Two months ago, RWA (Romance Writers of America) offered an online version of their annual conference due to the pandemic. The RWA2020 Virtual Conference was a great idea not only for dealing with COVID, but it was also an easier/cheaper way for writers to participate.
Many of those attending enjoyed their first-ever RWA National Conference, as they didn’t have to deal with the costs or hassle of travel. Broadening access is a great side effect of having to go virtual, and I hope RWA decides to occasionally continue with an online version of the conference for that reason.
One of the highlights of the presentations I attended was “Marketing When Your Dough Is Low” by Siera London. Many of us aren’t comfortable with marketing, especially when we’re not sure how to get the best bang for our buck.
So I’m thrilled Siera’s here today to share her marketing tips. Check out her advice for how to come up with a marketing plan that will work for us, our brand, and our books.
Please welcome Siera London! *smile*
Book Marketing Matters
By Siera London
We all appreciate a well-written book, but how about a well-executed marketing plan?
Have you ever thought to yourself, writing books is so much fun, but selling them is akin to walking across hot coals in gasoline-soaked wool stockings?
My initial trial, but mostly error, into book marketing was blisteringly painful and expensive. I invested hours and dollars into professional cover design and editing, only to find my book sales struggle to surpass my upfront costs. Logging into my author dashboard became a daily obsession, that ended with me hanging my head at the abysmal estimated royalties.
The Struggle to Design a Marketing Plan
Like many career-focused writers, I’m a purveyor of knowledge. Since my debut release in 2015, I’ve invested in dozens of classes and workshops to facilitate a successful, income-producing writing career. Rifling through my ever-expanding computer file of story craft and plotting templates, I found my marketing how-to section to be a tad bit anemic.
At a lost for how to stop the hemorrhaging, I turned to my fellow wordslayers for guidance. Advice poured in.
- Write a series … Write a standalone.
- Permafree the first book in a series …The first book is 99 cents.
- Go wide across multiple book platforms … Kindle Unlimited only
- Host a monthly Rafflecopter giveaway … Give away nothing.
- Bookbub, Amazon, and Facebook ads sell books … Ads don’t work.
- Newsletters sell books … No, newsletters are a waste.
- Goodreads is a must … Goodreads is confusing.
- TikTok, Snapchat, & Instagram is the answer … Followers don’t buy.
This list is far from all-inclusive, but as a new author, the contradictory responses were overwhelming. Truthfully, if you’re in the book marketing game, you’ve witnessed other authors experience some level of success with a combination of these strategies. You may have found great success with some of the above suggestions, but I needed more.
Because if all the strategies worked some of the time, how could I decide which combination to use all the time, and which to use as needed?
After weeding through the blob of information and trying a few tactics, I discovered what I was missing.
A reproducible system of analysis.
The BENP System of Marketing
I needed a systematic method of examining my Siera London brand as well as each book series, to identify the best combination of selling strategies. In the absence of a substantial marketing budget—branding, engagement, networking, and planning are crucial to your word-of-mouth campaign.
So, if anything I’ve said thus far resonates with you, my BENP system may provide insight to improving your marketing plan of attack.
B Is for Branding
Book marketing starts long before you hit publish or sell your book to a publisher. Selling books starts with selling your author brand. Besides writing a great book, you are your best selling tool. Author branding takes some research, but, it’s worth it.There's no one perfect marketing plan, so how can we know what to focus on? @siera_london shares her tips Click To Tweet
Your pen name, author photo, book cover colors and fonts should be consistent between your author brand, books, and your online persona. Your graphics and online posts should paint a clear picture of where your book fits in the marketplace.
For genre fiction writers, color themes, cover images (portraits, couples, shirtless men) and fonts can change. Examine the bestselling books in your genre. What do the covers, blurbs, and storylines have in common? If you placed your author brand and your book on the same genre shelf, would it appeal to the same target audience? Notice, the question is about the readership you’re trying to reach, not your personal taste.
E Is for Engagement
Writing a great book is just the beginning of selling your product. It’s important that once you identify your market, which platforms they populate; that you start to engage with your target audience. This includes readers, authors with a shared audience, bloggers, reviewers, book clubs, and industry professionals.
Your online and in-person engagement should be deliberate, purpose-driven, and professional. What message are you communicating about you and your brand? What images are your words conjuring in the reader’s psyche? What call-to-action do you want your followers to take?What 4 things should we keep in mind with our book's marketing plan? Check out @siera_london's tips Click To Tweet
If no one has said this to you, I will—you are a business owner. When you log in to your social media accounts, you have opened your doors for business. Always remember, you the author, are a part of the reader experience. Don’t disappoint your audience.
