Are you an aspiring author?
Have you written a book but need some marketing tips?
How do you get the message out about your work?
How to Increase Online Effectiveness
Today it’s not only about the manuscript but also about how to get the word out about your book. Online marketing and social media have upended the traditional methods to market an author. Today, your effectiveness online is crucial to the success of your book.
In my own experience in the book business, I have seen the shift to social media and the rise of the author’s platform as major marketing tools. One of the notable experts in this field is Fauzia Burke. Fauzia is the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. She’s the author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide. Fauzia has promoted the books of authors such as Alan Alda, Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Melissa Francis, S. C. Gwynne, Mika Brzezinski, Charles Spencer and many more.
I recently asked Fauzia to share her wisdom about the best ways to market a book online.
You’ve personally witnessed online developments from inception to today’s social and mobile world. Compare and contrast today to pre-online. How is the world different for authors today?
Oh, wow. Everything has changed . . . the most significant being that there’s never been a better time to be an author. Now, for the first time in the history of publishing, authors have direct access to their readers. Social media has changed the publishing landscape. While there is more competition in the marketplace today, there are more opportunities than ever before.
The new accessibility of social media allows authors to reach their audience directly, and this makes a long-term online marketing strategy absolutely essential for authors. The key to success for authors today is to build and grow their platform long-term. If they earn the trust of their readers, they can do anything.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions authors have when it comes to book publicity?
Many people feel book publicity is not quantifiable. I disagree with that notion. We can absolutely quantify the effects of publicity. When book publicity works, we see an increase in sales. Today, we can also judge the value by an increase in social media visibility and more traffic to an author’s site. Unfortunately, we can’t often duplicate success or land book sales each time. How a book resonates with its audience is magic. We can’t make people buy a book, a fact that is more frustrating to us as publicists than to anyone.
The other misconception is that there is a short launch period when an author gets media hits and goes on a book tour, and then an author moves on until the next book. That is just not the case anymore. Book publicity is a marathon, not a sprint. Authors are expected to engage with their readers whether they have a book to push or not.
Josh Charles, an actor on the TV series The Good Wife said when he exited the show: “I think that the beauty of social media is the ability to stay in touch with the fans and share with them what they’re going through and let them know that I’m there and the character may be gone, but I’m still involved in the show.” Authors too start a conversation with their community that is ongoing and lasting. It can’t stop at the end of a book tour.
3 Must Do’s for Authors
What are the top 3 “must do’s” for an author?
- Work on an online marketing strategy. The few authors that have become huge bestselling successes without a digital or social strategy are anomalies. Most of us need to work on online branding every day for the success of our businesses, books and careers. I encourage authors to develop their online brands. Online marketing is not about selling; it’s about making buying easier. It’s about forming real connections.
- Authors need to have a professional website. Your website will be your home base for your digital marketing efforts, and it is critical to your credibility. People do judge a book by its cover and an author’s expertise and quality of their writing by the look of their website.
- Be patient. If you are a little overwhelmed by the rapidly changing world of online marketing, you are not alone. Remember all of us, experts and novice, are learning as we go. You don’t have to become a social media strategist to be effective. By using the most important online marketing outlets for your audience in a targeted way, your book, brand and bottom line will benefit.
Social Media Engagement is a Privilege
My perception is that, after writing the book, most authors breathe a sigh of relief and think “It’s done!” and then they learn the real work is ahead of them. Is that your experience? How do you ease them into the reality of what’s ahead?
Ah, yes. Of course, for every author, writing their book is a labor of love and incredibly hard work, and so understandably they exhale a sigh of relief when the book writing process is finished. It’s tough to immediately say, “Wait until you see the work that’s still ahead.” We all complain about social media because it’s time consuming, but it’s the way the world has changed, and as authors, we need to change with it. We have to adapt. Once authors embrace the need to change with the times, I tell them some good news:
- You don’t have to do everything.
- You don’t have to constantly switch directions to follow the next shiny thing.
- You get an unprecedented opportunity to build a community of interested readers who want to support your success.
It’s really a privilege to be able to talk to people and form relationships with your readers. I think authors breathe a sigh of relief when they realize the best way to engage effectively online is to be authentic.
Stand Out with a Strong Personal Brand
Why is personal branding so important today?
Authors need a personal brand to stand out and thrive in today’s competitive marketplace. A personal brand allows an author to carve out their niche and decide what type of content to create and share. When readers identify with a brand, they feel loyal and committed to that author.
For authors to become a well-known and well-established brand, they have to dig in for the long haul and go for the slow build. I tell authors to prepare for a ramp-up period when it may feel like they are only writing for their mom.
I tell authors to run their content through the filter of: Is this message congruent with my brand? I encourage authors to:
- Create a great website that tells a story about you.
