Publishers are great partners, but they don’t usually do the heavy lifting in terms of marketing—especially for debut authors. In a partnership both parties have to pull their weight, which requires authors to get out of their comfort zone and exercise some serious business acumen. I try to prepare all my clients for the realities of the industry and the one question that comes up time and time again is: how I can do a better job at spreading the word about my book?
1. Choose One Social Media Platform
I never tell writers to join all social media sites. I tell them they should only select the one that they think is the best megaphone for their opinions, that they can update regularly, and that they feel comfortable engaging with others on. For some that’s Facebook because they already have a family or friend base there. For many others it’s Twitter because of the highly engaged bookish community. Once you have a strong grasp on one it’s okay to add another, but don’t dilute your content or energy to do so. If you’re thinking about adding another account to the mix, I’ve been suggesting Instagram as the best reader-centric social media environment. It drives more engagement per post than any other platform (84x more than Twitter and 10x more than Facebook).
2. Understand That The Best Person To Promote Your Book Is You
You wrote the book and you know it best. No one is as invested in your book as you are, but a close second are your agent and editor. That said, publishers have dozens of books to launch each season and then they move onto the next; you only get to have your debut launch once. So as an agent I work really closely with my authors to empower them to feel prepared for that launch.
3. The Three Months Leading Up To Your Launch Are Crucial, But It Doesn’t End There
The day your book goes on sale only 3 things should happen: maybe a live radio/TV interview or a social media takeover, perhaps a launch at a bookstore or private event in the evening, and most importantly re-tweeting and sharing media mentions or reviews on your social pages. Everything, I mean everything else, should be done in advance. Blog tours, podcast interviews etc. should have been arranged and prepared 3-6 months before the on-sale date so that they can go live within 2 weeks of your publication date. You want to hit everyone hard with all the great media attention so that it feels like a tsunami of attention on your title. But all that planning aside, it doesn’t end there. It’s harder to get media attention after a book has launched, but you can buy reasonably priced Goodreads and Facebook ads or tour book clubs—don’t stop once your pub month has passed!
4. Discover The Social Currency Of Promoting Others’ Work
Be sure to use Goodreads, Instagram or Twitter to share with your followers what you’re reading and what you’re enjoying. Use the authors’ social media handles and link to them when you mention their books. Being a good literary citizen does more than spread the word about great reads, it also sets the tone that you’re among the caliber of those you read and associates you with that genre. When you help other authors rise they’ll remember that and promote you when the time comes too—there’s room for everyone. Whether it’s on social media, selecting a read for your book club, or in person at events, writers remember that support.
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5. Accept That You’re A Brand
Reframe your thinking: brands are not only something that companies or bestselling authors have, but every single writer. As soon as you start to create your digital footprint you’re leaving a trail behind you. Every post, every picture, every quote, every comment says something about you, the way you think, and the way you interact with the world. All those breadcrumbs add up to something, which is the way you’re perceived online. If you take that perception seriously you start to understand the power of your brand and how you can better communicate your point of view.
6. Adopt The Most Important Digital Lesson of 2017: Think In Visuals
The facts are clear: social media posts with images are more powerful than just text. Tweets with images are 150% more likely to get retweets than text-only tweets. Facebook posts with images see 2.3x more engagement than those without images. Overall, visual content is 40x more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. And when a relevant image is paired with good information people retain 65% of the information three days later. All this to say: book covers and graphic or illustrated book quotes make for great visual content that readers can remember easily—which will lead them to one-click buy or jog their memory when they’re browsing the bookstores.
Agents love working with writers who take writing and marketing seriously. As business people, agents have a full-time job networking and negotiating so we’re seeking writers who want more than a hobby—we’re looking for writers willing to take the steps to make this a successful career.
The views expressed by Open Book columnists are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Carly Watters is a VP and Senior Literary Agent at the P.S. Literary Agency. She began her publishing career in London at the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency. Her degrees include a BA in English Literature from Queen’s University and a MA in Publishing Studies from City University London. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.