outlets, there are blogs and bloggers covering a wide range of genres and subjects – I’m willing to bet that you can find at least one that fits you and your book.
Most bloggers will have a section on their blog that will indicate whether or not they’re currently open to author pitches, and if they are how they would prefer you reach out to them. Also, be sure to take a look at who they’re following, who their followers are, and who they interact with – chances are good that if your book really is a good fit for this blog then these people might be a good fit for your author network too!
Are you familiar with the idea of a blog tour? If not, let me change your life. Now, in the interest of being transparent, I’ll confess that I’ve only ever worked with fiction blog tour organizers before, so this might be more relevant to our fiction authors. Of course, I’ve never tried to work with a non-fiction blog tour before, so there’s every chance in the world there are some out there!
Blog tours are a great, often a free or very inexpensive opportunity to get publicity on a variety of different blogs. The blog tour organizer will arrange for a group of blogs to each “host” an author on their blog, once a day for the arranged window of time. The content will vary by tour, tour host, and what the author provides, but in many cases will include an author Q&A, a guest blog post, a spotlight feature, a giveaway, or a book review. Blog tours can be a great opportunity to get your book out in front of a new segment of your niche audience every day.
Don’t Forget to Stay Local
We’re not limited to contacts in our immediate area, but that definitely doesn’t mean we should forget about them! Local organizations and media outlets can be incredible resources for spreading the word about your new book, for helping to identify meetup groups and communities that may help grow your network and your audience, and of course for providing places to host book signings and events!
Local Meetups and Groups
Whether you’re keeping it as grassroots as a coffee shop community bulletin board or using an app like Meetup.com, there are plenty of ways to find local book clubs, writers groups, even just general interest groups. Maybe your local country club would be interested in hosting an educational event for their monthly Ladies Lunch. Maybe the local retirement community has a book club. Or Maybe your local Starbucks hosts NaNoWriMo meetups. Your community is full of interest groups and opportunities to expand your audience and your author network – don’t be afraid to think outside the box while you’re looking for them!
Local Bookstores and Libraries
If you disregard every single other piece of advice in this blog post, let this be your one takeaway: reach out to your local bookstore(s) and libraries.
Pro tip: absolutely check their website first – many stores and libraries will have a section on their website that speaks to authors specifically. If they do, be sure to follow their procedure when reaching out to them; if they prefer to be contacted via Google Form, you will not make friends by calling and demanding to speak to the Event Coordinator. Trust me.
That being said, don’t hesitate to contact them once you’ve done your homework. Send off a quick introductory email that looks something like this:
My name is Lauren, I’m a newly published / soon to be published indie author that has lived in [this community] for some time! I would love to have the opportunity to host an event at your bookstore. I have read through the guidelines posted on your site and submitted an event request form. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do or provide to make this event a reality!
Whether you’re hoping to host a book signing or event there or you’re interested in having your book available on the shelf, a polite professional inquiry is your best foot in the door.
While on their website, be sure to check out any additional resources they may have. Is there an event coming soon for a book in the same genre as yours? Go to it! Does your library host a monthly book club or writing group? Look into those! Bookstores and libraries are making more and more efforts to become true community centers – there’s bound to be at least one event relevant to your area of expertise that may help you grow your audience or author network!
Local Media Outlets
Just like your niche media outlets, local media outlets are great resources for publicity. Whether you’re looking for a potential book review, a Local Celebrity spotlight, a publishing announcement, an interview, an event announcement, or even just a quick shout out, reach out to your local newspaper, news channel, Patch.com page, church bulletin, or whatever you have available in your hometown. And hey, speaking of hometowns – maybe where you live right now isn’t where you were born and raised, but you still have family and friends and roots in that original home. Everyone loves a good hometown success story – reach out to their local media too!
Make Those Connections Last
Regardless of who you’re reaching out to and what your goal is – growing your network, seeking publicity opportunities, or planning events – there are three important things to remember:
- It’s important to stay respectful and professional, but also to be yourself. You’ve worked hard on your book, you’re the expert – confidence in your craft, your product, and your value are half the sales pitch.
- It’s not just about what these contacts can do for you, but also what you can offer to make these relationships mutually beneficial for everyone involved! Many of these people on your list will be just that much more receptive to a new partnership if it benefits everyone. Know another local author in your area? See if you can host a joint event! Want a blogger to share a guest post on their blog? Offer to share one of their posts on your blog, or include one in your email newsletter!
- It’s a brutal truth, but: manage your expectations, and manage your efforts accordingly. The publishing industry and the world in general have made leaps and bounds in their appreciation, understanding, and acceptance of self-published and independently published authors, but there are still plenty of outlets that won’t be receptive to even the most well-crafted and relevant pitch. Don’t hesitate to reach for a couple of stars, of course, but we know that your time is valuable – commit your efforts where they are most likely to pay off.
Above all else, remember that it’s worth the effort – the author network you’re cultivating right now won’t just support this one book – it could very well last for the rest of your writing career.
Lauren is the Social Media Manager at Lulu, which means she gets paid to spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram every day. The combined efforts of working as an indie bookstore manager, working as a publicist at a publishing house, and earning an MFA in Creative Writing have all given Lauren an unconventional but well-rounded crash-course in publishing. She can often be found voraciously reading Twitter feeds and YA novels, or attempting to exorcise her cat.