I’m not saying everything can’t be organic and spontaneous, but you should be conscious that what you share about your work and life becomes part of your brand. If you are an author who discloses a lot about their personal life including your family, pets, and vacation spots, your audience expect you to continue engaging with the same level of intimacy.
Prioritize which platforms you want to build first. This step is easier if you’ve done your genre market research and where those readers reside in the online world. They all utilize different tenets that power their visibility algorithms which allow you to reach more people and grow your followers. Do your research for each platform.
N Is for Networking
Authors get really excited when readers talk about their books. And, we should be ecstatic when our stories resonatewith our target audience. Readers are key to our success, but don’t neglect other industry professionals.
Fellow genre writers, known bloggers, and super reviewers should be included in your professional network. Connecting with the influencers in your genre(s) is smart business and marketing. If you’re interested in traditional publishing add editors, agents, librarians, and booksellers to your network. They all play a role in increasing your credibility with your target audience.Need help coming up with a marketing plan of attack? @siera_london has our back Click To Tweet
Partner with support service providers like cover designers, freelance editors, graphic artists, and proofreaders to share one another’s work. Mention them by name in your book and across social media. Recommend them to your author network. Anyone who loves your work; including book clubs, can help you reach more readers and expand your share in the marketplace.
Keep a master list of all authors, prolific readers, key bloggers and reviewers who highly rate or recommend your books. Remember, you may need a separate list if you write across genres. Each time you release a book you want to reach out to your master list network. Ask them to share, and return the favor.
P Is for Marketing Plan
Now that you’ve streamlined your author brand, fine-tuned your daily engagement, and identified your professional network, you still need a marketing plan. Ideally, this starts with your book idea.
- Where does this book fit in the marketplace?
- Who in your network can help you sell this book?
- Is this project in line with your current brand and audience?
- If not, do you need a longer lead time to generate sales? Pre-order link? Prequel story to prime an audience?
- If it’s a brand new series or a long period between books, do you need a cover reveal, 4-6 weeks of teasers, a book trailer, excerpt, a launch party, and follow on blog tour?
- Which blogs, vlogs, or podcasts are you appearing on to talk about this book? Which book clubs are you targeting?
- Are there any author takeovers that can help to get the buzz going around your book?
As one of my network pals says, take the meat, and throw away the bone. Use what nuggets you can, leave the rest. I hope the BENP framework takes you to the bestsellers’ list and beyond.
Siera London is the USA Today Bestselling & award-winning author of contemporary and paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and crime fiction. She crafts stories of diverse characters navigating the challenges and triumphs to find lasting love. Intelligence, wit, emotion, drama, and romance are between the covers of every Siera London novel. Siera lives in Virginia with her husband, and a color patch tabby named Frie.
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About Lunchtime Chronicles: Red Velvet
A LoveRotica Sex Journal, a curious librarian, and a sexy alpha who keeps what he finds.
I never thought a bookworm librarian could crack my spine.
Talk about underestimating a book by the plain cover.
Siah rewrote every page I thought I knew, and then put me back on the shelf, well-used and ready for check-out again.
I’m not mad that she worked me over.
I’m pissed that she left.
When I went to Knox’s bed, I unleashed all my wicked fantasies.
I can’t want more. So, after our weekend together, I scribbled, “The End” to our story in my LoveRotica Sex Journal and boarded a flight for home.
I’m single and satisfied until Knox rolls into town flipping all my well-ordered hormones with an erotic entry of his own.
It doesn’t matter.
He’ll never know my backstory, and I refuse to share my climax.
Thank you so much, Siera! I love how you point out that our marketing plan really has to start with our story and our readers and us. There’s a reason no one plan will work for every author and every book.
The advice out there is endless, and it seems like there’s no way to know which contradictory tips will help us. So our marketing plan isn’t just about figuring out what approaches we should try, but also about deciding where and how we should focus our efforts.
The questions Siera asks in the last section, the P of her BENP system, are fantastic for getting us to analyze our specific situation. Once we have a handle on how our situation is unique, we’ll have a better idea of what elements we need to work on or include in our marketing plan. *smile*
Do you struggle to come up with marketing plan? Have you tried to figure out an approach that works…and then been overwhelmed by contradictory information? What do you think of Siera’s BENP system? Might her questions help you figure out where to focus? Do you have any questions for Siera?Pin It