How to Market and Sell Yourself (and Then Your Book)

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In today’s world, you have to learn how to sell anything and that includes even yourself. It’s what publishers and authors know all too well. It’s easy to assume the book would sell itself since it is what you have to show for all that time and hard work you put in. But it just really isn’t that simple.

The market is flooded with authors trying to get people to buy their work but fortunately there isn’t a lack of demand from readers. There’s just a huge change in what makes those readers want to pick up a book and spend money on it, and some authors are figuring how to navigate this murky new realm: selling themselves.

Social media has become paramount in our lives, in our jobs, and for our wallets. This is especially true in the publishing world. No longer does the general population consume books authored by disembodied voices with the jazzy name slapped on the cover, they read books by who they already know or who they’ve heard about. Authors nowadays have to get their face out in addition to their voices, attracting followers not just because of their work but also their personality. Why? Because selling a book is easy once you have that large following, just ask JK Rowling or Hank Green or any celebrity with a book deal and their millions of followers who don’t hesitate in picking up a copy. But how does this help the average author trying to sell their books?

It’s a good thing social media is a beast because like any beast, it can be tamed. If you know what you’re doing. And you don’t try to rush it because that can lead to disastrous results. Here is a simple guide with some tips to craft your social media persona or to beef up your existing ones and to amass a following of your own.

The first step is to figure out who your audience is. There is a reason why this is taught in almost every marketing 101 class: you can’t sell anything if you don’t know who you’re trying to sell to! Is the book you’re writing geared towards kids (narrow down to a certain age group, there is a big different between 12/13 year olds and 7 year olds!), young adults, sci fi fanatics, romance lovers, et cetera? And don’t say “My book will appeal to everybody!” because everybody does not like everything. Know who you are trying to target. Please.

Next, open accounts where much of your audience tends to congregate. For this, you will have to do some research on your own but opening accounts on Facebook and on Twitter are always great ideas since they are the largest and the most mainstream. But don’t stop there; there are always new social media apps getting popular and attracting huge audiences! Don’t be afraid to experiment with apps that may seem too out there!

Since you now have all those new accounts glistening at you with their blankness, have some fun customizing and designing the layout of your profile! You don’t want to leave your pages blank, you want to show any potential followers that you are a real person and not a robot (yes, a real concern on many social media sites). Again, take note of who you are trying to reach. Trying to attract young adult readers with kid friendly bright colors may not work out so well and likewise with romance themes to kids. Make sure you spend time on the design, people are more likely to spend time on your page in turn if they like the way it looks!

If it lets you upload an image to use as your avatar, make it one that represents who you are and who you want to be to your audience, just don’t forget who your audience is! Using a picture of yourself wearing funny glasses may work well if your audience is kids but it’s not going to fly with the romance lovers. Also, try to incorporate your book into the theme. If it’s already been released, you should post a link to it on a retailer’s website. If it’s not been published yet, you should put up some related art or banner (that you have the copyright or permission to use of course) with the date it’s going to be released, or even the preorder link if you can. It never hurts to drum up some anticipation!

If you find customizing your layout a bit too complicated, there are always tutorials easily findable through google that can make the process more doable. Some social media sites may not let you have too much control over the customization but try to work with what you have.

Once you have your accounts up and running, look around at other popular authors of the genre you’re in. Look at what they do with their social media, pay close attention to what their followers respond to and what they don’t. Study how they use their social media and how they interact with people but don’t do exactly what they are doing. You want to display you and your brand, you need people to see your personality not the watered down version of someone else.

Then, begin building your online persona! Try to follow or friend others with similar interests or are interested in your genre and try to interact with them. Most social networking utilize tags or hashtags to categorize comments about a specific topic. Comment on whatever topics are currently popular trending and try to start your own conversations! Be sure to do some research on the matter beforehand, you don’t want to jump in somewhere if you don’t really understand what’s going on! The key is to be consistent and steady about what kind and how much content you post; people are going to lose interest in you fast if you rarely update or don’t interact with anyone else.

Also, while the point of this all is to promote your book, take care not to promote it too much. Yes, bring it up once in a while to keep your followers aware of it and when it’s going to be released, just don’t constantly shove it in your audience’s noses. You run the risk of turning them off and possibly having them unfollow you so don’t give them any reason to. It’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears: not too much, not too little, but just the right amount.

