I write a lot about managing both writing and book marketing over on BadRedhead Media because that’s what I do — I wear both hats. In addition to being an author, my day job, my business, is book marketing, social media strategist, branding, and author platform building.
All this comes easily to me because I have a long background in sales, marketing, and training: seventeen years in soul-sucking Big Pharma: many awards, trips all over the world, bonuses, a company car, a stint in the home office (hated it), too many years calling on physicians in the field making sales presentations (hated it), and training others how to do so (loved it).
What I learned in all that time — besides the fact that I hated sales — is that I loved training, marketing, and the relationship building aspect of marketing — which is interesting, given that I’m an introvert. I found that the more time I spent interacting and connecting with physicians on a personal level before I got to the sales part, the more I sold. And I sold well. It wasn’t flashy, with crazy contests or bunny costumes (yes, I had colleagues who did these things). No, it was the quiet, personal, long-term connection that resulted in top sales many years over.
I didn’t hate every part of sales: I disliked the hard sell. The awkwardness of The Ask I hadn’t earned. So what did I do? I earned it.
I truly believe that building long-term relationships with readers, book bloggers, reviewers, and other publishing influencers can make or break you as an author. How can you connect with readers? That’s the question I hear daily as both an author and entrepreneur, and even as a survivor and advocate. Let’s deconstruct.
First, Write Great Books Readers Want to Read
First, above all else, you must write great books. You cannot scribble out your first draft, upload it to Amazon with a cover your kid designed, and call it a book (well, you can, but you won’t sell anything). I’m only talking to you, writers who take the craft seriously. Who are working with a professional editor, formatter, and graphic designer (or have a publisher). Who, despite challenges like a full-time job, the daily grind, or health issues, will make your book happen.
If you are a writer, nothing will stop you from writing your books. We all have challenges that get in the way of our writing — I’m no different! I’m a single mom of two kids (with no child support or alimony), a quirky cat (who loves to sit on my computer keyboard), own a business I love that pays the bills, have chronic migraines and PTSD from being a childhood sexual abuse survivor. Anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and triggers are part of my daily routine but I’m fully functional with the help of meds and support.
- If you’re not prepared to put every ounce of your soul into your writing,
- if you’re not digging deep and giving yourself permission to write what scares you,
- to write the really hard, ugly-cry stuff,
- if you worry what others will say,
- if you’re glossing over uncomfortable experiences for fear of family/friends/coworker judgment,
- or if you’re only writing one book thinking you’ll be living in a mansion off the profits —
then give it a rest right now.
Do The Work
I’ve published two humor books, two books of essays and poetry that discuss the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse, Broken Pieces and Broken Places, one business book, the BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge so far, plus I’m in two Feminine Collective anthologies; I’m working on Broken People and the BadRedhead Media 30-Day Twitter Challenge now, as well as three BadRedhead Media 99c mini-books (out soon!). My work days are quite long (typically sixteen hours) in order for me to fit in client work, book marketing, and writing.
I make it happen because I make it fucking happen.
I hear the excuses daily from writers why their books aren’t happening:
- long commutes,
- busy family lives,
- chronic health issues.
- no time, no time, no time
I feel you. I don’t mean excuses in a derogatory way — I’ve been there. I am there. Listen, it’s your decision whether you want to make your book into a reality. Books don’t write themselves. Read Cyndy Etler’s post this week on BadRedhead Media how she made it happen. Ten years of writing every day at 4:30 am before work. Yea, she went there.
Give yourself permission to do the work.
Connect with Readers
It boggles my mind that authors think connecting with readers is an option. That would be like me asking physicians to write my drug without ever interacting with them (and believe me, that happened a lot) — and those were sales lost. I had to find ways to connect with those physicians outside of the regular ‘office’ sales call (quick lunches, early morning hospital rounds, dinner speaker programs, sponsoring CME credit talks, even parking lot talks occasionally). On top of those challenges, there were hundreds of other reps vying for those docs attention, wanting them to write a competing drug (now you can see why I hated that part of the job).
We as authors are vying for readers’ attention. This is why marketing is a must. I bring this up because I hear authors tell me things like:
- I just want to write
- I don’t know who my readers are
- I’m too busy to market my books
- Marketing is beneath me. True readers will find my work (Okay, Jonathan Franzen)
- Branding is bullshit concept made up by a bunch of suits
It goes on. You can believe whatever you want (mostly, I think all of those statements arise out of fear), but eventually, all writers wonder why their books aren’t selling, why they’re only interacting with other authors, and question what they could be doing differently to sell more books. It’s not a mystery now, is it?
Connecting with readers takes some work, but it’s not brain surgery. As I discuss in this post on BadRedhead Media about identifying your readers, the resources are available to you and they’re free. If your idea of connecting with readers is spamming everyone on Twitter with an automated welcome direct message (aka, an autoDM), think again — bringing me to my next point: social media.
Where are your readers? (Read my linked post above if you don’t know.) Then that’s where you need to be — not where you’re most comfortable (cough, Facebook, cough). Challenge yourself. You’re smart enough to write a book. Figure it out (or delegate or hire someone).
Which Social Media Channel Sells The Most Books?
Wouldn’t you like to know…ha! Sadly, there’s not one easy answer and social media by itself is crap for selling books. It’s great for visibility (depending on which channel you use — more on this later), and for building relationships, but if you’re only counting on social media for book selling, I can tell you with full confidence: you will fail miserably.
There is no easy answer to this question. Read more here.
Twitter and Google+ are immediately indexed by Google as soon as you post, so for SEO, your best bets are those two. However, is that where your readers are? Most authors spend their time bitching about low book sales on their personal Facebook walls — which doesn’t show up in Google (probably a good thing). Facebook is great for building relationships with readers, and an author page is great for running ads and boosting posts to increase visibility. Instagram and Pinterest are wonderful visual options, particularly if your demographic skews younger.
Social media is but one plank of your author platform, and it’s not something you own. We basically squat rent-free on these social media sites and are at their mercy with rules, updates, and changes, which is why I encourage you to make your home on your own website and blog.
Own Your Website and Blog
As I discuss in more detail in my latest release, The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge, the wisest choice for your website and blog is self-hosted WordPress for a myriad of reasons. You can read more specifics here in this post by Barb Drozdowich of Bakerview Consulting.
Aside from the technical, marketing, and branding aspects of owning your own site and blogging regularly to raise your visibility and SEO, etc., here’s the main reason why I want you to really think about blogging regularly: authenticity. I’m writing this post to share my experiences with you because I feel so strongly you will benefit in the same ways I have that I’m not keeping this information to myself. The messages here in my blog posts are all free, no strings attached. No gimmicks. No bullshit affiliate links to become part of my upline or downline or whatever that BS is. This is me jumping up and down.
The message is simple: blogging connects us with people in ways that social media and advertising can’t — we reveal a part of ourselves we cannot convey in a quick tweet or silly cat picture on Facebook.
Write great books.
Connect with your readers.
Do the work.