Marketing Your Self and Your Book

A client recently wrote me: I’ve finished my book and delivered it to the publisher. What should I be focusing on right now?

That’s a good question. At this point, a writer should be thinking about two things: marketing this book (building your platform), and beginning work on your next book, whether or not it’s contracted.

This is a time to step up your efforts to reach out to your audience—the people you hope will buy your book. This could mean:

Build up that blog. Make sure it’s focused, interesting, and appeals to your target audience. Read books and articles on how to build blog traffic. Here are some of my posts on blogging. Search the web for good articles on blogging effectively, and start incorporating the advice.

Effectively use Twitter and Facebook to build relationships with your readers, driving them to your blog and eventually to your book. It’s CRUCIAL that you learn to use these social networking tools effectively –being friendly and creating a presence that intrigues people, NOT simply trying to sell your blog and your book. Remember who your audience is and communicate with them.

Create a strategy for getting out and speaking. This isn’t crucial for everyone, but it can’t hurt, especially for non-fiction authors. Deciding what your goal is in terms of number of speaking engagements per year, given your job and family obligations. Figure out the types of groups you could speak to, what you’d speak on, and how you will sell yourself and your qualifications to groups needing speakers. Start by speaking to smaller groups, then grow to larger ones.

Network with local bookstores in your area, and if you’re writing Christian books, network with large churches too. Introduce yourself, letting them know about your upcoming book, and offering to do retreats/workshops or simply speak to audiences or do booksignings.

Consider creating leave-behind materials like bookmarks and/or postcards, so you have something to hand people before your books comes out.

Learn about e-newsletters – what makes a good one, how to create one, how to build a mailing list, etc. Be careful with newsletters, though. If the content isn’t stellar, people won’t read it and it will be a waste of time. Make a good decision about whether or not to try and build a newsletter.

Think about your overall branding – who do you want to be as a writer? This will help you plan your next books as well as target your audience.

Get some resources: See if your library has the book Get Known Before the Book Deal. or you can buy it on Amazon, it’s only about $12. You may find it to be overly basic, but it’s at least worth a look. Also, look for websites to bookmark and start reading regularly. One is Wildfire Marketing’s blog.

Talk to other writers. Ask your friends what resources they’ve found helpful. Ask what creative marketing ideas they have.

Consider taking a marketing seminar such as Kathi Lipp’s Marketing Bootcamp.

This list isn’t exhaustive—there are other things you might do to build your author platform. You’re going to need to consider all your options and begin to build yourself a strategy. Don’t go about it helter-skelter but make a plan. Know what your main marketing vehicles will be, and focus on those.

Most importantly: Create a plan that’s realistic for YOU, given your season of life and other obligations.

Meanwhile, continue studying the craft of writing. Commit to getting better with every book.

Q4U: What other good ideas do you have for filling that time between writing the book and its release?

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  2. Erika Robuck on December 7, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    >These are great suggestions. I think it's especially important, whether in person or using social media, to develop relationships. A relationship is different than pitching to as many people as you possibly can, and it's best done before you need anything from anyone. Fantastic post!

  3. Christina Katz on December 7, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    >Thanks for recommending "Get Known Before the Book Deal," Rachelle. I laughed out loud, literally, when you said that it might seem "too basic." The reason this is funny is that when I write about basic platform strategies all writers need to cover, my work is dubbed "too basic." But when I write a piece that covers advanced strategies like what mostly bestselling authors do, like my most recent article in Writer's Digest, that article is dubbed "too frustrating" for aspiring novelists.

    There is a happy medium. I think you've touched on some of the strategies here. I think what writers will find in "Get Known" isn't just the basics, but how to think about platform as a long-term, ongoing, organic process that grows alongside a career.

  4. Stuart Clark on December 7, 2010 at 2:12 PM

    >Another good thing to do is contact your old University alumni publication. Often times they'll have a "Books by Alumni" section. You can reach thousands of people this way.

  5. Ron and Jennie Dugan on December 7, 2010 at 7:35 AM

    >We went beyond an e-newsletter and started an online journal, published quarterly, which also sponsors an essay contest. We consider the payment for the winners to be our marketing budget. The idea was to build our platform and brand. But we found that sponsoring the essay contest generated hits from around the world, and editing the winners has been such an incredible education for us as writers. It’s time consuming, but no regrets on this one, at all.

  6. Walt M on December 6, 2010 at 8:09 PM

    >I wonder what of these things should be done even before you've sold your first book.

  7. Jean Ann on December 6, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    >Great advice. Thanks so much.

  8. Kerri M. on December 6, 2010 at 7:08 PM

    >I think it's really wonderful that you've listed out options for writers, AND encouraged them to find out what works best for them during that precious 'in-between' time.

    Both twitter and my blog have really allowed me to connect to likeminded people, which I adore. Others may find that facebook or linkedin work best.

    Thanks again for the thought-provoking post!

  9. Michelle DeRusha on December 6, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    >I'm not in that waiting period, so I can't comment on that. But like Heather mentioned above, most of these points are applicable to non-contracted writers as well. I just read through some your prior posts on blogging, for example (by the way, when you said "Here are some of my posts on blogging" did you mean for that to be a live link? I found the blog posts in your topics list in the sidebar, but just thought I'd mention it in case you wanted that to be an embedded link), and found a number of tips I hadn't considered before. So thank you!

  10. Jill on December 6, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    >Writer Jim said "Don't be shy, be bold." I agree. Just don't be obnoxious, writers.