This goes without saying, but be sure to follow general online etiquette. Don’t be unnecessarily rude or get into fights on the internet. Keep in mind the image you want your social media to portray of you.

One last recommendation: start a blog if you haven’t done so yet. Most social media sites are some kind of microblogging platforms already but you don’t have much opportunity to showcase your unique voice there. But starting your own blog on WordPress, Tumblr, or Blogger, or something similar allows people to get to know you and get invested. It’s a chance for you to sell yourself before you actually have to sell yourself with your book. It’s the reason why popular blogs, celebrities, or people in the news are offered book deals: they have a built in audience already. Giving people a chance to learn who you are before you release a book gives them a chance to get invested in you, and many authors who are affluent on social media find that these people are willing to follow them enough to buy their book.

Keep in mind these tips are not going to catapult into popularity immediately, and there is no magic secret that can help you do so. You have to keep at it for months, maybe years for it to finally pay off. Promoting yourself on social media is a little like tending a garden: there’s a lot of hard work in the beginning, it may take some time to see results, it may never happen or it may happen entirely by accident! It’s just going to take a lot of your two favorite things: patience and work. And it never hurts to crack a joke now and then.

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Writing is learning to practice the piano

When your father first commands you to play the piano, when you sit down on the cold bench, you don’t crunch out the fifth symphony, do you? You don’t even come close. You bang at the keys for fun, feeling out the sound and rhythm of the piano. Then you come back (a feat of its own), and try to learn the location of middle c, what a cord is. You hold an ear to other people playing the same songs you are trying to learn. You try to read sheet music with little luck. After practice, many wrong notes, you play a bar, a line, a page, then three pages, and finally a whole song. You do it once, wonderfully without mistakes. You have copied someone else. It took all of those steps and wrong turns to do even that properly- play only a handful of the notes possible on an instrument with a vast arsenal of keys.

It’s been two years. You learn more songs. Your fingers are magic on the keys. You jazz it up, get the soles of your feet to dance with the pedals. Add new notes to the crescendo. Eventually, you move like lightning against the keyboard, throwing in a fistful of black keys to spice up the tune.

By this point, you haven’t tried your own piece. Some never do.

Only now, do you even consider thinking what song do I sing, what makes my sound different?

Write eight songs that never come together. Write one that does. By this point you’re the last of us. By this point the margin of people you’re surrounding yourself with has drawn as thin as a violin string. You’re writing and playing your own notes.

Writing is trial and error. Writing is a long, drawn out process, a lesson after lesson, always learning, always failing. Always succeeding with every new step you take, whether that be two steps forward or one step backwards. Writing is learning to play the piano- the same thing, only a different sound of art. You keep banging on those keys for fun until they only thing left to say is that, “Practice makes perfect”.

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New Nonprofit Looks to Foster Publishing Industry in the West

“With approval from the IRS of its request for nonprofit status expected within the month, the organizers of the Colophon Center have announced plans to create a new foundation aimed at promoting book publishing in the West.”

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/70583-new-nonprofit-looks-to-foster-publishing-industry-in-the-west.html

 

 

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Could Publishers and Agents Agree on a Flat Royalty Rate?

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/70565-could-publishers-and-agents-agree-on-a-flat-royalty-rate.html

 

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Why Most Managers and Leaders Suck

Great article and cartoon on Linkedin

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-most-managers-leaders-suck-larry-broughton?trk=hb_ntf_MEGAPHONE_ARTICLE_POST

 

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A great read on how to market your book

“You’re not a New York Times bestselling author. You don’t have a publicist. And your Amazon sales numbers are awful. Should you quit writing books? Absolutely not. No matter what kind of book you’ve written (or plan to write) there are many ways to reach your audience. Each of the DIY tools listed here are low or no-cost, and each of them works in its own way. One or more may be perfect for you. Fifteen ideas might seem overwhelming, but remember that you only need to do one thing at a time. As one clicks and then another, you’ll soon be reaching your audience…”

 

https://www.writersstore.com/15-do-it-yourself-tools-to-promote-your-book/

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Being Practical With Your Own Voice

Interesting article in the Huffington Post about the cons of “finding your voice, so they say.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/11/finding-your-voice-as-a-writer-overrated/382946/

