Literary Q&A: What Do People Mean When They Say, “It’s Never Too Soon to Start Marketing”? (Series #5)

Good Sunday everyone. My calendar says, “When you can’t find the sunshine, BE the sunshine.” Love it. Great advice for everyone–especially writers.

What do people mean when they say, “It’s never too soon to start marketing?” I just released my first book and I haven’t even started. So am I already losing because I don’t even have a website? I don’t know where to start?

Aha. The when do I get a website? dilemma. I do have a post on making your website. But that’s not the question. Really, no one knows when to start marketing yourself on social media–it’s highly personal–and it seems that for most people, jumping into social media as an author is frightening. And then well-meaning authors who want to see you succeed, tell you that you should have started your social media marketing yesterday. That you are already behind, no matter where you are in the process.

Don’t take on that worry. As long as you are learning and doing–no one can do better than their best. It matters what you have to work with. “They” think you should break out of your shell and make profiles on all the major sites everywhere today, right? Isn’t that what they mean? How am I supposed to start when I don’t know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it? How can I be so behind when I’ve JUST launched a book?

What “they” mean is that the day you say, Hey, I think I’m going to be an author and write a book, and you start writing, you’re now a marketable writer, or an author. On that day you could, conceivably, join all the social media platforms, and make an author website (this site is WordPress and it’s free and easy). What does a writer do with a website? They write! Keeping a blog is great for authors because your fans already love to read. Even though you’ve just started writing the book, you could talk about your writing and the process, and what you learn along the way. You can share the research you do to make your book authentic. You can blog about new tricks, tips, and techniques. You could chronicle each of the major milestones in your journey–whatever they are–finished the first draft, received first beta review, hired cover artist, learning to format. All those things can help you relate to others.

That’s what you want. You ultimately want a fan base of readers who WANT whatever you’re cranking out. You want them to follow you and read what you write, learn what you’re teaching, and then support you by buying your next book.

You need readers now, but who will buy your book? It’s every writer’s first instinct to hope all their friends and family buy a copy of their book to help them jump into some sales. Writers put out their book with a description that sometimes, even literally, begs the viewer to purchase a new book without reviews. No one clicks, so the author pushes harder–trying to eek out sales everywhere they can. Aren’t you supposed to do that?

Hear me now: You cannot force people to read your book. You will not receive the review you deserve–it will be tainted by the reader’s feelings about being pressured to read it. Yes, you need reviews. I talk about where to look for reviews in another post.

But you aren’t going to have a relationship with every buyer of your book. So you’ll need to get out and make yourself visible. BUT there’s a difference between saying “BUY ME!” and a lovely photo with a book cover and a five-star review with a link. If it looks like it’s right for the reader, they click, and hopefully they buy.

How can you make sure this happens? The first, number one, marketing tool you have is your book cover. I used to hear that and wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. But here’s the deal: People judge every book by its cover. Every book. Even those readers who say, “I only read the descriptions to base my opinion.” What factor makes you choose the books you do, to read the description and make your decision? It’s either consciously or subconsciously your brain’s feeling about the cover.

When a reader likes your cover, either in an ad, a flyer, a link, or a thumbnail, they will click. That’s what you want. How do you get that clickable cover? I’ve talked about this before as well, but you want your book’s cover to look like the best-selling books in your genre.

That’s another thing people used to say that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Here’s an example: For many years, the covers of best-selling YA fantasy romances were either a girl’s up-close face, or a girl in a beautiful gown, so if you wrote YA fantasy romance, you wanted a cover like that. But then things changed. Trade books started going with a dark background, featuring a spot-lighted symbol and some intricate scrolling detail. However, I’ve noticed another trend that is selling well. It has a dark background with a girl back-lit with colorful lighted magic mist swirling around and an academy in the background, with a semi-sexy school uniform.

So, say you wrote a dark fantasy about an academy. You would want your cover to look like those that are selling the best. Meaning, copy the characteristics of those book’s covers. You’d want a dark background with an academy and your character in her uniform on the front, surrounded by a magic cloud. THEN when readers of academy books see your cover, they will think, “Hey! It’s another one of those books I like!” And they will click to check it out.

That’s when your description needs to seal the deal. I talk about description writing in other posts.

