You've written a book and now it's time to promote it, but how the heck do you do that?
This is a common dilemma for many authors.
Unless you've already developed a public persona, Good Morning America isn't calling. And the New York Times doesn't know your number either. Or even your name. Ouch.
But don't let that deter you. Every author is unknown until they build their reputation. And you can do that, too.
Forget about book tours—at least for now. Instead of relying on the old-school ways of promoting your book and brand, let's step into the 21st century and harness the power of the Internet to find your true audience and sell more books.
How will we do that? Two words: content marketing.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a marketing strategy that involves creating and distributing valuable content online. The goal is to attract your audience to you.
Because you use content marketing to attract your audience to you, it's considered inbound marketing. On the other hand, outbound marketing is when you reach out to your audience. You seek them out through advertising.
Inbound marketing pulls the reader in, and outbound marketing pushes the reader in.
With proper inbound marketing, readers will feel like they have discovered a new book, even though you've done background work to pull them in. But outbound marketing feels more disruptive because you're interrupting them with an ad.
Both inbound and outbound marketing work well, but one is definitely more costly than the other.
With outbound marketing, you must pay to run a campaign. However, with inbound marketing (specifically content marketing), you can pay dramatically less for amazing results.
And in a perfect world, you'd do both. Inbound marketing produces great results on its own, but if you add outbound marketing, such as launching an ad campaign to promote a specific blog post, you'll see even better results.
Combining the two forms of marketing is something you can worry about further down the road. For now, concentrate on building the foundation, which is your content.
A Disclaimer About Content Marketing
For authors, content marketing requires a different set of creative skills. Just because you're a writer, you're not automatically great at content writing. At its core, content marketing is promotional. And that type of writing can be challenging for those of us who make up fictional characters and build entire civilizations from scratch.
The content for your website, blog, social media, and emails will take on a different perspective.
Sure, your content will be sale-sy, but sale-sy doesn't mean soul-less. It also doesn't mean high-pressure or “buy now” tactics. Instead, it’s about focusing on promoting your book(s). That's always the end goal.
Along the way, you'll connect with your audience, build your brand, and create a community interested in who you are and what you produce.
Fortunately, content marketing isn't hard if you create a plan. Let's do that now.
Creating a Content Marketing Plan to Sell Your Books
Here’s how to create a successful content marketing strategy:
Set a Content Marketing Goal
Your first step toward world domination is to set a goal for your content. What would you like to accomplish?
Would you like to generate excitement for an upcoming book?
Would you like to build an email list of engaged fans?
Would you like to establish yourself as a thought leader or subject matter expert?
As you can tell, there are a lot of different goals you may have with your content besides simply "selling more books." So, identifying those goals will help you produce the right type of content.
Choose goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-based. This makes your goal SMART.
So, if your goal is to build a community of fans, you must define how you'll hit that goal.
Make it specific: I want to build my fan community by creating and I'll do that by growing an email list.
Make it measurable: I want to get 100 subscribers on my email list.
Make it actionable: I will sign up for an email marketing service.
Make it realistic: I will create a checklist of what I need to do to set up an email list on my website.
Make it time-based: I will accomplish my goal of 100 new email subscribers by December 31st.
If you have multiple content marketing goals, try this for each one. By breaking down your content marketing goals like this, you take the goal from abstract to actionable. It becomes something that you can accomplish and track. Without tracking your content marketing goals, how will you know if you're on the right path?
Don’t skip this step. It’s crucial to the ultimate success of your content marketing plan.
Choose Your Audience
Now it's time to identify who will consume your content. This part is pretty simple: The same people you want to read your book(s) are the same people you want to create content for.
However, this next part isn't as simple.
You may think that you're writing to anyone on earth, but the truth is that only a select few will actually gravitate to your book. Some people simply won't enjoy your chosen genre or subject matter, and that's okay. It’s not personal.
Instead of trying to appeal to everyone, focus on the people who are most likely to buy your books.
Hint: These are the same people who enjoy other titles in your chosen genre.
Additionally, you may appeal to other groups who can relate to you in terms of gender, ethnicity, age, philosophy, etc. Don’t be afraid to lean into those groups as well when you’re creating content.
When it comes to creating content for your content marketing strategy, some options include blogging, email newsletters, videos, podcasts, and social media posts.
Let's go over the three most popular forms of content that you can easily create, and how to do it.
Blogging is likely to be the first thing you think about when it comes to online content. And there's a good reason for that: Blogging is effective at attracting an audience.
