Everything you read in last week’s post is meant to more or less get you to a base level of marketing performance. You could start and stop right there and do pretty well for yourself. But let’s take things just a smidge further.
This week we’re talking about some more advance author marketing techniques. Once you’ve gotten a little comfortable with the basics, you can start dipping your toes into slightly deeper waters, and start netting even greater results.
Marketing isn’t something you’ll ever be able to completely put on autopilot. There are too many variables, and things change too often and too rapidly. You’re always going to find yourself fiddling with it.
That said, you can still take some of the tediousness out of the process by automating as much as possible. Here are a few ways to tackle that:
- Autoresponders—These are automated emails that go out after an action has been triggered. For instance, when a user signs up for your mailing list, an automated email sequence can start, welcoming the reader and giving them a rundown of who you are and what your books are about. Or the sequence might introduce your ‘five step process for losing weight.’ Whatever the topic, the emails themselves are all pre-written and waiting for the trigger to initiate things. You might consider writing a six-week email autoresponder that consists of a welcome email followed by five emails that introduce you and your work. This will keep your readers engaged and aware of you and your books, without you having to lift another finger. For six weeks, anyway.
- Social media posts—There are dozens of automated social media aggregators out there. Hootsuite, Buffer, and Social Jukebox are three that we use often at Draft2Digital. All of them are designed to help you automate posts. Again, you’ll have to work ahead a bit, doing all the writing on the front end. But then you can program your posts into the aggregators and let them handle the rest. In the case of Social Jukebox, you can pre-program hundreds of posts and let them cycle through, over and over. This is great for quotes, links to articles, and links to past blog posts. Focus on posting material that your readers would find interesting and shareable, and you’ll start seeing engagement rise.
- Asking for book reviews—This is kind of a cheat, because you’ll use the two scenarios above to pull this off. But you should definitely program a set of emails and social media posts that go out periodically but regularly, prompting your audience to write and post reviews for your books on Amazon, Goodreads, and anywhere else they can think of. Reviews are the spice, and the spice is life. Ask for them often—but let the fancy interweb technology do all the grunt work.
- Choosing titles and cover designs—You can use sites like Pickfu and 99Designs to run contests that allow your audience to help you pick a title and even a cover design for your book. You can also do this through free services like Surveymonkey and Google Forms. This is sort of ‘pseudo-automation,’ if we’re being honest. You do still have to go through the trouble of setting things up and then attracting people to your survey or contest. But that’s generally easier to do than convincing people to buy your book, and the feedback you get can generally balance out the work.
- Book conversion and sales reporting—Ok, this one’s a bit self-serving. But Draft2Digital has your back here. Use our tools to convert your manuscript from a Word document to an EPUB. Then you can distribute that EPUB to all of our online retailers. And once people start discovering and buying your work, our automated sales dashboard will tell you how many books have sold, and through what channels. That’s a lot of automation in one place, and the advantage to you is less time spent on any given one of the above tasks. The marketing benefit is more time to spend on refining your approach and reaching more readers.
As a general rule, you should always look for ways to automate every process in your business (and life)—at least in part. The more you can put on autopilot, the better. And while you’ll never quite reach the end of tasks to do for marketing, you can make all of it much easier to pull off by finding the hacks that let you keep more plates spinning with less attention on your part.
Enlist an Army
We talked about becoming part of a community. Now let’s talk about building a community of our own.
Marketing can be a tedious and time-consuming process. And short of automating as much as possible, there are just some things we have to keep our hands on.
Or we can keep someone else’s hands on them.
As an author, your primary job is to write. But there are a million little tasks that can creep in—all completely necessary and vital—and these can steal your writing time. A great way to scrape those tasks off of you is to hand them off to someone else.
Consider building a team:
- Get a virtual assistant—A VA is a great resource. You have to be a bit cautious, and make wise hiring choices, because not al VAs are created equal. You’ll want to find someone who is proficient in your native language, is capable of learning and implementing new tasks quickly, and is easy to communicate with. If this person is in the same time zone as you, that’s great—but it isn’t all that necessary. In fact, it can sometimes be beneficial to work with someone who is in an opposite time zone, so that your work is being done even while you’re sleeping. Consider hiring a VA to take on the small, time-sucking jobs in your life. Focus on handing off tasks that are repeatable and easy (sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?) It’s the easy stuff that sucks up the most time in our lives.
- Contract an editor, designer, and publicist—These are three areas where you may or may not already think in terms of outsourcing, but it bears mentioning that aside from any technical work these people do, they’re ultimately a part of your marketing team. A good editor can help you both clean up typos and grammar gaffs in your book and to craft a short synopsis you can use as part of your book description (and other marketing materials). A designer can often be coaxed into supplying cover-related artwork for ads and web pages. And a publicist can take on the tough task of finding you places to promote yourself, arranging interviews and appearances on your behalf. Talk nice to these people, treat them like gold, and they’ll quite often do little ‘extras’ as a favor.
