Author Self-Promotion: 4 First Steps
Posted on September 28, 2016
by Aeryn Rudel
In today’s literary market, it pays to self-promote, and there are plenty of options available to authors for that purpose. So, if you’re just getting started with this whole publishing thing, how should you begin promoting yourself? I’m not a marketing expert, but I can point you at some basic and fairly easy-to-do things that have worked for me and can help expand your presence on the ol’ interwebs. Like the title of the post says, these are very basic first steps, not any kind of recipe for instant promotional success (if you have one of those, please post it in the comments :-)).
One more thing. Before you get started self-promoting, I suggest you obtain the following two items:
- A good author bio. There are a lot of good reasons to have an author bio ready to go, but you’ll need one for nearly all of the online marketing platforms I’m going to suggest below. Writing a bio is a very individual thing, and you’ll need to decide what’s important enough to include. If you’d like to see how I write MY bios, check out this post.
- Author photo. You might consider this one optional. Some folks don’t like having their picture taken, and there are some very real privacy and security risks that go along with letting the world know what you look like. Personally, I like the author photo, and I generally plaster my smiling mug all over the damn place. Like the bio, what makes a good author photo is up to the individual author. If you’d like to see what I think makes a good author photo, check out this post.
Okay, if you’ve got your bio and your author photo, here are four of the easier ways to get started down the self-promotional rabbit hole:
- Social media. I know, this sounds like a total no-brainer, but I know more than a few authors who don’t have any social media presence. Hey, I get it; Facebook and Twitter are full of inane bullshit, but, unfortunately, the vast majority of potential readers have Facebook and Twitter accounts (or start growing the ones you do have), and if there’s an easier way to reach a fuck-ton of people quickly these days, I don’t know what it is. So, at a minimum, I suggest you get a Facebook and Twitter account. If you’re the kind of author who tends to have a lot of illustrations in his or her books, then image-based platforms like Instagram and Tumblr could be good options too. The trick with social media is to stay active, posting often and with meaningful content. That said, the best way to do that is the subject of many, many articles, websites, and books, and is well beyond the scope of my humble little blog. All you need do, though, is type something like “grow my Facebook audience” into Google, and you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of resources on the subject.
- Set up a Goodreads author page. Goodreads is one of the premier book review sites, with something like 25 million members, so I definitely think having a presence out there is good idea. Obviously, you need to have published or self-published a book or have had a short story appear in a collection that was published (people need to have something they can actually read and review). Setting up an author page is super easy to do (and free), and once it’s done you get access to cool marketing tools like Goodreads Giveaways. You can also link your blog and other social media to the page. Basically, if someone has read one of your books and likes it, they can go to your Goodreads author page and see what else you’ve written, learn about you and your blog, and so and so on. Here’s my Goodreads page if you’re interested.
- Set up an Amazon author page. Maybe you’ve heard of Amazon; they sell a lot of books. If you’ve published or self-published books or short stories in collections that are sold through Amazon, I think an Amazon author page is a must. This is another freebie and setting up the page is really easy (go here for that). Like Goodreads, you can link your blog and other social media to your author page. Amazon also offers a lot of promotional tools for authors, but they’re usually of the pay-to-play variety, and you’ll have to decide if they’re worth it. You set up an Amazon author page for the same reason you set up a Goodreads author page: it’s a place for readers to go to learn more about your work, and with Amazon, buying that next book is just a click away for interested readers. Here’s my Amazon author page if you’d like to take a look.
- Start a blog. This is the most involved of my suggestions because running a blog requires a lot of time and effort, but it’s great to have a platform for your ideas and a place to promote your work. I wouldn’t say this is an absolute must, but it has been THE most successful promotional tool in my little repertoire. My suggestion is to pick some kind of hook or theme beyond, hey, here’s another author’s blog. Make sure that theme is something you actually want to talk about (and you can talk about a lot) and that ties into your work in some way. Starting a blog doesn’t have to cost you anything either, and WordPress and Blogger have perfectly serviceable free packages. That said, spending a few bucks to get a domain name and access to a few other useful features isn’t a terrible idea. Also, remember to point folks back at your blog in your author bio (and everywhere else it’s appropriate).
This really is just the very beginning/scratching the surface of promoting yourself as an author. You’ll need to invest time and effort into keeping these various platforms updated and current (for example, you often have to tell Amazon to add your latest book to your author page). As I mentioned earlier, there are TONS of books and websites devoted to helping authors promote their work though all of the platforms I mentioned above (and a bunch more). As usual, a little research goes a long way.
Got any tips to help new authors start promoting their work? I’d love to hear them in the comments.
I was told that bearded authors were taken more seriously, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that 😉
In all seriousness, good post. I’ve done some of these things but not others.
I don’t know if anyone is ready for that. The beard abides, though. The beard abides. 😉
I’m just not sure if any of those suggestions actually help sell books.
1. Unless you pay to boost posts, only your most engaged readers are going to ever see your posts. I’d rather channel all those people to the email list that I control instead of a platform that can change its rules on a whim.
2. Probably not a bad idea in that it doesn’t cost anything and is a low time investment. Again though, doubt that it’ll sell you enough books in your lifetime to move the needle at all.
3. Same as 2.
4. My time could be much better spent writing novels.
Better, I think would be:
Build an email list
Understand discounting and promo sites
Learn how to run ads on FB and Amazon
Write another book
Building an email list is a good idea. How have you gone about doing that?
Most authors use Mailchimp to start out since they’re free up to 2000 subscribers. Note, however, that MC really freaks out sometimes about you adding a bunch of subscribers at once. Mailerlite is a good option to think about if you’re worried about getting your account suspended by MC.
Start by putting a link to your email list everywhere – website, FB acct, start and end of your books, anywhere you can think of.
Check out Instafreebie. I haven’t used it yet, but it’s the hot new thing for building lists right now.
Cross promotions rock. I got 2000 pretty active subscribers from one a little while back. I found the one I did over at kboards.
If you’ve got a book to give away, run a FB ad and offer the download in exchange for sign ups (note, I think this is how Instafreebie works as well.)
Great advice, and thanks for sharing that. Definitely something to look into.
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