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?”
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.
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.
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?