One of the most frequent questions we get at Draft2Digital is “how can I market my books?”
It’s an important question, and it’s one we take seriously—we put in a lot of time, money, and energy trying to solve problems for authors, and this is one of the biggest. Getting the right readers to your books is how you thrive and grow as an author. We definitely want to help you with that, when we can.
And to that end, we’re building some great tools and resources to help authors with this need. Our Universal Book Links, Author Pages, Book Tabs, and pretty much anything you find at Books2Read.com is all built with promoting our authors and their books in mind.
That said, even as we bulk up our offering at B2R, marketing is still pretty firmly in the author’s court. While we can build tools and offer strategies, it’s going to come down to you owning this aspect of your business.
You’re not alone, but you do captain the ship!
The trouble for a lot of authors—especially new, incoming, or will-be authors—is that most marketing solutions have high overhead. Or, as we say on the streets, “this stuff gets expensive.”
Running ad campaigns on Facebook or other digital platforms, buying time at conventions and tradeshows, putting money into swag and stuff to giveaway, and hundreds (thousands) of different marketing approaches can work, but they can also take a chunk out of any author’s budget. Not to mention all the time and energy you end up pouring into those things, figuring out how everything works and testing to see what kind of results you get when you change Variable A and tweak Variable B. When you’re just starting out, that time and energy comes at a higher cost, so you need to work out how to maximize your efforts and get the most results for your time.
That’s where content marketing can be your best tool.
So what is Content Marketing?
Most forms of marketing use at least some type of content. If you create a Facebook or Amazon ad, you supply an image and a text. There are limitations and rules placed on that content, varying based on the platform where you’re advertising, but at its purest, those ads technically qualify as content. That isn’t quite what we’re getting at here, though.
Content marketing is about creating material that engages an audience, with the intention of funneling that audience into an environment where you can promote and market your work. That concept of “funnel” is important, and we’ll get to it in a minute.
You’re probably already content marketing anyway
Here’s the good news: Creating content is something authors are already good at. We spend hours and hours creating, crafting and perfecting content, in the form of our books. We’re already one step from the world of content marketing. And chances are we also have a natural inclination toward creating other types of content as well. For example …
Many authors have blogs associated with their websites. This is an amazing tool, for one simple reason: It’s a public venue for writing to your audience, which has the added benefit of making you more discoverable online.
You may have read or heard the term search engine optimization, or SEO. This might sound a little technical or scary, but the truth is it’s a natural and easy thing to implement. At its heart, SEO is just a way to fine-tune the content on your website so that search engines (such as Google and Bing) can find it and put it in the most relevant categories. That way, when someone is searching for something online, you have a better chance of coming up in relevant results.
For example, if you’re a chef who specializes in meals for diabetics, and you write about that topic on your blog, then your posts are probably loaded with the sorts of keywords and phrases that a potential reader might search for. If someone types “quick snacks for diabetics,” and you have dozens of blog posts that use that phrase, the chances are much better for that reader to find your site.
If you happen to write books on that topic, there’s even better news! As readers discover your blog posts and learn from you, they may want to know more. If they see from your site that you are the author of a book or books, they’re more likely to click through and try those books out.
This works for fiction writers as well. For example, if you write science fiction or fantasy or even archaeological thrillers, you can share content on your blog that will appeal to audiences of those types of books. This can be short stories, of course. But it can also include information you find in your research, things you’ve learned while traveling, or pretty much any information that you may be using for inspiration in your fiction.
If you write fantasy about unicorns and wizards, you could share posts about the mythology of those things, about your trip to a fantasy-themed museum exhibit, or even just your perspectives on how unicorns might evolve or what wizards prefer in their tea.
Be creative. Aim to write content that would appeal to the same sort of audience that might enjoy your fiction. Include photos, video, or other content you either create yourself or find online. The key is to become the source that your readers turn to for information about your mutually favorite topics.
We mentioned “funneling” earlier, and this is where that concept really starts to take off.
Similar to blog posts, email newsletters are content that relies on one of your demonstrable strengths: Namely that you are writing about a passion you share with your readers.
The bigger advantage of an email newsletter is that you have more of a captive audience.
Think of your blog as being the mouth of a funnel: It’s wide and open, hoping to catch any readers who come by. They find blog posts, they read, and then (if you’ve set it up) they click to join your mailing list.
The funnel narrows.
Once on your list, you can start putting some things into practice to help guide your newfound friends to try out your books. This is referred to as “narrowing the funnel.” There are a lot of ways to handle this, but we’re going to focus on using content.
Just like your blog posts, your newsletter is a place for you to share free content with your readers. For this to eventually result in some book sales (and thus make all this free content worth your time), you’re going to want to engage your readers with something exciting but also relevant to the type of work you’re producing to sell.
Here’s a tip: Repurpose your efforts.
I’m a big fan of repurposing things. I like to get as much out of my investment and efforts as possible. If I buy a T-shirt and wear it until it’s faded and has holes in it, I’ll toss it into a rag bin so I can use it for cleaning, or I’ll cut it into strips to use as tie-downs or markers or a hundred other purposes.
Just like that T-shirt, I like to get as much use out of the things I write as I possibly can. And you should too.
One way to do that is to leverage anything you write in your newsletter as a blog post later.
