Let me start this by saying I’m not an expert. However, I have been doing a lot of research leading up to my forthcoming book at the end of this year, and the experts I have listened to, talked to, and followed have all said about the same things. I’m not going to get into details about Amazon keywords and algorithms here, however. I want to talk about marketing in general.
One of the first things I learned about marketing is the power of your brand. Which is a terrifying notion to most of us authors who would much prefer swaddling ourselves in blankets with a cup of tea, a book, and hissing at anyone who gets too close. However, the liberating thing about branding is that the only person who decides what’s included in your brand is you. You show your public only what you want them to see, so if you don’t want them to know something about you, it’s as simple as not telling them.
The way I decided what my brand included was to pull out a piece of paper and write down words I wanted associated with me in public. These are things I post about on public-facing social media, and what I talk about in blog posts, my writing group, or any other public space. My list of the things I explicitly am including in my brand is:
- Martial arts
- Video games
- Bad jokes
- Disability / Mental Health
Now, I might mention other things on my social media in public, but those things are what I am specifically talking about and including in my branding. When a fan thinks of me, those are the things I want them conjuring up. Other than, of course, my books and their content.
With those decisions made, I have geared my public-facing social media to include those things. I share and re-tweet memes, jokes and make comments about those things. Those public feeds are still authentically me, of course, but they’re a curated version that removes a lot of the more personal things from the public eye. You’ll note that my faith and my political views aren’t part of my brand. Which isn’t to say I don’t have either, but I am not looking to make them a large part of my brand.
So, knowing my brand, I post things related to that. My Twitter is full of writing advice, D&D comments, pictures of my favorite dice, and me talking about playthroughs on various video games. I also mention my migraines and do some advocacy about disability-related things. While I post links to my twice-weekly blogs and do talk about my novel on there, you’ll note that nowhere in that list of things does it include spamming people.
Marketing one’s book is a delicate balance between making sure people know you have one (and helping them find you) and not drowning them in a constant flow of “BUY MY BOOK!” because doing that is the equivalent of being That Guy with a megaphone on the corner of a public street. Sure, people might hear you, but nobody wants to. Or the junk mail in your inbox. We are inundated with constant marketing on a daily basis. Between ads on every single website we go to, ads on television, radio, and on platforms like YouTube and also on social media, we are caught in a marketing deluge that nobody signed up for.
It’s my job to stand out from that somehow.
My approach has been organic. I’ve had this blog since 2009, and I have about 1,200 followers. Now, on average I get around 30 views a blog post. Sometimes more. Instead of trying to constantly convince people to follow my blog or screaming about it from the rooftops, I post content people are interested in and engage with. My goal here is to give people a reason to want to see what I have to say. To be interested in me.
While, yes, my numbers of social media followers and blog followers is small compared to a lot of the powerhouse marketers out there, I also haven’t had a product to sell beyond my editing, which has been word of mouth, and I’ve only started doing any kind of serious marketing in the last couple months. However, the kind of engagement I get and the interactions I have with people are organic which, to me, is of serious importance. People follow me on Twitter because I give writing advice or talk about subjects they like.
Heck, even this blog is marketing. Why? Well, you’re reading it, aren’t you? You’re interested in what I have to say on the subject and either clicked through from my social media to get here or maybe found me through WordPress itself. Either that or you’re one of my regulars, in which case, hi! (Shout out to Helen Bellamy. ❤ )
The reason I bring that up is because marketing isn’t all loud ads or screeching about buying you products. My approach is specifically in value-added marketing. I give people things in exchange for their time and the hope that my name is the one that comes to mind when they think about who they want to edit their next book or where they might buy a neat novel. That’s the contract I’ve made with all of you: you get interesting content, my name lives in your brain for a little while with a positive connotation (I hope).
While all of this certainly sounds terrifying to those who haven’t done it (I was really anxious when I started), I’ve realized that marketing can be broken down to a series of simple repeating tasks that you can schedule. It’s not an all day every day sort of thing, and that helped me manage the scope of things.
For example, I try to write my two blogs a week in advance. As I write this, I have two blogs out from where I’m writing (today is July 7th). Scheduling in advance gives me some leeway in case I end up with a migraine or terrible pain flare. Also, using Hootsuite to schedule the announcements of my blog posts and other such things on social media means I don’t need to do it all myself the day-of. Which is why my blog posts go out at 8am instead of like 6pm. These options help me keep myself organized and allow me to put things together when and where I want them.
Since I have significant ADHD, it also helps to have scheduling available because things just wander out of my head sometimes or I will end up hyperfocused on a project and suddenly it’s three days later but I know literally everything about the reproductive habits of squirrels in Asia. (That’s only a slight exaggeration–it’s not usually squirrels.) My brain is an interesting place.
When it comes to social media engagement, I hang out on a few specific hashtags on Twitter that help me reach the people I am marketing to most ( #WritingCommunity #PubTips #AmWriting ) and engage in a few Facebook groups where I talk shop with writers. I also run my Discord writing group as advertised on the front page of my blog here. While my method isn’t the fastest to getting a million subscribers/watchers/etc, it’s been a slow and steady growth over time that I’m comfortable with.
My hope is that when my book launches this December, I’ll be able to kick over into new audiences and grow faster, but the first book is usually not some huge blockbuster unless you catch lightning in a bottle. It takes time to get noticed and develop a readership. As an author, I’m in this for the long haul because I’ve been in the industry long enough as an editor that I am comfortable saying I know what to expect, so that’s what I’m working on.
E. Prybylski has been in the publishing industry as an editor since 2009, starting at Divertir Publishing and eventually partnering with her close friend Richard Belanger to begin Insomnia Publishing.
Ever since childhood, E. has been an avid reader and writer of fantasy. The first chapter book she remembers reading is The Hobbit, followed swiftly by most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. In high school, she perfected the skill of walking while reading without slamming into anyone. Mostly.
When she isn’t reading or writing, E. is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and has a B.A. in European history from SNHU. In addition to her many historical pursuits, E. is a musician of multiple instruments, a cat mom, and a loving wife to her husband, J. E. also speaks out for the disability and chronic illness communities being a sufferer of chronic migraines and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.