This is a toughy for most authors. Being an author is about building a business. And it is in this realm, too. Yes, publishers -some of them- have publicists that work with you. But often they have too many authors whom they also work with and you might actually be the best one to decide on marketing ideas.
You have to know yourself. There are certain “musts” for every author, like having a website and being able to be found on social media. Often it’s not about have a billion followers, but about being able to be located in the midst of a LOT of noise. But there are a lot of other ideas that can help you stand out. And you get to decide, so you can choose ideas that are uniquely you and don’t burden you further, but bolster your career.
Branding: What makes you YOU
Get creative. What are your books and your protagonist all about? Do they love a favorite flavor of lip gloss? (Jennifer Hillier;-) Do they have an interesting profession or hobby? (Able to see ghosts…Alexia Gordon. Whisky Business novels by Melinda Mullet) Do they have a pet? What era or city are they in? What about you personally? Misty Simon wears the BEST mystery related dresses at her events. Jack Carr posts about his military career as a Navy Seal and anti-poaching classes and interests and even had a very cool Gear Guide at the holidays.
Think about those aspects and think about how you can stand out. For instance, my protagonist from the Art Deco Mystery Series that takes place in the 1930s loves to wear red, but specifically red high heeled Mary Janes. At the very first Bouchercon I attended, I decided that since no one knew who I was, I’d start wearing red shoes everywhere. I had several people stop me and say that they’d seen my shoes on Twitter and I’ll just never forget Louise Penny remarking about how she liked my shoes. I was sold on that point alone! And, well now it’s a thing. Last year at ThrillerFest, where there is a much higher percentage of military and government officials who attend as authors, I kind of figured that just one night no one would be care about my shoes. So I wore a purple dress and black Art Deco shoes. I got yelled at. Literally – LOL. FIVE people came up to me absolutely indignant that I didn’t have red shoes on. (Maybe this worked a little too well…Hmmm). So I use red shoes on many of my promotional pieces, as little tags on my posts and at the top of my web site, etc… I even have a big wine bottle holder that’s a sparkly high heel shoe that will always be at any table I host at conference banquets!
Since my era is the Art Deco era, I also post a lot about that. Art, interesting places in NYC that have a vintage flair, buildings, history, interesting points. I recently had an advertising friend say that every time she saw red shoes, Art Deco, or New York City on line, she thought immediately of me. That’s what I’m aiming for.
Marketing: Be creative
Once you know a little about what makes you YOU in branding ideas, start thinking about marketing. Brainstorm ideas on how to broaden your audience. Whisky Business novels (Melinda Mullet)? How about a Whisky tasting and book reading? Speak Easy Mysteries (Susanna Calkins)? How about a speak easy tour or evening with a reading? Your latest novel takes place in Italy (James Ziskin)? How about an Italian night at a restaurant where you speak about your book and your research. Can you create a lecture about a topic of interest?
For my Art Deco novels, I naturally became somewhat of an expert on that era with all my research. So I put together a talk about the lively era of Art Deco. I talk about the main point of my books: a fresh approach to the innovative 1930s that can often get pigeon holed into being all about the Depression. I show pics of the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building going up (1930s). The difference between Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Famous figures of that era and who have cameos in my books, etc. And at my last book launch, I had a party at a speak easy.
Also, the “Fame School” –the Fiorello H. La Guardia School of Music, Art and Performing Arts, has its beginning when Mayor La Guardia founds the school at the beginning of my series. I’ve dedicated the series to them, so I did a few fund raisers for them when my books launched. Can you connect with local charities that have similarities or connections to your books or your theme? Humane Society if your protag has a pet? Veterans charities if you feature the military? Libraries and literacy programs?
Connecting with and promoting OTHER AUTHORS.
Because it can’t be just all about you. People tire of endless self-promotion. For every “Buy my book” type post, you need at least five that are about other topics, even if they tie in to who you are. And in the Crime / Mystery world, the authors are extremely helpful and supportive! Pay it forward. If you like someone’s post, tell others about it. If you like their pics, retweet and pay a compliment. Comment on their Instagram pages. Post an interview of another author.
It can be daunting – just pick one!
Don’t worry, don’t be overwhelmed. No one can do it all and especially not all at once. But is there one idea here that speaks to you or sparks an interest? Give it a try! The problem is that we can get paralyzed by the mammoth task and not do anything. And try not compare yourself with others and feel like “they do so much!” It’s okay to compare to get ideas, but remember everyone begins one step at a time. I have a LOT of ideas that I work on, but I don’t do them all the time. Also try to pick things that bring you life. I LOVE doing talks and lectures. Those are my favorite. I’d rather do that than write a blog any day. (Yes, I see the irony). Do it one step at a time and have fun. Comment if you have more ideas or any thoughts about marketing as an author. I’d love to hear about your creativity or your questions! Cheers!
I love your PICK ONE! I heard Oprah’s ‘front woman’ on television earlier this week… she literally warmed up Oprah’s audiences large and enormous… her recommendation was to pick the thing that is you. Pick that and the rest of us will feel the passion and pay attention. You do a great job on all counts – although I suspect you are going to have to wear red shoes forever.
YES – I still can get bogged down in the “there is TOO MUCH TO DO!” and then I curl up and watch The Great British Baking Show instead of doing anything. LOL. But most of the time, if you just pick one thing at a time, it’s doable. And YES. It’s red shoes forever. 100% Thank goodness I didn’t pick something much harder. Like green shoes. Haha!
Great tips on marketing and promotion! Especially the part about helping promote other authors. The competition is friendly and what helps one, helps all, so support your community.
Agree! And it’s so different from other parts of the entertainment industry.