For example, I write archaeological thrillers, so I spend a lot of time reading and watching and listening to things that give me some insight into history and archaeology and science. That time produces a result I can use, which is stories and information that inspire my books.
In my newsletter, I’ll often share short little essays about the topics I’m studying. These aren’t terribly long—usually fewer than 3,000 words. But they’re interesting, and they’re written in my voice and style. More importantly, they’re just the sort of tidbits that people who read and like my work will enjoy.
I send those to my mailing list, and I get a huge response from my readers. They love them. And that’s important to learn because the people on my reading list tend to be my ideal reader—the type of reader I want to please, and the kind most likely to buy and enjoy my books. Writing with that audience in mind, and getting their replies and feedback, I’m able to know what they like and what they don’t, what inspires them and what gets them excited.
And if those essays appeal to my ideal reader, then they make perfect blog content.
So once that newsletter goes out, I can repurpose it as a future blog post, which will help to draw in even more ideal readers. I can then encourage those new, incoming blog readers to join my mailing list, and my platform and reach continue to grow.
More readers means more chances that someone will buy my books.
Podcasts, Video, and Social Media
Repurposing doesn’t stop there, of course. We can squeeze a lot more juice out of this orange, and take things even further, by using it as the basis for even more content.
When I was pursuing a Masters in Education, I encountered something called “learning modalities.” In short, there are three learning modalities: Auditory, Visual, and Tactile-Kinesthetic.
Nearly everyone learns via a combination of at least two of these modalities, but some people are pretty heavily influenced by just one. Auditory learners (which happens to be the most common) tend to learn by hearing and listening. Visual learners pick things up by seeing and watching. And Tactile-Kinesthetic learners can best learn by touching and doing, taking action.
Again, you may be dominant in one form of learning, such as Auditory, but also be pretty strong in another, such as Tactile-Kinesthetic. The point, however, is that there are different ways in which individuals learn, and so the most effective way to reach an audience is to address as many modalities as possible.
That’s were media content comes in handy.
Podcasts have become an amazing tool for reaching audiences around the world. They’re primarily audio-driven (though there are plenty of video podcasts as well), and they’re incredibly portable. Anyone with a smartphone can carry podcasts with them everywhere they go, listening while driving, while exercising, while flying, or any other time they prefer.
Like blogs, podcasts work best when they are focused on the type of audience who would enjoy reading your books, funneling them back to (you guessed it) your mailing list, where you can let them know about new releases.
Video is another powerful tool, engaging the Visual learners in the crowd. In the spirit of repurposing, you could record video of yourself discussing a topic from your research, use the audio from that as a podcast, and then upload that video to YouTube so that it can help find an audience there.
And of course, all this content your creating, along with any photos or artwork or anything else that springs from your eternally fertile mind, can be shared to an even wider potential audience online via social media platforms.
In fact, sharing content like this on social media is a far better use of your time and energy than engaging in political debates or sharing selfies and meal pics. And it can be a great way to promote you and your books without spamming your friends and followers.
Again … we’re aiming to attract your ideal reader, who would presumably be interested in the type of content your creating. If they like you and what you’re making, then they may also like your books. You want to encourage them to keep up you with you so that when you do post something about a new book release, they care about it.
How to get the most out of your content marketing
So for those keeping track, here’s how we’ve been getting the most out of our content marketing so far:
- Do your research, find funny stories, grab links to things that are related to the topics of your books, and create content around all that.
- Share that content in your email newsletter, aimed at the supportive and loving audience who already love you and your work enough that they joined your list
- Gauge how your list reacts to the content you’re creating. Chances are they’ll love it and be supportive. Maybe a few folks will be a little negative. Use what you learn, refine what you’ve written, if needed, and just make the content better.
- Share that content on your blog
- Shoot some video of yourself reading that content out loud, and use that recording to create a podcast and a video channel
- Share links to your podcasts and videos (and any other content you’ve gathered and created) on social media
And think about what you’re doing here: You’ve put your energy and effort into creating something once, but reusing it multiple times, and aiming it at your potential readers with the goal of attracting them to your books. Your investment in this is mostly time, and the payoff is a growing portfolio of work that can help readers find you and your books.
More readers means more sales. More sales means more money. More money means creating a career doing the work you love.
Be Generous and Strategic
While attending the 2019 San Francisco Writer’s Conference, I sat in on a panel with author and speaker Anne Janzer. She and her fellow panelists were discussing content marketing as a strategy for authors, and one bit of advice she gave has stuck with me: Be generous and strategic.
Be generous, in that you are always using your innate gift to create content you can give to your potential readers, as often as possible. Write blog posts and articles and short stories, create YouTube videos and podcasts, take and share photos on social media—create, create, create. Give it all away. Be generous.
But also be strategic.
Give away as much content as you can create, but think about how you can leverage that free content to build up your readership. Think through what you’re putting out into the world, and how you can use it to point your ideal readers right back to your books. Always keep that ideal reader in mind, with everything you create. They’re the person you’re trying to reach, to touch, to inspire and entertain. Do it for them.
Be generous but strategic. That’s content marketing in a nutshell.
We here at Draft2Digital will keep building tools that make it easier for you to help readers find your books. Keep watching Books2Read.com. And write on.