However, all blog topics aren't equal. Blogging about your day-to-day life isn't likely to attract potential readers.
Here's what will draw a crowd -- a blog post about books that you're reading. Not only do you write in a specific genre, but you're also a legitimate fan of that genre. So create content around your favorite books in that genre. Your posts can attract readers who are likewise interested in the same genre. At the end of your roundup or review, promote your own work.
This is known as literary citizenship, where you turn the spotlight on other authors.
In addition to book reviews, you can also interview authors. If the author already has an established fanbase, you'll earn traffic from their fans, which can boost your exposure.
Here's a practice checklist for setting up your blog:
Start your blog in less than an hour using a free solution like WordPress.com.
Create a list of blog topics
Here’s a list of blog post ideas to populate your author blog. Subscribe to receive this extra resource.
Plan out your content calendar for when you’ll write and then publish your posts (hint: you can write several posts at a time and then schedule posts through WordPress to automatically publish at a set time).
2. Social Media
The next great place to publish content is social media.
Social media is huge. Facebook has almost 3 billion users. And TikTok, one of the newest kids of the social media block, has an astounding 1 billion users.
Out of those billions of people, at least some are among your target audience. This is why you need to be on social media.
Social media isn't just for posting updates. Think of it as a place to actively hang out with fans and kindred hearts.
While blogging is more of a monologue, social media interactions are definite dialogues. You can use these platforms to start conversations or join one that's already in progress.
Here are some ideas for what to post on social media:
Behind the scenes
Questions and answers
New blog update
Favorite book quotes
Re-posts of fans reading your book
Posts about other books you love
Your upcoming reading list
Fanart of your book
A check-in of your progress in writing your next book
Video trailers of your book
There are many ways to engage on social media. The key to building a successful community on social media is to post consistently and respond to every comment.
When setting up your social media presence, keep the following in mind:
Start with one platform, and after establishing yourself there, move on to other platforms, if you'd like.
Consider starting off with Facebook because it's the most popular social media platform in the world.
Use your phone to create YouTube and/or Facebook videos—don't let a lack of professional equipment stop you from creating videos.
Create content ahead of time and then schedule it to automatically post on a recurring, regular basis.
3. Email Newsletters
Last, but certainly not least, set up an email newsletter.
People may bookmark your blog but forget to return.
People may follow you on social media but, thanks to complex algorithms that favor paid ads over organic content, never see your posts.
However, when a reader signs up to your email list, you have immediate access to them through their inbox.
Email is an important part of any content marketing strategy because you can use it to stay at the top of your readers' minds. This way, they don't forget about you and they keep coming back to your content, whether it's on your blog or social media.
The easiest way to attract people to your email list is by offering a free gift. This is known as a lead magnet. Popular lead magnets include free chapters or a reading list with your favorite books.
People will sign up for this free gift and then land on your email subscriber list. From there, you can continue to build a relationship with them so that eventually, when your next book launches, they'll be amongst the first to buy.
The best-performing newsletters are short and sweet. They consist of 100 words or less. The point isn't to stay in the reader's inbox, but rather to get them to click a link in your email to read more of your content outside of the inbox.
This is why you should send out an email whenever you create a new blog post.
To set up your email newsletter, complete the following tasks:
Choose which email newsletter platform you'll use (you can start for free with a platform like MailChimp or ConvertKit).
Create your welcome email (this email will be sent automatically to subscribers).
Decide what type of content to create for your email newsletters (blog updates or exclusive content for email subscribers).
The above examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to content marketing.
Layer Your Content
Content marketing is composed of layers of content. You can think of your base layer as a blog. And then you can build on that layer to create additional types of content, without starting from scratch.
Here's what I mean:
After writing a blog post, you can create a video to accompany it. The video can either reiterate what you've shared in the post, or discuss a sub-topic in greater detail.
The same with podcasts—which is another content layer. You can actually do an audio recording of your blog post and turn that into a video, or grab just the audio from your YouTube video instead. Alternatively, you can splinter off into a different direction with your podcast and discuss one element you brought up in your post.
Other popular podcasting topics include book reviews, author interviews, short story narrations, and insights into your writing process.
Content marketing is a great tool for building awareness for your book(s) and your brand. Don’t miss the chance to set up a blog or get active on social media. This is a powerful way to pull in potential readers and sell more books.
Here’s a list of blog post ideas to populate your author blog. Subscribe to receive this extra resource.