Marketing Your Debut Novel: Part One

After I got the call from my agent, Greg Johnson, that a publisher offered a contract, two thoughts crossed my mind. Strangely, they were not, “WOW, I’m going to be famous!” or “Yes! I can quit my day job.” Rather, I thought, “Oh no, he’s going to expect me to be able to write another book!” and “How on earth am I going to market it?”

After that, I considered going back to college for a marketing degree. Nursing school didn’t include classes on author branding.

Panic set in.

Now, it’s a few days after June 1 and my novel, Proof, has found its way into the big, scary world. So, what did I do to market my novel? What areas did I concentrate on? I’m going to break this down into phases. This post: Phase One.

Before your publishing contract (possibly even before agent submission):

Work on writing a great book first and foremost.

Then…

Branding. Click the link for a post I did on branding basics. Some authors don’t yet know what genre they want to commit to and therefore can’t build a strong brand. What I will say to that is maybe you’re not ready to publish. Think of athletes–a minuscule few excel at more than one sport. When they play professionally, it’s one sport. In the beginning, it’s paramount to have a singular focus. Once you’re super-famous like Ted Dekker, that may be the time to branch into another genre. But even then, you’ll likely be encouraged to go with a pen name.

Social Media: There’s nothing like making a group of introverts try to interact with one another. I hear some ask, what’s the point of all this social media? Marketing, at its most basic, it is about building relationships. You’re going to need help from your friends to do that. You’ll need influencers, endorsers, guest bloggers, and places to guest blog. Social media sites are among the best places to find the people who can help you. But, honest interaction should always come first. It’s easy to spot those who are trolling for selfish reasons.

Your social media involvement should start, if possible, years before your book is published. Long before book proposal submission to publishers. I started in October 2010 with my blog and Facebook. After that, Twitter. Then Goodreads. Lately, I’ve done Pinterest.

It takes time to feel comfortable with social media, so concentrate on one at a time until you feel like you have the hang of it. You can’t learn them all at once!

For me, Twitter is the most labor intensive. Then Facebook. Goodreads and Pinterest seem to grow on their own without a big time investment.

I haven’t found Linked In or Google + very helpful, so I don’t focus any efforts there.

WHY social media? An agent and eventual publisher are going to want to see that you’ve built relationships with people who may, in turn, buy your book. Say a publisher is on the fence between two books. Book A author has 20,000 Twitter followers, 5000 Facebook followers, and actively blogs versus Book B author who has 50 Twitter followers, 200 Facebook friends, and no active blog site. Which one would you pick to risk your money on?

Blogging: Many authors question whether it’s worth their time. Why blog? What an agent or publisher wants to see is that readers are interested in your content. Your content should support your brand. I’m a nurse and a suspense novelist so my blog is about medical accuracy in fiction. The blog gives me an additional venue for talking about killing, injuring, and maiming fictional people. Great for a suspense author. It’s not going to do me any good to blog about cooking unless my novel is about cooking. Everything you do should support your brand.

Blogging basics. Great content first. A consistent schedule–whatever you can commit to. I blog four times/week. Some only blog once/month. Content should be short–somewhere between 500-1000 words. We encourage our authors at the Water Cooler to keep it fewer than 750 words.

Register on Klout: Here’s a post I did when I first started Klout. Klout can be used as a tool to look at all these things to see if your efforts are growing your influence, but not to recover deleted text messages.

WHO CARES?

Well, actually, an agent and a publisher. I don’t know many agent types who are saying, “Your Klout score needs to be this before I’ll sign you.” However, one publisher wanted to know my Klout score before they would give me free books to blog about. If I had a Klout score higher than 30, I was eligible for more books.

What about you? What marketing efforts do you think are important during the pre-contract phase?

