Marketing, branding, networking, self-promotion, negotiating… there are many aspects to the commercial mindset that a writer has to get their head around these days. You may be daunted by the thought of having to sell yourself, but by starting small and slowly pushing yourself, you’ll find it gets easier all the time…
Think about your market
Your book won’t magically find readers, so thinkabout what sort of people might buy it. If your book is about AI, you might target people with an interest in tech; if your book is about the Civil War, you might target people with a passion for history.
Meet your audiences where they live
Think about where your audience might live, especially online, and how to connect with them. You could find tech enthusiasts in AI groups on LinkedIn, follow AI authors and experts on Twitter and Medium, and join the threads of tech blogs. For the Civil War novelist, there will be historical societies, clubs and forums.
For our book Work in Progress, a comic novel about a writers’ group, we targeted aspiring scribblers on Twitter and Facebook. We followed writing sites and magazines, and ended up giving talks on writing to clubs and businesses, as well as writing 100+ articles on different aspects of writing.
Develop your brand
Think about how to sum up what kind of writer you are in a few memorable words that become your mantra when introducing yourself, pitching, in social profiles and so on. For my fiction, I came up with ‘funny-sad author’ as a label I can use everywhere, eg on my website, Medium, Twitter and LinkedIn. This vision statement exercise is a good way to get you thinking about this.
Develop your networking muscles
When you meet a potential reader or publisher, make a point of following up with a friendly note and a link to an article they might find useful. Writing book blurbs and reviews, and giving feedback to fellow writers are all ways to network too; what goes around, comes around. Social networking really helps to scale your reach too. Initially, you may want to create a new profile to separate your writing persona from other parts of your life.
Research a bunch of ‘influencers’ — like-minded authors, publications, organisations with ready-made audiences who might be interested in your work. Don’t just follow or blast out messages at random — engage with people, amplify their posts, celebrate successes. In my years on writing Twitter, I’ve noticed that the writers who become most successful commercially are often the most generous in boosting others. More social tips here
Do some content marketing
Start weighing in on your subject area so you grow people’s perception of you as a ‘thought leader’ in your field. One popular legal writer in the UK, ‘The Secret Barrister’, always shares interesting opinions on crime and justice topics on Twitter and blogs. People now often @ him directly for his thoughts on topical issues.
Sing for your supper
Give a talk to your local history club or write a blog post for a history site in exchange for a plug for your new Civil War. Even if they can’t pay, such venues offer invaluable access to an on-target audience.
Always be closing
Always keep an eye out for sales opportunities as you go through your day, and be ready with a copy of your book or a link to a website. Always follow up on promotional opportunities promptly too, or they can quickly be forgotten.
Don’t blink first
Many writers hate negotiating $$. One key tip: don’t be the first person to say an amount — this gives you a basis for asking more and ensures you don’t undersell yourself. Start by practising negotiating where it doesn’t matter, eg in a yard sale. More tips here
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