By Kathryn McClatchy
Are you an authorpreneur looking to increase your book sales and take your author brand to the next level? If you're feeling overwhelmed and don't know where to start, I've got you covered. With years of experience working with authors of all levels, from beginners to best-sellers, both locally and internationally, I understand the challenges you face. As a writer myself, I've navigated the confusing and contradictory advice out there. Let me guide you through it and help you achieve your goals.
Let's dive into the most common concerns I come across and let me give you my responses. After that, we'll explore how you can lay the groundwork for creating a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy tailored to your needs.
Sales is only one facet of marketing. When done right, it’s the final stage and the obvious outcome of a successful marketing strategy. Before focusing on sales, make sure readers know you and your books exist. Focus first on attracting readers who will like you and love your work, and build relationships and community with those readers. Promoting your author brand and books with authenticity and integrity builds trust and encourages readers to not only buy your books but to recommend them to others.
You don’t have to promote yourself, just be yourself and share what you are doing strategically with people who are interested in what you do. It also helps to have author friends to share each others’ books. It’s so much more fun to promote other writers and the books that you love.
The truth is that digital marketing continually changes as the tools, apps, and techniques evolve. It is a full-time job to keep up with all the research, trends, statistics, current best practices, and more. It’s not that you don’t get it or can’t do it, but if you only do the research once every year or two when you launch a new book, it’s like starting over from scratch every time.
You can do your marketing if you want to, but make sure you’re getting expert advice from those who work with authors' brands. Advice for selling books from publishing houses or bookstores often isn’t relevant for indie-authors. Social media influencers may have millions of followers on a platform, but their purpose and techniques are very different than what you need to build a community of readers and increase book sales. Neither follows nor virality equal book sales.
Delegating some or all of your marketing is still a viable option, even on a budget. Consider bartering services, forming a small group of authors who will share the work, or hiring a marketing coach or consultant for you individually or for your author group. If you choose to hire a marketing professional or agency, make sure they are experienced with authors or personal brands. Let them know your specific goals and budget so they can recommend how to get the most return on your investment.
Now, that brings us to a list of elements to consider when you’re deciding to research best practices and what exactly you need, to DIY, or whether to hire a professional to do some or all of your marketing.
The top priority is to evaluate your rhetorical situation. Aristotle’s Rhetoric is just as applicable to marketing as it is to writing and literary analysis.
Aristotle's Rhetoric (also published in English as The Art of Rhetoric) is a straightforward read if you want to dive into it. Most of the summaries and overviews I found online are more difficult to understand than the book itself. This one from LibreTexts.org is quite useful, with diagrams and a supplemental YouTube video if you are interested in learning more. To make this applicable to our current marketing needs, I've highlighted the five Rhetorical Appeals and explained how they form the basis of your marketing strategy.
Before making any marketing decisions, be absolutely clear about who you are as an author, what you want your readers and community to know about you, your work, your themes, and your reputation. Your brand is how you and your work are recognized and described. You have to teach your audience how to talk about you.
If your brand messaging (not just colors, fonts, and logos) isn’t fleshed out, the other marketing decisions will be inconsistent, and your marketing will not be cohesive or as successful as it should be. This is why what works for one author, genre, industry, etc., usually doesn’t work as well for others.
Once you have clarity on your author brand, you must get clear on who your ideal audience is. Knowing your audience’s demographics and psychographics will give you a much better chance of communicating and building relationships with them. Age, geography, interests, values, worldview, gender, and more factor in.
We know certain demographics spend more time on certain social media platforms than others. We know Gen X will have very different cultural points of reference than Gen Z. Readers in New York will have a different perspective than those in Wyoming, England, or New Zealand. All may love the same genre, but how and where you market to them will be different.
How you craft your messaging and marketing will vary depending on the format or platform you choose. Each social media platform has a different format, and reader expectations, than the others. Content created for Instagram will not perform the same on LinkedIn or Pinterest. Articles created for a blog will not have the same impact as an email newsletter.
Your goal may be the same for all the forms, but the logic and structure will need to be adjusted. The goal may be increased book sales, but the logic of the message and where you put it has to be different if your piece of content is targeting new-to-you readers, a warm audience, or your VIP fans. This is why boosting a well-performing Facebook post into a paid ad often has less impact.
In marketing, we talk about the Know, Like, Trust, and Convert factors. If your purpose is to become known to a new audience, you want to choose a platform that will get you the most organic reach like Instagram, YouTube, or guesting on a podcast.
If you want those readers who just discovered you to actually like you and your books, you will want to post behind-the-scenes or day-in-the-life stories, quotes, or memes on Facebook, Instagram, X, or LinkedIn. If you are trying to build trust in a warm audience, then consistency in posting valuable long-form content (blog, podcast, or video) might be your best bet. If you are in launch mode for a new release and need to convert followers into sales, then email, Goodreads giveaways, or SMS Marketing might be more appropriate.
When you were a teen and wanted to borrow your parent’s car, when did you ask for the keys? While they were rushed, stressed, or in the middle of yelling at you? Or did you wait until they were relaxed and happy, and you had all your chores done? Are you using a social media scheduling tool that tells you when your followers are online to post, or just posting randomly when you think of it?
Also keep in mind what is scheduled to drop when there is a major holiday or event, national crisis, or act of God. Knowing your audience and whether they are celebrating a holiday, grieving a loss, or riled up politically at the moment will help you decide how or whether your content needs to go out. Several large companies over the last few years took PR hits for scheduled posts that appeared insensitive because of a trending topic or issue, when it might have been seen as humorous or poignant at any other time.
Understanding these rhetorical elements will help you solidify your branding, content, email, research, and social media marketing which will then increase your book sales, or whatever objective you are hoping to achieve through digital marketing. I love applying literary and storytelling devices to marketing as it feels more natural and less “salesy” as authors and is usually best received by the readers we want to attract.
Let me know in the comments if you have any related questions, or if you are interested in additional posts regarding specific marketing topics or tools, and how to apply them to your author business.
Kathryn McClatchy has been writing since childhood, working in marketing since the 80s, and blogging since 2012 as Unleashing the Next Chapter. She is also the founder and facilitator of the annual Writers Guild of Texas Flash Fiction Contest, host of the Authorpreneurs Unleashed podcast, and coordinates the UtNC Creatives Community on Discord.
Unleashing the Next Chapter has grown into a boutique digital marketing agency serving creative entrepreneurs and their communities through consulting & coaching, strategy, and management. UtNC focuses on holistic marketing with an emphasis on Brand, Content, Email, Research, and Social Media. Kathryn is passionate about helping writers and writing organizations learn how to use digital media to build their brands and serve their communities.
Kathryn is a wife, mother, stroke survivor, and service dog partner. She is happily addicted to books, tea, chocolate, D&D, and houseplants (not consistently in that order).
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