As a self-published and independent author, I’m constantly evaluating my indie marketing practices. If you’re an independent author, you’re probably constantly evaluating, too. If you’re not, you should be. Creating a product that is consumed by others, (whether it’s food, music, books or jewelry), and not marketing it well, is just as good as if your product had never been created to begin with. So with that said, here are a few of the major categories involved in indie author marketing and how one can possibly use them too poorly, or too often (spam!). Feel free to add more and comment below!
Marketing items outside of your main product, in no particular order:
Physical materials, ie. business cards: From what I can tell, everyone loves goodies. Everyone seems to enjoy buying, ordering, trading or going to an event and bringing home mementos. Whether they’re just forgettable mementos that end up getting lost under the passenger-side, back seat in the car for 12 years, or if they’re cherished items held on to and framed, these types of items can be super valuable for marketing, in my opinion. I think as a general rule, these types of things need to be a source of info for how a potential customer can access your product and information, and/or serve a practical purpose. It can be something as simple as a bookmark, a calendar, a recipe magnet… whatever. Again, these types of marketing materials can score big if you understand your audience and capitalize on what the physical item will provide.
My experience: I’ve used a good number of things. Most of them are primarily focused around information and branding. I’ve bought a bunch of business cards with email addresses, my website URL, and social media information. I’ve also bought a good number of shirts and BIG banners to be flashy at events. Being independent types, we not only need to get our foot in doors in all sorts of ways, but we need to attract attention. Legacy publishing is still around because they have money to throw at marketing. Initially, independents don’t. We just need to learn to take advantage of what we can, and with many things, we can do them better than legacy publishing can. Why? No middleman/woman.
Email newsletters: I think newsletters are an amazing tool. Someone has said to you, “Hey, I dig you, and I dig what you’re offering. I want you to come into my home, my computer, while I recline with a blanket and tea before bed, relaxing, and email me with information about you and your product.”
I think that’s awesome. Every time someone signs up for my newsletter, I want to high-five them because they’re saying to me that they may make a little bit of effort to sort through the crappy spam and save your email. They may even read it.
Don’t take advantage of that and don’t abuse it. Give them what they signed up for. Info on you and your product. Tell them about events you’ll be involved in. Tell them about your projects and their current status.
My experience: I personally fail hard here. I have all the mechanics in place, and actively ask people to sign up for my newsletter, but I have yet to send one out. I published Souls of Astraeus in October of 2013, and am under a few months from publishing the follow-up, Games of Astraeus. I have yet to send a newsletter. By the time I got the mechanics up and running for the newsletter on my website, it was a good six months after publishing my first book, so I figured I had missed the train on sending out a bunch of newsletters about that. So, I’m going to remedy that here very shortly now that I’ll be attending more and more events, and since book two is on its way.
Social media, ie. Facebook, Twitter: I love social media. It is some of the most useful and complex technology ever to be invented in my opinion, especially from a marketing standpoint. Everything is so instantaneous, and raw. The second you say something, you better know what you’re saying and be prepared to back it up in some way. You can delete anything you want, but someone somewhere probably has a screenshot or a cached version of the page. With great power, comes great responsibility.
There are two main points I want to make about social media.
Some sites require this more than others, but you need to work to take advantage of numerous tools to maximize your impact. Especially in Twitter. Twitter is largely a “set it and forget it” technology in so much as it being incredibly automated by power users and a ridiculous amount of automation tools out there. This is good and bad. From a marketing stand point, it’s AMAZING. You can target your ideal audience in a number of ways and give them 140 characters of specific info about you and your product. But at the same time, 140 characters from anyone is easy to miss and skip over. You need to use this as one method of driving people to your product, and not the only way.
Secondly, much like email newsletters, social media lends itself to the potential for spamming your audience. You have to constantly evaluate whether or not you’re spamming your audience just for the sake of spamming them, and to keep your name tattooed on their brain to the point of annoyance, or if you’re sending occasional fun and helpful updates that benefits you and most importantly, your audience. You’re marketing to them. You already know how awesome you are.
My experince: I love social media, and I’m constantly researching how to take the biggest advantage of it. I have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and have a few other accounts, such as Pinterest, but my biggest faceplaces are Facebook and Twitter. Facebook has become a bit more constrained and money-hungry for exposure in recent months, so I’m devoting most of my business social activity to Twitter.
Product/personal website: The biggest thing here is that you have full control over the engineering and presentation of a huge marketing tool. From phones to tablets to PCs and gaming consoles, pretty much any soul on the planet has a way to pull up this biggest marketing tool of yours. Make it awesome, fun and informative. People will remember that and come back. I can testify to that. My analytics show not only many new visitors, but many return visitors. There are a gabillion blog and WordPress templates out there that are bland and forgettable. Don’t be one of those. Either engineer an engaging web presence for yourself, or invest in one just like you do artwork or editing for your product.
My experience: I have a website at jeramygoble.com and love working on it. I’ve built computers and websites since I was a kid, so I have a pretty good grasp on website customization. Not only that, but I looooove website design. But again, like I said, if you can’t do it, have someone create an engaging website for you.
Events: I don’t think any method of marketing your product or yourself can trump the experience of getting out there and interacting with fellow, [writers, chefs, car enthusiasts, whatever]. It’s the best representation of that which makes any product better–a two-way exchange of thoughts on a product or topic. You get to set an impression on a customer, fan or fellow writer, gamer, etc. You get to share with them information, a product or your experiences, and they get to give you feedback and their thoughts, which will only make your future products better.
My experience: 2014, the first full year that I was a published author, was a long year for me and my family. Between moving, adjusting to a new area and some tragic events, I just couldn’t get out and about. I’m changing that quite a bit in 2015, and am SUPER excited to meet fellow readers and writers.
What have I forgotten? What have been your experiences? Any other thoughts?
Main website: http://www.jeramygoble.com
Blog book tours. It’s an event, but with less getting “out” there. There are also book review blogs and blogs that interview authors. I find most of my new books this way, so I think it’s worth mentioning.