I've worked in marketing for the last 10 years, and while I'm only in the agent querying stage of my writing journey, I can't help but imagine the magical day when I may have to put my day job skills to work to help sell my book. *crosses fingers, toes, arms and legs*
My day job has taught me that consumers love to share their opinions, and thanks to social media they have a way to share their opinions with the masses, for better or worse. Companies want consumers to spread the word about their brands and products, and so many brands spend significant resources developing platforms that encourage and enable sharing.
Think about the brands you purchased on your most recent trek to Target - every single one has a webpage, and most likely that webpage has some kind of rating/review tool to encourage visitors to review and comment about their products. They probably have a Facebook page, and may even have a hashtag or Pintrest page. (Yes, brands use Pintrest too!) Most likely they sponsor and/or contribute to a blog about topics related to their product category. When a new product launches, the marketers behind the scenes may send free samples to well known bloggers in the hopes that they will blog about it and you will read about it. They may host a contest, encouraging you to like them on Facebook so your friends will learn about the new product.
Do any of these things sound familiar? Yeah, turns out that brands with multi-million dollar budgets use some of the exact same tactics that authors use when trying to sell their books.
Of course the big difference is that brands have millions of dollars to help build awareness for their products, and awareness is how people know to go to their website, Facebook page or enter their contest in the first place. As a debut author, you're going to have to rely on the most valuable (and free) resource you have available to build awareness - your network.
You will need people to read your story and go onto Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes and Nobles to rate and review your book. Goodreads in particular requires several hundred reviews in order for a book to leverage its recommendation tool (here is a great article that explains how books are discovered on Goodreads.)
That means you are going to need to rely on more than family and close friends - you're going to have to seek out people who will not only read your book, but engage in activities that will help to spread the word.
Here are a few things you can do today to help build a network of people that will spread the word about your book when your magical publishing day comes.
1. Don't be a lurker
People want to support the people who support them, and one of the easiest ways to build a network is to actively network and engage with like-minded writers via social media. You're probably already doing this to some degree, but how engaged are you? Are you lurking around sites, forums and blogs, reading but never commenting? If so, it's time to stop lurking and get to know the writing community.
- Don't just follow blogs - leave comments. Let people know that you're there. Tell them when they've written something that resonates with you. Tweet about the posts you've enjoyed or found interesting.
- Get involved in blog contests beyond simply entering. Leave encouraging posts for your fellow writers, even if you didn't make it into the final round. If you see an entry that sounds fantastic, tell that person. Seek them out on twitter and share your encouraging words. If you see an entry you think needs some work, find a way to offer constructive and helpful criticism. Become a resource to your fellow writers.
- Become actively involved on writing forums like AgentQuery Connect. Get to know the others writers on there by engaging with them and supporting their efforts. Don't just use the resources, be a resource for others by commenting on queries and offering help and feedback.
- Don't just swap business cards at writing conferences - follow up. Send your new writer friend a note telling them it was nice to meet them. Follow their blog and find them on twitter. Engage with them long after the conference is over.
2. Use the 5:3:2 rule for social media networking
Nobody wants to be friends with the person who only talks shop, but nobody wants to network with someone who doesn't bring anything to the table. The key is balance. For every 10 tweets/blogposts/etc:
- 5 should be sharing content from others that is relevant to the writing community.
- 3 should be sharing content from you that is relevant to the writing community, but not trying to sell something (i.e. progress made on your new WIP, a book you just read and loved.)
- 2 should be something personal and non-writing related, so that people can get to know the non-writer you.
3. Pay it forward
Become a reviewer. Rate and review books on Goodreads, Amazon and B&N. If you hear that someone in your network is releasing a book, show your support for that person by buying their book and reviewing it. Then spread the word.
Invite up and coming writers to guest blog. Let them benefit from your network. Give other writers the awareness building platform that you one day hope to have.
4. Be genuine
Ever become friends with someone on Facebook only to have their person agenda constantly thrown at you? Or maybe you started following a new author on twitter, and all they ever do is talk about their book.
Don't be that person. Yes, you are building a network that you may one day need to lean on, but you're also opening yourself up to a new community of friends. Treat them the way you want to be treated.