Releasing a novel is a bit like being sucked into a tornado while a bunch of people smile and wave at you. It's exhilarating, terrifying, and you can't always predict which direction you'll be thrown. With the expanse of online communities and personal networks available to authors these days, it's hard to know what to focus on when you're trying to self promote. Or how to self promote in the first place.
So, that's what I'm here to talk to you about. No more illusive talk, I'm getting down to the basics. It doesn't matter if you've never been published or have already published and want to grow your audience; it's never too early or too late to start self promoting.
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1. Brand yourself.
When you start self promoting, it's exactly that: SELF promoting. You are the business you are trying to sell, not a particular story. You want all of your other endeavors to succeed because you are the one responsible for them. The goal is to make your name recognizable, so you'll have to decide early on if you want to use your real name or a pseudonym. Once you decide, create all your social media accounts, online community profiles, websites, and business cards with the same name. You don't want to be @rachelhuffmire on one site and @rachiewrites on another. Keep them consistent and professional.
When I first started out, I heard an illusive term floating around: author platform. They told me it was important, but nobody really spelled it out for me. So here you go--- an author platform means all the places you'll be able to stand up and say "Hey! Look at this awesome thing I did!" The bigger the platform, the more people will hear about you and your novel. Your followers don't have to be restricted to writerly groups. If you have a following that watches your how-to videos on making felt finger puppets on YouTube, guess what! That's part of your platform! Figure out what niches you fit into, how you can offer people valuable content, and be friendly. Genuinely make connections, and you'll be surprised how quickly your group can grow!
A few things to think about... Your platforms need to be public, to draw people in. That being said, you need to decide how publicly you are going to broadcast your personal opinions and private life. For me, I decided not to post much about my kids, because, you know, weird people. But, I'm also pretty careful about staying clear of supercharged issues. My brand is not involved in politics, controversial events, derogatory speach, or anything explicit. That's the brand I've chosen. Whereas, some people's brands revolve exclusively around those things. Realize that you absolutely have to make some deliberate decisions about what you can be involved in online.
2. Develop a website.
When people hear your name, they need a landing zone. Your website is where you can tie all your platforms together into one big self-promoting mega machine. People might stumble across your latest tweet, or Instagram pic, but the people who visit your website are deliberate seekers of your brand. These people are coming with questions: What was her book called? Does she have any signing events going on? Can I sign up for a newsletter? I liked her book, I wonder if she wrote anything else.
A good website will have a short bio, blog articles, links to where they can purchase your products, newsletter subscription forms, and event information. You don't have to buy a domain yet, but as soon as you get that publishing contract, having a .com address will make you easier to find and look more professional.
After you get set up, do some research about how to improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). When people type in your name, you want to be the first google hit that shows up. It might be a little daunting, but I can promise you, having a polished website that is the first thing to show up on a google search will make all the marketing you do for your release day much more profitable. So get this step done early.
3. Be Human.
If the only things you post on your social media are self promotional ads, you will find yourself quickly losing your network as people mute or unfollow you. Social media is obsessed with watching other people live life. Recently, a writerly friend counseled me to "Do all the human things! And do them every day." Consistently posting to the social media fronts will get your name stuck in people's heads. Post about your vacations, home renovation projects, favorite writing spots, new book you read, funny thing your kid said, cool artwork you found online... If you show your personality, preferences, can make them laugh, or think then you will gain genuine connections.
When people comment on your stuff, comment back. Be a pleasant person to interact with. You'll find that connecting with the people who reach out to you is rewarding. I have met some wonderful people via Twitter and Facebook. It makes conferences even more fun when you start to bump into those people in real life and have an instant friendship.
The best way to post about your new release is to let people be part of the process. Show them the milestones leading up to the release day. Let people be a part of the journey and express gratitude for their support.
4. Cross Promote
Combining forces with other like minded authors is a fun and essential part of self promotion. It usually takes over a year to write and release a book, so what do their fans do while they're waiting for the sequel from their favorite author? Read yours of course! Plus, It's always easier to promote someone else's work, right?When you collaborate, it introduces them to your followers and you to theirs. Here are a few of my favorite ways to collaborate:
When I was in college, I worked at the BYU bookstore. I got to see book signings a lot. Some of them were enviable, with lines stretching out the door (*cough* Brandon Sanderson *cough*), and others were almost painfully quiet. Now, most of the authors were local and had 2-3 friends show up for a signed copy and the rest they sold were to passing students. Some arrived during the busiest parts of the day, and never sold a single book, while others were during quiet hours and completely sold out their stock to college kids with hardly any spending cash. How did they do that? Here are a few things I noticed.
I still have a lot to learn about self promotion. My novel has only been on sale for less than two weeks. But using these self-promotional tools got me to the #1 New Release for Fairy Tales on Amazon within 24 hours of its debut! I feel like genuinely connecting with people is key. Having quality interactions, supporting others, and being grateful for all the milestones you achieve will get you farther than pushing numbers. I can't wait to see what innovative ideas you come up with!
Rachel Huffmire grew up in the middle of a Utah wheat field where she found plenty of time to read and dream. After dabbling with writing novels and stage plays, she ran to the BYU bookstore for her first job. Behind the register, she watched local authors hold book signings and began dreaming up plots of her own. She currently lives in Southern California where she enjoys sand at its finest: the beach and the desert.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.