  11. Heather Sunseri on December 6, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    >All excellent points, Rachelle. Many of these ideas are great for non-contracted writers as well. I've been spending some time thinking about overall branding lately. In a class at ACFW, two speakers mentioned how it's difficult to truly define your brand until you have a couple of books out, but I think unpublished writers can never start too early thinking about this. Thinking about brand can influence which story idea you write next, the direction you take your blog, who you might interact with/find things in common with on Twitter, etc.

    Thanks for making me think today! And thank you for the links.

  12. T. Anne on December 6, 2010 at 12:21 PM

    >As soon as I sign with my agency I'm going to amp up my author marketing. I do feel like my blog is more geared for writers at this point rather than the audience I'd like to reach with my novels. I don't think it's impossible to marry the two concepts so long as I maintain a flavor of my writing style. I'm really looking forward to marketing my novel's. My husband is a marketing mastermind and I can't wait to put his skills to great use! Fun post!

  13. ALee on December 6, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    >I anchor the morning news for a Top 10 TV station and I would suggest it's certainly worth putting together a well crafted newsletter or packet to send out.

    TV time is precious and therefore we tend to shy away from the majority of stuff unless it's a big name author, an interesting topic or someone local who's written something very interesting.

    Along the same lines, local newspapers and radio stations are a good source as well. The paper may go so far as to review your work, but be prepared if it's not the glowing review you'd hoped for.

    Hit up friends, old college buddies, anyone you think can help spread the word.

    And here goes a shameless plug. If you have the time, stop by and read my blog:

    Thank you Rachelle for caring.

  14. Julie Gillies on December 6, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    >Excellent post, Rachelle. What I appreciate most is how you stress our need to do what's right for us given where we are in life. It takes pressure off…well, sort of.

    I've never heard of the Marketing Bootcamp and think that will need to be one of my 2011 goals.

  15. Laura Marcella on December 6, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    >I'm not anywhere near this point, but these are terrific tips for when I am. I'm tucking them away for future reference. Thanks!

  16. Wendy Paine Miller on December 6, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    >Love Lisa's point. There really is something about meeting those in the industry in person.

    It's exciting for me, brainstorming and thinking about taking on the things you listed!

    Talking to other writers is an excellent resource and taking notes on what has worked for them.

    ~ Wendy

  17. Lisa Jordan on December 6, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    >Terrific list, Rachelle. If your budget allows, consider writing conferences and retreats. Making that face to face connection with an editor or agent helps to cement a future relationship.

  18. RobynBradley on December 6, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    >Great post, as usual! I want to comment on the Facebook thing. I'm a marketing "copy bitch" by day, and one of the things I do is manage clients' Facebook pages (along with them — I feel the client needs to be a partner in his or her marketing). A major mistake (in my opinion) that I'm seeing with some writers: they use their personal Facebook page as their fan page. Don't do this. First, it can be nerve wracking for someone to "friend" a writer. On a public page, fans just need to click the "Like" button. Second, your fans don't need to hear the goings on of your family Thanksgiving and whether baby boy slept through the night (unless this is what you write about, but even then). Your public page will allow you to focus, and I agree with you, Rachelle, that it shouldn't be just pimping your book. Your fans "liked" your page because they like to read and they like to read you specifically, so talk books. Talk movies. Take polls. Run contests (book giveaways are always fun). Ask thought provoking questions (on the flip side your "personal" friends might get tired of you if you tried all these tactics on your personal page). Even if you've already taken the leap and have made your personal page your fan page, separate them. It will be worth the effort in the long run. Oh, and don't forget the look and feel. You can customize (and should) your FB public page. Specifically, create a "Welcome" tab with a cool, relevant graphic (this should be the default page people land on if they're not already a fan).

    Okay, I'll stop now. 🙂

  19. Francine on December 6, 2010 at 8:38 AM


    All great points to note down, and given similar advice by a lit agent in UK mag "Whiters' News", which I featured on my fun blog. I nevertheless took her advice on board and set up a profile blog specific to show-case my writing.
    Hence chapters posted up for public view, expecially as I'm considering going Indie if I fail to secure a publishing deal on latest sub.


  20. Richard Mabry on December 6, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    >All excellent points. I might emphasize this one–start working on your next book. After the publication of your first book, it's a constant balancing act between marketing that one and writing the next.

  21. angie mizzell on December 6, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    >I'm glad you posted this today because I'm currently brainstorming a more focused theme for my blog… and at the same time I'm writing a memoir. Ideally the themes for the book and blog match. 🙂 But what comes first? I've been trying to do both at the same time for a couple of years now and this feels
    counterproductive. I don't want to "go dark" on my blog, but I'm also concerned about relaunching a new, focused theme at the beginning of the year, only to change directions when my manuscript is complete. Thoughts on how to divide my time and energy at this stage of the game?

  22. on December 6, 2010 at 7:55 AM

    >"Think about your overall branding – who do you want to be as a writer?"

    You make that sound so easy. 🙂

  23. Timothy Fish on December 6, 2010 at 7:43 AM

    >I don’t think there’s a thing on this list for which it couldn’t be said that it is much easier said than done. Maybe it’s because I tend to write about stuff that people don’t get together in groups to talk about, but when it comes to “getting out and speaking” I wouldn’t even know where to start. It's not like you can pick up the yellow pages and look under "groups who want speakers."

  24. writer jim on December 6, 2010 at 4:19 AM

    >The above advice is certainly important for writers. I would add one thing:
    If a writer truly believes in their book; you should also think BIG…and give this a try. Send a sample of your work to influencial people that you hope may find it interesting. You may think it would be a waste of time, but it may be the key to your success.
    I've done this for years, and it has yielded results that amazed me.

    So pick out people that you look up to and send them something. They are humans just like you…they can be moved by your writing. God can make it happen for you. Don't be shy, be bold.