I don’t want to stray too far off-topic, so let’s steer it back to the marketing and social media. At any time in your writing journey, you can start this, but the sooner you do, the sooner you’ll see results. When you decide you are going to put yourself out there as an author, first make up your “name” or “handle.” It is usually either “writer” or “author” in some combination with your name, but you could put your genre or whatever you want. Just be consistent. Mine is @haskinauthor. You can use any combination, but use that name across all your social media sites so that your readers can find you, no matter where they’re looking.

If you have a personal Facebook page, you definitely want to make a separate author page. LinkedIn is where you go to make colleague connections. Sometimes these are valuable, but not always. It just depends on who you connect with and what your goal is. You are mostly contacting other authors here, and that is always good for sharing ideas and solutions, maybe you made some connections with agents or publishers, but who you REALLY want to connect with are READERS.

Target readers of your genre with your content. The literary world is thriving on Twitter. I have a few posts on how and why to Twitter. You can use Twitter to connect to the #writingcommunity and when your manuscript is finished and edited and ready to query, you can join in with Pitch Events on Twitter, where literary agents and acquiring editors look for manuscripts they like. I also have posts on how to “do” pitch events. There is a great reader community on Instagram, and there you can put photos of your process: Your writing desk, your favorite pen and mug, a background similar to your story, a stock photo that looks like your MC, then later, your book cover, a flyer, an ad, etc.

No matter where you go online, you can surely find communities that support each other and answer questions. Writers, authors, storytellers, and readers. But some sites have greater numbers than others.

Some folks have good luck with Facebook ads, but it depends on your genre. You can certainly shoot for a wide reader-base on Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram. And make connections on LinkedIn, and Twitter. There are literally millions of sites you could go to for community, and that’s up to you. I have platforms on all the major sites, but when I fall out of the game for awhile, I feel like I really lose traction and have to work hard to get back my status. I mostly check in here and there, and have automatic ads that run for me on Bookbub and Amazon. I talk about how to make those ads in other posts.

The reason you want all this exposure is:

It’s a numbers game.

First let me tell you why you don’t want to force everyone in your family this Christmas to buy a copy of your new book. (1) It won’t help you find new readers in your genre, (2) they can’t leave reviews, and (3) their different “regular book preferences” will mess up Amazon’s algorithm because it won’t be able to detect who your fans are. Are your fans the cozy mystery readers like your sister, are they military scifi readers like your grandpa George, or are they romance readers like your best friend? The problem is your book is listed as a fantasy, but no “fantasy readers” have bought the book yet. That throws off Amazon, and they kind of ignore you, rather than showing your book to people it detects are your audience. Which is especially important if you’re running ads. Other factors are at play here, but if you confuse the system, it doesn’t show your book to anyone.

Which is not what you want. You want to be climbing up the ranks.

This brings up two questions:

Why should I care what Amazon ranks me? And how do I change it to rank me better?

First, why do you want to climb ranks in Amazon? Surely it doesn’t matter that much. Oh, it matters. A HUGE number of readers use Amazon and Kindle Unlimited daily, and readers spend millions every month on this site. Plus, most small publishers are using KDP to publish their clients now, so you may have a small publisher, but are technically self-published on Amazon by your publisher.

Why does it matter what page you’re on? Don’t people scroll to find the best deal, see all the choices? No. Not really. 80% of Amazon purchases are made on the first page of results. Each page after that drops dramatically in percentage over the first few pages until page five or so–then, from that page on, you have a 6% chance of being seen. Out of those 80% buying on the first page, 65% of all the money is spent on the first three items. Think about it. You want a book, you go to the right genre page, and start scrolling. When you find one you like, you stop and click. If it’s on the first page, and you buy it, you’re done. No need to look further. And subconsciously, people know that the “Best” items come first, right? It creates a cycle of selling more to rank higher, and ranking higher sells more.

*It’s a lot like walking up a “down” escalator. As long as you keep working at a steady pace, you pretty much stay in the same place. Occasionally, I run some ads and dash up nearer to the top, but if you just stand there idly, you will slowly slip down the rankings until you’re at eight million and no one ever sees your book to buy it.*

Here’s what I mean by numbers game: If you are lucky, and you have an attractive cover to readers of your genre and age group, and your description is captivating, for every 1,000 views your book gets–for every 1,000 readers who see your thumbnail–about 100 of them will probably click to go to your sales page. And if you’re excelling at this, out of every 10 clicks, you should get one sale. So you want as many views as you can get. You might only sell to the 10% who click, but 10% of 300,000 is a whole lot more than 10% of 1,000. See what I mean?