 

 

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Facing Rejection

Rejection is a tricky business because as a writer you get so much of it. Most days you’re overwhelmed with it ten to one. Often, when you write a story or submit a book, you’re hopeful but nervous. Something I’ve learned about rejection is that, in order to stay afloat in this maze we call publishing, it’s important to remember, No doesn’t mean No. In terms of rejection, No means try harder next time. No, means look to tomorrow. No, means not right now. The key thing is to remember that there are a million reasons why you didn’t get it. And they range from something as simple as, we’ve recently published something that sounds just like this all the way to, he spilled gravy all over his pink tie while reading your manuscript and preceded to huff and puff like the big bad wolf. And sometimes the story you’re telling isn’t the right fit.

Submitting books is a gamble, but you’re betting on yourself so one of these days you’ll hit the jackpot. The important thing is to remember, Rejection is ninety-nine percent of success.

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What To Learn by Attending as Many Author Readings as Possible

It’s important to hear voices.

I’ve attended many, many author readings, too many to count, but all in all, I don’t go to hear them read. I arrive on time, sit near the front with a copy of their book, and wait until that glorious five or ten minute Q and A session. I ask them questions, I hear other people ask them questions and I bring a notebook and jot down their answers so I can learn from them. I get to understand their voice and their process of writing and compare it to mine, make adjustments, or see where I don’t want to go, if I don’t like their writing. But I copy it all down anyway, because it’s better to have it and refer to the badlands, than walk right into them, without the chance to escape.

Now the key is not to try to copy what they did because, I’m telling you now it won’t work. That’s what they did. You have to do what you do. And that involves similar stumbling, similar wandering in the wrong direction, but your individual path to publication and success is what makes you the kind of author you are. If you follow somebody else’s road map you may not tap into all that you can. You have to keep an open ear for those readings because, sometimes they’ll save you from a major pothole or two in the road to success, but try not to keep your head down and your nose glued to their map.

Use them as a boat uses a wind gage or a compass. Pointing you in the right direction, but sailing your own way.

Oh, and have the author sign the book too… For good measure.

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How To Make Your Cellphone A Tool For Writing

I play a game when I travel. I count how many people I can see that are just staring at their phone, watching it swallow their sweet, precious time. We all use cellphones, constantly, regularly; some would claim its an obsession.

As writers, we often find ourselves at the short end of the stick. Our dreams are more of a hobby for most, and very often we get caught up in things that require more of our attention. And yet, I’ve come to learn you don’t need to have a notebook on you at all times to be a writer. You don’t need to be a slave to the world around you. You have so much power in your hands and you don’t even realize it. We live in an age where technology builds bridges faster than ever.

Use the technology to your advantage. One diamond I discovered on my phone is the reminder app. At 9:00 p.m. daily my phones pings and a reminder pops up on my screen that reads: Just Write For Yourself! Even if it’s one word.

So I follow its demands, dropping whatever I’m doing, I open the notes on my phone and I write. I grab the notebook & pen duo and I practice. I try out a new word discovered that day. I add another line to a short story. Or better yet, I write more than a word. I write a line, a paragraph. I write six pages if I’m feeling ambitious.

Often people claim that they forget to write or that they don’t have time for it. However, if we took all the time we blandly stare into those glowing screens and wrote we’d have a new, shiny story every week. After all, it was Ray Bradbury who advised, “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

Another usage is to employ email or any sort of social media. Use texts, Facebook messenger. Constantly email new writing to friends, or better yet- writer friends, to gain advice or insight. Often people are wary of having too many cooks in the kitchen, but it’s better to have too many cooks than not enough. You can always send people away, or not heed their advice.

Finally, if I see something interesting on my way to work, or if something on the street catches my eye as I drive by on the train, I’ll whip out my camera and take quick a picture of it. At night, I’ll fish through my photos and have a set list of my own writing prompts. The classic prompt, take this photo and show what’s happening, has led to numerous articles and stories. See? Now you don’t need to wait around for inspiration. It’s all around you. You just need to be able to store it for later.

These are three basic tools to start with. From there you can expand and encompass more aspects of the cellphone. Scrolling through Facebook is one thing, but it won’t get you any closer to your name on the spine of a book.

 

-Peter Merani

 

 

 

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