- Write a blog on a schedule.
- Establish a Facebook author page to attract your ideal audience.
- Consider creating a Twitter account (if you have determined it’s a platform where your community interacts).
- Have a social media presence and create conversation.
- Connect with people consistently. If you drop out, they will too.
Promote Without Being Promotional
One of your chapter titles is “Promote without being promotional.” How is this done? What does too promotional look like?
Too promotional is being a bullhorn. If you are always telling people to buy your book, share your book, or recommend your book, that could wear thin quickly. Instead, I encourage authors to create and share content of value for free. When we read something that has takeaway value, we want to hear more from that author. The goal is to leave your reader thinking, “If this author offers valuable content for free, I can only imagine the content I can have access to if I buy her (or his) book.”
Also a lot of authors think social media is for talking. In my opinion it is more about listening. If authors listen, respond, ask questions and are generous to others, they can then promote their books without being promotional.
Share an example of social media done right. What does it look like?
You know, happiness author Gretchen Rubin is a great well-known example of building a platform and engaging with social media — the right way. She’s almost a household name because she has branded herself successfully as the happiness expert. She blogs regularly and offers thought-provoking quotes to the subscribers of her list. She sends out quizzes and turns excerpts of her book into blog posts. She started doing YouTube videos and podcasts where she shares her expertise. Her efforts have resulted in a known platform, bestselling books and numerous interviews, including Oprah.
You talk about building a mailing list. How does this compare with other priorities?
A mailing list is one of the most valuable assets for an author. Their email list is more valuable than all the social media tools put together. The power of your community exists in your list — those people who have actively signed up to read what you write or listen to what you have to say. Let’s face it, no one loves a cluttered inbox filled with an overwhelming amount of emails, so if someone says, “Yes, I’d like to subscribe to receive your emails,” that’s a big deal. I call the people on a mailing list “super fans” because they are giving you permission to show up in their inbox. That invitation is valuable.
Your super fans are the ones who will pre-order your book or are the first in line to buy a product you recommend. The people on our email lists are important, and we have to treat them as such.
Many studies have shown that people on your mailing list are more likely to buy from you than followers in your social media.
Build a Platform First
Should an aspiring author work to build a platform before writing a book?
Absolutely. I encourage authors to create a conversation with their readers as soon as they have an idea for a book. Effective marketing is about creating authentic conversation with your specific audience by providing them with information of value. Creating a community is not about promoting a book; it’s about being a member of a group. The sooner an author can start, the better their book will be because they will listen to the concerns of their community and incorporate that knowledge into their book.
It’s also helpful for authors to identify their goals early on so they can develop the most effective strategy for how to spend time online. Your goals as an author determine your focus and what you should do online. For every client, we have a different strategic plan. So, I encourage authors to answer some questions that help clarify their goals, such as:
Why did you write your book?
Why do you want to become a best-selling author?
Do you want to become a speaker?
Did you write a book to grow your business?
Do you hope to inspire or help someone?
Not only does the reason for writing their book drive their objectives online, but it also can be a motivating reminder to build your brand and community for the long haul. I encourage authors to know their ideal audience well so they know where to find them online. Some social media platforms will be more relevant for a particular author than others.
As an example, I wrote Online Marketing for Busy Authors so I can help more authors be proactive about promoting their books. Reminding myself of why I wrote my book — to help authors — drives everything I do online and in my business.
View Blogging as An Extension of the Writer’s Job
Some authors tell me, “I have no time.” They are concerned that they have no time to write if they are expected to blog, have a podcast, tweet, and build followers on various services. I’m sure you hear this. What do you say?
Yes, I hear this often, and we all can identify with this sentiment because social media does take a lot of time. I encourage authors to tackle a little bit at a time and to do the most important things first. Authors need to have a professional website, because that’s home base and the foundation for anything authors do on social media sites. A website is also the only place authors are in the control seat and aren’t playing by someone else’s rules (or algorithms) — as is the case for social media sites. I also encourage blogging because blogs give authors the opportunity to stay connected with their readers, and they can position themselves as an expert. Blogs are also the best way to drive traffic to websites. Authors should view blogging as an extension of their job as a writer. After I suggest those things, I encourage authors to select one or two social media platforms to get started engaging and schedule an hour a day.
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How do you maintain a personal touch in the digital era?
Relationships are everything. I encourage people to engage online as they would in person. Be authentic. Listen. Be curious and helpful. Treat everyone with respect and treat everyone like they matter, because they do. Sometimes with online marketing, authors can get caught up with the numbers, pressuring themselves to get a certain number of likes or followers, but a highly engaged small community is better than tons of followers who barely notice your posts. Bigger is not always better. Just because something can be done online doesn’t mean it should be done online. Being respectful, generous and friendly always works online or off.
Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide