Every 12 seconds, a new book is published (and 80% of statistics are made up on the spot). To be slightly outdated, but more accurate, in 2012 Bowker reported that there were 3,500 books published every day in the USA alone, and this figure doesn’t even include e-books. (I don’t math, so feel free to calculate the per-second volume in your own time!) Simply put: There is a ton of competition in the book marketplace. How can a new writer stand out with all this noise?
1) Define your audience. And no, your audience isn’t everyone from age zero-65, male & female. Get Stats Canada up in here and define your audience avatar: age, occupation, likes, dislikes, income, reading habits, preferred reading format (blogs, e-books, zines, print books). If you haven’t nailed your audience down this specifically, then your book will be, at best, a teardrop in the ocean. Everyone does NOT want to read your book – but someone does, so figure out who that someone is and go after them with a targeted approach: your marketing plan.
2) Get all Benjamin Franklin up in here! Old men (and women!) are always saying wise things like, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Your marketing plan should include pre-publication, launch, and post-publication activities. (If you just said, “Pffft! Marketing plan?! I don’t need no stinkin’ marketing plan!”, please take a moment to envision yourself taking all the money you spent on the creation of your book, putting it in a pile, and lighting it on fire.)
3) Tribe-building activities: include them in your marketing plan! FYI, tribe is the new platform – that is, a group of people who are dedicated to your product (i.e. the book) and will merrily retweet, like, and share your content across social media platforms. These are the people who anticipate the release of your new book, and write fan fiction, and do one of the most important marketing tasks on your behalf – that is: WOM recommendations. Not everything needs to be a shameless plug, though – your audience wants to connect with you, so include a mix of personal (though, beware of TMI… the length of your creepy toenails is definitely an overshare!) Your main goal here is to create a permission-based email list so that you can hit a target group with direct emails – not only for the first book, but your next one and your next one after that!
Pre-publication, you should be engaging in regular social media activities (keeping your fans updated on progress; sharing content that is pertinent to your readers, even if it’s not yours; engaging personally by sharing information your fans might enjoy (your writing process, a concert you went to that inspired you, maybe your favourite place to go when you have writer’s block) , some sneak-peak chapter releases, or even snippets that didn’t make the cut; anything you can think of to keep your fans in the loop.
4) Engage in a lot of post-publication hustle. Many authors are of the opinion that writing the book is the hardest part – but remember, 17 books are published every hour (or whatever) so you’ve got to work to get noticed! You’d better be working that marketing plan, and keeping track of what’s working vs. what isn’t, tweaking and adding as you go along. You’ve probably written a press release; did you make sure it had newsworthy content? The fact that you’ve published a book is exciting for your mom, but nothing that’s going to stop a newsroom. Make sure you’ve written a smart, engaging headline, and that you’ve included something relevant (you’ve recently been interviewed on CBC as a thought leader on this subject, or the book contains the final, unarguable word on climate change).
5) Don’t be a diva! Return phone calls, show up on time for interviews – you are the face and the voice of your commercial success.
You can be talking to bookstores about taking your book on consignment, asking them if you can do a reading at their store – but remember, if you don’t do the work to promote your event via your tribe of followers, this will be a lot of work for little return. Show up when you say you will show up. Do not make ridiculous requests, or set unrealistic expectations and feel entitled to a temper tantrum when an event turnout is lower than you’d wanted it to be. You are always representing yourself, and the book community is a small one. Your bad behaviour at one indie bookstore will result in you being blacklisted at any other indie stores in your area. And besides, until you’ve sold 100,000 books (which you won’t), you’re NOT all that – but you might be some day soon, so don’t trash your reputation before you even have one.