How To Write a Book: Part 8

Here we are, the final installment of my How-To Write a Book series. It's Part 8 and through it all, you've worked hard and diligently, never taking your eye off of the prize. You knew that, throughout it all, the light at the end of the tunnel was getting closer and eventually, you'd reach your goal. Once you got past Part 7, you finally had finished planning, writing, editing, formatting, finalizing, and approving your book and have the fruits of your labor in your hand.

This now leaves only one more bit of work for you to do, but it's some of the most important work in the entire process. As you'll see, first through reading this article and then by going out and doing it, it can also be the most fun part of the whole process.

Part 8: Marketing and Promotion

This is where your skills as a writer will not matter as much, while your skills as someone who can connect with your audience and create interest and excitement for your book are of paramount importance.  The hard part of creating and executing your book are finished, and now you've got boxes (or access to boxes) of copies and copies of your book. But you didn't put in all of that work just to sit on copies of your own book; you did it because you had something that was important to you that you thought would also be important to a lot of other people which you want to share with them. Well, the only way that's going to happen is if you put in the work to get those copies into the hands of your future readers!

Right off the bat, I want to emphasize the point that there is a fine line between being a good salesman and promoter, and coming across like a huckster. Your target audience and any potential fans will be instantly (and 99% of the time, irreversibly) turned off by an approach that makes it obvious that you're simply trying to get them to buy your book. Even worse is if you make it obvious that you're only interested in your money. Honestly, and this is speaking from personal experience, that's not why we write books and are so eager to get them into the hands of our readers. While it is, of course, nice to be rewarded for your hard work and dedication, it shouldn't be (and hopefully isn't) the only motivation for doing it. 

From my personal experience, connecting with your fans, having lively and interesting discussions with them, and hearing about their excitement with and enjoyment of your book is infinitely more fun and rewarding, both personally and professionally, than simply trying to make some fast cash with it.  A key point to remember is that, in order to create fans of your work, you need to be a fan of yourself as well (but not in a egotistical way!). In the case of my books, since I was a massive fan of Blur, I could connect with potential book fans and readers using that as common ground, but there still was (and is) a lot of work that goes into building the relationship. At the root of it all is trust; readers want to know that not only will you be offering them something of quality that they will enjoy, but that you will be open to comments, criticisms, suggestions, and discussions of both the content of the book as well as the work itself.

For how to do this, I can of course only share my own experiences but I think they are broadly applicable and I'm confident they will be of good use to any of you in getting your own book off the ground and into the hands of your readers.

1) Gently Advertise

Obviously, in order to sell anything, you've got to advertise it so that people are not only aware of it, but enticed enough to spend their money on it. However, no one likes to be bombarded with someone trying to sell them something, and if someone seems like a huckster who is only in it for the money, they will instantly reject anything you're trying to sell them. Think about your own experiences with advertising and buying products and what you like and don't like; then apply it to your own approach. Be enthusiastic, be excited, and be interesting, but also be gentle about it.

2) Promote your book via a website

In today's day and age, anyone can have a website for a pittance (and oftentimes, free). It's a great way to not only advertise your book, but to have fun doing it and to interact with your fans. Make sure your website actually has content to offer so that people will continue to visit and be welcomed into interacting with you on it. If your page is simply a full-screen ad for your book, it will turn off potential readers and will likely have the completely opposite effect of what you've intended!

For my own books, I started a blog-type website where I not only updated my readers on the progress of the book and offered teasers of its contents, but I posted (and continue to, although with less frequency) content related to, but not included in, my books, including articles on Blur, news links, and audio and video (to see my site, click HERE).

3) Promote your book via social media

In 2014, this is probably the best and most effective way to get the word out about your book. For me, it's been the best way to interact with readers and fans, as well as attract new ones. The amount of success you'll have is directly proportional to the amount of effort you put into it, at least initially, but once you reach a steady state, it will work on its own and as you continue to interact with your audience, it should do nothing but grow and grow.

For my books, I run dedicated Facebook and Tumblr pages, and I use my Twitter account to update with news on my book, the band, and their music (alongside whatever else I tweet about). What I try to do as well is use the social media accounts to drive traffic to my website in order to expose readers to the content I post there. However, social media is only a means to an end and, keeping that in mind, the best way to grow your network of fans and readers is to...

Your goal should be to reside at the center of this intersection!

4) Interact and discuss!

The best thing that social media offers for authors is an easy, free, and fun way for you and your readers to interact.  In addition to posting links to content I've posted on my dedicated website, I frequently post news links, videos, and other media, or ask questions in order to stimulate discussions It's a great way to spread the news about your book and sites via word of mouth and also allows direct contact for potential fans and customers to ask questions and give their opinions about your book. Be forewarned that you'll have to be able to take the good as well as the bad when people offer opinions and make sure that, no matter how much you disagree, to be civil since some of the most entertaining and enlightening discussions are those where there is a difference of opinion.

5) Have special offers

The final piece of advice I'll offer is to have some fun with how you market your book and what you offer. After my first book had been out a while, I decided to discount the price to make it more affordable and attractive to more casual/less interested fans of Blur who may not have been all in when it first came out. 

As for my second book, I decided to have fun and offer something special by way of a pre-order, where I offered signed copies of the book and a specially-made compilation CD made up of rare tracks (which was kindly and expertly mastered by a friend of mine to ensure the best possible sound quality) which was only available to those who pre-ordered. While fulfilling the orders and shipping them out, as well as producing the CDs, was a LOT of work, it was also great fun, both on my end as well as the customer's. It generated a lot of interest and excitement and everyone ended up happy. I've also thought about offering contests with giveaways which is something quite a few other authors I've talked to have done; this is another good way to drum up interest and get people talking about your book.

In closing, have fun with your marketing! Make sure you convey how much of a fan (but not in a narcissistic manner) you are of your own book and how much you want to share it with others, not only in the form of the physical book itself, but with all of the ensuing discussions and interactions. Especially for self-published authors (which is where I'm coming from with all of this), it's a lot of work because you have to do it all yourself and any money spent is likely coming out-of-pocket, but it's worth it. Not only is it fun, but it helps to build up your reputation for quality and dependability, as well as trustworthiness (not only with their money but their time and focus) which helps with any subsequent books you produce. I know this firsthand because of how hard I worked to establish myself and the quality of my work and reputation with my first book. It made promoting my second book much easier in that I already had a built-in fanbase and reputation for excellence.

So there you have it! With the conclusion of this part, you now have a beginning-to-end guide on how to write your own book, from the initial inception and idea all the way to getting your finished product into the hands of readers. I hope this has been as informative, enlightening, and fun for all of you budding authors as it has been for me to write and share with you. And as always, please feel free to contact me either via email or in the comments section below with any questions, comments, suggestions, or shared experiences you may have.

And so, as you work your way through the process, I wish you good luck!