So, social media marketing is the way we authors connect with one another, connect with readers, put up ads, sell books, show yourself and be personable with your fans. Be available. It’s the way we get the exposure we need to get noticed, get clicked on, and get sold. The three things you can do to make sure your potential readers convert to sales? Have a GREAT cover, and an enticing description–but don’t forget to have a great book, or your reviews will be less than stellar.

Use these communities on Facebook, LinkedIn, wherever, to ask other authors what they think of your cover and description. Tell them you don’t want to know if they like it or not, but what would make them click on it now? And what could it use to make them click on it for sure?

Same with your description. And don’t ask Granny Maebelle if it’s any “good,” because if the answer is “no” I’ll give you $20 and a cookie. It won’t be. Her opinion is biased. You need to ask readers and/or other writers if they’d click on what you’ve got. Why or why not? What would make them even more interested?

In short, don’t be afraid of social media. USE it to your advantage. Only make profiles on sites you plan to keep up with. It looks better to have a platform of a bajillion on Twitter that you interact with, than to have profiles on all sites, that you never post on. This doesn’t have to be that hard, either. When I publish my weekly blog, it automatically appears on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for me. I don’t even have to log on and I’ve posted on three sites today. See what I mean? My instagram posts go right to my author Facebook page. Look for options to increase exposure. Learn to work smart, not hard.

There’s nothing wrong with hard work, and believe me it will be, because the marketing never stops, but so many writers have gone through this and worked to figure it out. And they are talking. You just have to listen. Look for it–on social media–search for the answers to what you don’t know, and blog about what you learn, then set it up to post for you. Kill five birds with one stone, right?

So, if you look at it as a business, and decide where you want to be–and who you want to be–get started networking and “exposing” your book. Use free sites like Canva.com and Bookbrush.com and make ads and flyers for your book, then post them everywhere. Tell everyone you wrote a book, just don’t beg ANYONE to read it. You need those thousands and thousands of views, to get clicks, and finally sales.

You can do this. And you can start whenever you want. You can start before the book, during the writing, during the editing, during your querying or self-publishing. At the latest, I definitely suggest you begin when you launch your book–if you haven’t started yet. But you can start gaining contacts and marketing your book at any time in your book’s journey. And that’s what they mean when they say, “it’s never too early to start your marketing.” Whether it’s day 1, or day 371, you can put yourself out there as a writer and share about your (potential) book. There’s never a time too early to start gaining your platforms online. And there’s always “more” you can be/should be doing. Do what’s right for you and your book. Map it out and get to work. Hope that helps!

If you have new questions, send them my way! Until next week–

If you can’t find the sunshine, BE the sunshine.

~jenn

2 thoughts on “Literary Q&A: What Do People Mean When They Say, “It’s Never Too Soon to Start Marketing”? (Series #5)

  1. Karen Neary says:

    Hi Jenn. Good post. I’ve found that on Twitter most of #writingcommunity is interested in fantasy and science fiction–next to zero interest in mystery. I’ve gathered this from the posts and surveys where they ask questions regarding genre. I’ve only had one self-published author ask me to read her book and write a review (romance) and she read mine. And actually, I don’t look at covers because most of them I don’t like (the artist in me, I guess). I make a decision by reading the first sentence . . .then the first paragraph . . . the first page and if I’m still interested, I buy the book. I also read reviews. But I always buy my friends’ books!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Haskin Author says:

      Thanks Karen! I wonder if you just haven’t found where the mystery readers are hiding yet? I know there are many people who enjoy mysteries. Maybe you could capitalize on another genre aspect in your stories? If you add a little romance, you can hit the mystery AND romance readers, which could gain you quite a few more readers who love romantic mystery or cozy mysteries. OR you could put a little fantasy aspect in it, or some scifi, and hit those genre mixes, as well. It’s worth a shot. I like to look at covers. I was always a “content” girl, but then I realized “something” made me choose the ones I did to read the back, and I realized that it had to be, on some subconscious level, an attraction to the cover. If the cover is hideous, I generally doubt the inside is going to be for me. And I could be wrong, but it goes to show, people evaluate the inside of the book as relatable to the attractiveness of the cover. You wrote a review for me years ago! I still appreciate it! Thanks for talking with me!

      Liked by 2 people

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