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24 thoughts on “Marketing Your Debut Novel: Part One

  1. Pingback: Marketing Your Debut Novel: Part One | WordServe Water Cooler | idées | sur Maxfolio.fr

  2. Thanks for the comments and post about Klout…now I have work to do. Just one more thing to worry about and, after completing it, realized that I am not as influential as I thought I was. I almost wish I hadn’t checked on it. I do appreciate bringing this to my attention.

    • Take it easy on yourself. These things take time and energy and there are only so many hours in a day. So– just know nothing grows overnight. That post I did on Klout in Oct 2011– my score was 42. Now, it’s 58 (seven months later!). I’m generally interacting on Twitter about one hour a day– which is a lot. But, I’m trying to grow it so I think it is labor intensive in the beginning. The reason I like Klout is that it is at least a way to measure if your efforts are making an impact. I don’t know of another way to measure the effects of social media. So– use it as a gage.

  3. Thanks Jordan. Great tips here. I read the first three free chapters of your book at your website and I’m excited for the hard copy to arrive in my mailbox. Your book is well done and your marketing efforst will see that many people hear about it.

    • Ahhh, thanks Lucille. Your book should come any day. Can’t wait to hear what you think.

  4. Great post Jordyn. Social media might seem like a lot of time to aspiring authors, but it’s worth the investment. Like saving money, the benefits compound over time, and that’s when the value grows. It takes patience to build a tribe.

    • I agree, Anita. It is a lot of time–but you’re exactly right– nothing happens overnight.

  5. Jordyn, your advice to new authors is timely. One of the hardest tasks in my job as a WordServe agent is to convince writers to participate in the social media arena. They’ve heard from other authors that their presence on Twitter or Facebook hasn’t boosted their sales numbers. However, it does make a difference to publishers. If an editor has two equally engaging manuscripts to choose from, social media numbers can make the difference between a sale and sorry…no deal. I advise authors to start out small and spend no more than a half hour to an hour a day on social media. Marketing is a part of an author’s job these days. Thanks for the post!

    • Barbara– I’m so glad you stopped by and added your thoughts. I have made sales through Facebook and Twitter. I’ve connected with people I never would have had I not been there. I’ve gotten people to guest blog for me and I’ve met new authors (whose books I will read) that I also would have never heard about.

      The time committment is an issue– but you’re so right– it is the expectation of a publisher that your out there working as hard as they are.

      Another complaint I hear is– “Your just marketing to other authors. What good is that?” Well, as an author, I know I’m a book fiend and buy LOTS of books, too.

      Don’t limit yourself.

  6. Another great post, especially since I will be in this position in a few months. I didn’t know that about the Klout score. Good to learn.

    • When is your book coming out?!? You didn’t tell me… naughty girl. Let me know!

  7. Jordyn! Such valuable information! I totally agree with you on the Google+ and Linkedin… avoiding committing to too much is so important. You can just burn yourself out! Great Job, can’t wait to read your book!

    • Ahh, thanks Ingrid. That means a lot coming from a social media guru like you! Let me know what you think of Proof!

  8. Thanks for breaking this down, Jordyn. I hadn’t heard about Klout either, so I’m steeling myself to check it out. Loved your video promo for Proof! What a whirl a debut is!

    • Yes it is! So many things to do but it is a true blessing. I’ve got my mother out there selling books. Whatever it takes.

  9. Pingback: Marketing Your Debut Novel: Part Two | WordServe Water Cooler

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  11. Much of that is true. In general I found it helpful. The thing is: the one about writing in only one genre is not true. I thought it was true for about 10 years, but during the past 3 or 4 years and actually for several years before that – thanks to Writers Bureau: that isn’t true. Many successful authors of novels do other writing as well. Nonfiction books and SF novels are not really ‘the same genre’. Still, there is an element of truth to what you wrote. If one is going to be able to write a series or more and to work with the same editor it is common for novelists to do a lot of work within one genre and to know what that genre is early on can be a big help. In my own case, my first and second novels are not in the same genre. The second one is coming out first and the first one may still have a chance but it is not really ‘how I had thought’.

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