- Beta readers and a street team—We’re separating these two concepts slightly because even though they’re often synonymous, a beta reader and a street team member can often take on different tasks. Beta readers can be first readers—the first people to read and critique your work. They can point out typos and grammar gaffs, for sure. But mostly you want beta readers to do the work of finding gaps in your narrative, logic errors, plot holes and the like. A street team, on the other hand, is generally the group you’d hand a book to for a bit of polish and refinement. They can be your first editors, helping you track down typos and spelling errors, and suggesting rewording when a passage isn’t clear. You can combine both of these groups, obviously. But it’s worth having multiple teams in your process—for first-round and second-round editing.
- Accountability partner—This is the person who puts your feet to the fire, constantly pestering you about your word count and your marketing strategy. You’ll want to keep this person in your favorites list (‘speed dial’ for the old folks in the room) so you can reach out to them often. Ask them to bug you every week, month, and quarter about various aspects of your work. There’s no better way to keep to a set of goals, marketing or otherwise, than to know you are accountable to someone.
Your team is going to be a unique and tailored bunch. No two author teams are alike. And whether you have a VA or a street team or even accountability partner is entirely up to you, but you should consider most if not all of the people suggested above. The more hands you have at your disposal, the easier it is for you to just focus on the writing. Let the people who have a passion for the other aspects of the work have their go at the helm, and you’ll find yourself being more productive and happier with what you produce.
Stop What You’re Doing (if it isn’t working)
Another key tenant of marketing: Do what works, stop doing what doesn’t.
Marketing is testing and optimizing. You try something, you measure the result, you make adjustments (if needed), and you try again. Repeat until embraced by the chilled arms of death.
One of the biggest and most common marketing mistakes made by authors is sticking to something that isn’t working. There are a number of reasons why an author might do this—maybe they invested quite a bit of time or money into something, and they’d hate for it to be wasted. Or maybe this trick worked once, and really well, so they’re chasing that success again despite the world having moved on. Or maybe they just don’t know what else to do, and this approach seemed feasible.
The thing is, marketing that produces no results is actually worse than no marketing at all.
Think of the time and resources that are spent on bum plans. Why stick to something that isn’t working?
Money spent on a dud ad campaign can better serve you buy paying for a new cover or some editing.
Time spent posting to social media that isn’t bringing results could be better spent on writing a short story that ties in with your fantasy series.
The time and money spent on a sponsorship that brings in zero readers can be retargeted to a Facebook ad campaign that could reach thousands of readers a day.
The key here is to monitor your efforts, decide what’s working and what isn’t, and make adjustments. But largely, stop doing what isn’t working.
That alone will serve you, as good advice.
Here are some tips for keeping the marketing going in the right direction:
- Decide in advance what the result should be—If you go into any plan with no idea of the outcome you want, you’ll just get what you get. But if you know that your goal is ‘1,000 new signups to my newsletter’ or ‘sell five hundred copies of my book by June 1st,” you now have a way to measure progress. Before starting any marketing effort, sit down and plot out your ultimate goal. And then back that plan up a bit to decide on a couple of benchmarks—such as where you should be by week three, week five, and week seven in a 10-week marketing plan.
- Pivot—If you’re ‘Friends’ fan, you just thought that in Ross Gellar’s voice. Otherwise, you should consider how you can and will change directions if you’re not getting the results you want. You can’t always know all the potential outcomes in advance, but you can plan for a few that might be likely. If you run a Facebook ad and no one clicks on it, you know you can play with the text and/or the image to see if that increases engagement. Being ready and (more importantly) willing to pivot will help you overcome a lot of bad marketing.
- Replicate success—Whatever you’re doing that’s working, do more of that. But just as important, whatever someone else is doing that’s working, try that. Once you have your own marketing strategy in motion, test a few ideas from other authors who are getting good results. Your results may vary, but you may also gain new insights and find new tricks that you can add to your repertoire.
- Forget about failure—Sometimes plans bomb. It’s going to happen. Even the most thought-out ad campaign can crash and burn after only a day or so. And despite how well something worked for someone else, not every marketing plan works for all authors. You may not have the audience to pull off what your buddy did. Or you may not have the resources to replicate it—in terms of either time, money, or know-how. That’s cool. Try things anyway. And if they bomb, dust yourself off and try something else. The only way to succeed in marketing is to keep trying new things. It’s been the rule for decades, and it’s not going anywhere. The only sure thing in marketing is that everything that works will one day not work. Be willing and able to adjust, and don’t lament failure.
That’s it for the more advanced approaches to author marketing. Next time we’ll look at a few ‘Best Practices’ that both beginning and advanced marketers should keep in mind.