22 Marketing tips for Writers (or anyone who markets)

Mar 9, 2011Write!

If you aspire to be a writer who gets paid, you’ll have to shake hands with the marketing beast. Marketing takes a lot of time, quite a bit of effort, and the rewards aren’t always apparent. I wish I could give you the secret right here, then we’d all be bestsellers. But this is a fickle industry. And what works for one book might not work for another. Or what fits the personality of one author might not fit your personality. So use these 22 tips as a framework or guide. Toss what won’t work. Embrace what does. Then share your tips.

  1. Databases=love. Creating an email database is one of the best things you can do. Mine has steadily grown over the past four years, thankfully. Be sure you offer something cool to the folks who sign up. I give a missing chapter of Thin Places to my new subscribers. See how I do it on my site. It’s on the upper right hand corner below the top bar & says Free Ebooklet.
  2. Car magnets to embarrass your spouse & kids and increase sales. I’m not sure how well these work in terms of sales, but they’re cheap and easy and they can’t hurt. Try Vista Print for some nearly free options.
  3. Book sending parties. When I wrote my first novel, Watching the Tree Limbs, I decided to send the book to various TV shows and hosts–about 75 or so. This overwhelmed me until a friend suggested we have a book sending party. It was a lot of fun and together we sent out everything in an hour.
  4. Hug a book club. On your website, share that you’d be willing to talk or skype with clubs reading your book. Also offer to travel to local groups.
  5. Mingling with a purpose (but not in a multi-level way) If writing or books come up in a conversation, feel free to share your experience, your books, etc. But be cautious that you don’t become a multi-level book monster where every sentence starts with, “In my book…”
  6. The power of little cards. Send physical thank you notes to everyone who has had a hand in your novel at the publishing house. Write notes to local bookstores you frequent. A handwritten note is rare these days and will leave a lasting impression.
  7. Business cards. Get an eye-catching business card. Here’s an example of mine (yes, they are round.) The absolute best price I’ve found for full color cards (even round ones!) is at Got Print. You get 1000 cards, color both sides, for $25. Really. If you can afford it, have a designer design your cards. My designer? Tekeme Studios.
  8. Blog giveaways that work. Instead of just posting about your book and asking folks to enter, it’s better to up the incentives. Give each reader several ways to enter (like you on facebook, tweet about the promo, send an email, blog about it, etc.) To see how this has worked in real life click on this giveaway I did on marydemuth.com. It generated lots of buzz and I gained new email subscribers to my ezine and new blog readers as a result.
  9. Would you help me? Sometimes simply asking friends to help you promote your book is enough to start some buzz. I’ve asked friends (not too often, but once in a blue moon), to read the book, offer a review, or tell someone about the book they think it could bless. It’s always better when someone else promotes you. It hearkens back to one of my favorite scriptures. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2, ESV).
  10. Content they can use. Think of ways you can take the elements of your story and create a helpful article you can give away on your website. For instance, in my book Life in Defiance, I could create an article about how to know if you’re in an abusive marriage (the subject of the book.) Another idea is to take your expertise in fiction and create a super article. Or utilize your passion about fiction to write an article. Here’s an example of one of my best-trafficked posts, 10 Reasons Why Christians Should Read Fiction.
  11. A website that doesn’t sing. This is an easy one. DO NOT have music on your website or blog. It scares people. Music is personal too. You don’t want to turn someone off because of your taste in music.
  12. Bookmarks. These are fairly cheap to produce and you can stick them in your car, purse (if you’re a girl), or briefcase. Pass ’em out. Give them to bookstores, libraries, etc.
  13. Your BFFs the booksellers. They are the gatekeepers who physically sell your books. Befriend them. Bless them. Seek to serve them.
  14. Throw a bash. One of the best “booksignings” I did was a release party at a local independent bookstore. Instead of it simply becoming an event where I awkwardly signed books, I taught how to get published. And then we ate cake that looked like my book cover. (Here’s a picture of the book cover cake.)
  15. Taglines. If you’re longing for a tagline, here’s the process I went through to get “turning trials to triumph.” I had a marketing friend help me. I emailed the people on my email distribution list and asked, “What do you think is my One Thing.” This helped clarify who I was and what kind of value I gave the reader. Note: Be sure the tagline isn’t about you, but about what you bring of value to your reader. Sometimes it helps to finish this sentence: “I help readers ________.”
  16. Social networks. Choose one and be great at it.
  17. Speak to sell. Give your books away before you speak. Hand out little slips of paper that also offer a sign up for your newsletter. Collect them, then give several books away, describing each as you do so. When it comes time to sell books at the end of the event, folks will already be familiar with your books. (Side benefit: those who received free books will come to your table to get their book signed, which then keeps you occupied. There’s nothing more embarrassing than twiddling your fingers at your book table.)
  18. A blog that humans read. Search engine optimization may sound scary, but it’s not too scary once you understand it. It’s simply a way to structure and create your blog posts that bring actual traffic to your site. This month I’m trying out Scribe SEO. It connects to your blogging platform, then trains you to create content that search engines find. In a week of trying it, my new visitor traffic has increased 51%.
  19. Get a professional headshot. Believe it or not, this has a lot to do with marketing. Do not use a family picture, then cut your poor family out. Do not take the picture yourself (also known as a My Space photo). Hire someone to take your picture. I do understand this can be cost prohibitive. Scroll back to my picture at the top of this post. My 18-year-old daughter took this shot. She’s got a great eye, and my camera does a great job. I paid nothing for it. And she did a wonderful job. (Check out local photography students, perhaps?)
  20. Create community around your book. When I wrote Daisy Chain (and the entire Defiance, Texas trilogy), I dealt quite a bit with family secrets. What evolved was a blog about family secrets where folks could share their secrets anonymously. I created community. Recently, a reporter for ABC news contacted me because of the site. What resulted was this article on ABCnews.com about Oprah’s secret sister where they quoted me as an expert, a huge boon!
  21. John Grisham’s trick. You could always sell books out of your trunk.
  22. The Sovereignty factor: Prayer. Ultimately whether your book is wildly successful or it reaches a smaller, stealthier audience depends on God’s sovereignty. Don’t overwork or obsess over trying to sell books. Pray. Let the results rest in God’s hands. Emulate the old, old Keith Green song lyrics: “Just keep doing your best. Pray that it’s blessed. And He’ll take care of the rest.”

I hope these twenty-two things helped you today.