How to Create a Marketing Plan That's Right for You

BY CHELSEA ENNEN • February 23, 2023

How to Create a Marketing Plan That's Right for You

Have you ever heard an author say, “Promoting my work is my favorite part of publishing!” Probably not. But you’ve likely heard an author say, “I wrote a book, but I’m not good at all that marketing stuff.”

Marketing woes are a common complaint among independent authors—and for good reason. It’s awkward to sign into your social media accounts and ask your old high school friends and distant relatives to buy your book. But if you don’t bother to spread the word that your book is finished and on the shelves, well, you can’t complain when no one buys it.

Luckily, embarrassing Facebook posts are not, in fact, a good marketing strategy. When you promote your book in a way that makes the most sense for you, you’ll feel better about “that marketing stuff,” and you’ll help your book find its way into the hands of readers who will love it.

One Size Does Not Fit All

If you’re one of those writers who claims to despise marketing, you can probably think of an author you know who seems to love it. Their social media is littered with chipper requests to put in a preorder for their next book, and their website is so sophisticated it makes you ashamed to think that you haven’t even bought your own domain name yet.

But just because that kind of approach works for some authors, that doesn’t mean it has to work for you. While there are a few no-brainers like having a website—and, yes, keeping up even a very basic social media presence—you might need a totally different approach.

Consider your book and your audience. Where are your readers? If your book is a memoir about your time backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, you might consider reaching out to regional hiking clubs or buying ads in magazines that cover outdoor gear. If you write epic fantasy novels, then sci-fi and fantasy conventions are your target. Focus on your audience and try to make it easy for them to find your book instead of focusing on what you see other authors doing.

If you’re still stuck, think about how you find your own book recommendations. Did you read a review? Hear an interview on a podcast? See a social media post comparing the new book to an old favorite? Get creative and find an option that works for your intended audience.

Ask for Help

Being an independent author comes with some extra work, and that might mean going to the trouble of finding and investing in a marketing expert.

Now that doesn’t mean handing all your money to a fancy Hollywood publicist and hoping for the best. It also doesn’t mean handing your teenage niece a few extra bucks to push your book on her TikTok account.

Just like there are freelance editors who earn their living by helping indie authors, there are freelance book marketing consultants as well. You could hire a copywriter to type up a few paragraphs of polished, professional copy for your website. When you use an agency, or even a website like Fiverr, it’s easy to pay an affordable marketing writer to write regular blog posts, social media copy, and even email newsletters to keep your readers up to date on your upcoming work.

Another cost-effective option is to invest time in marketing classes. Look for online courses on search engine optimization and marketing for indie authors. It will take some extra time and effort on the front end, but it’ll be worth it when you see your book order numbers go up.

Who knows? You might even find that you can diversify your income stream by offering your newly earned marketing skills to other authors.

Lean into Your Strengths

When authors complain about marketing, it’s usually about how much they hate social media. Given that you can post the occasional tweet from your couch with one finger, this resistance is sometimes a little overdramatic. But it’s always a good idea to focus more on your strengths, and if the internet isn’t your favorite, you’d do well to find something that is.

What about talking to people in real life instead? Reach out to book clubs to see if they’re interested in having authors come speak to their groups. Attend conferences, not just as a networking opportunity but as a speaker or panelist. Just put yourself out there however you can. Even if it doesn’t seem like an event that’s relevant to your book, remember that anytime you’re out in the world talking and making connections, you’ll be saying the words, “I actually just published a book” over and over again to people who are happy to give you their attention.

If you have stage fright and a screen really is more your style, then get those social media profile pages in working order. Put up a nice, clear picture of your face for your profile, and use a high-resolution image of your book cover as your banner image. Make your website look its best, and link to your book everywhere you can.

When in doubt, think of the ways you like to connect with others.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

The real concern behind marketing woes often has nothing to do with actual marketing methods. Instead, it’s another way of saying, “I’m worried that no one will like my book, so I’m afraid to tell people to read it.”

It’s the rare author who is totally confident that everyone will love their writing. And it’s normal to feel a lot of anxiety around finally releasing all your hard work to a brutal public.

But remember how much work you put into your book. All the hours typing, the stress during editing, the number of times you thought you’d made it to a final draft only to realize you needed three more.

You deserve to shout your hard work from the rooftops. Not everyone will love what you have to say, but some people will, and they deserve to know how to find their next favorite book. Instead of dreading marketing, look for what feels right for you. Your future fans will thank you!

Chelsea Ennen is a writer living in Brooklyn with her husband and her dog. When not writing or reading, she is a fiber and textile artist who sews, knits, crochets, weaves, and spins.

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