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

Posted · Add Comment

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.