Things are looking up for the publishing industry. After years of think pieces on “the death of the author” and the decline of readership in the 21st century, we’re finally seeing a rise in reading. According to a 2013 Pew Center study, younger generations are starting to outnumber older age brackets in readership, and males are catching up with female readers. More people are reading, with the internet creating exciting new opportunities for authors.
The prevalence of the internet brings with it a unique series of pressures and demands for an author to navigate. There is more competition for readers’ attention than ever before, pitting up-and-coming authors against established best-sellers. How is an author to meet these demands and flourish in the new digital economy?
We talked to Stacey Miller, founder of SJ Miller Communciations, who specializes in helping authors craft winning media strategies about promoting their books online.
What are some of the most common mistakes you see authors make when promoting their books online?
The most common mistakes authors make when promoting their books online is to work without a plan. Remember that other authors have traveled the path before. Study your favorite successful authors who write in your genre. Follow them on their social networks, and get on their mailing lists. Find out what works for them. Which of those elements can be applied to your online book promotion campaign? Use them. Create a blueprint for your online book promotion campaign, and stick to it. Allot a time for each segment of the plan, and stick to it. You might enjoy connecting with your old kindergarten classmates on Facebook (and I won’t lie and say that I don’t; old friends are the greatest!), but is spending an hour each day on Facebook really going to help you raise the book discovery potential of your book? Or could that time be better allocated in other online book marketing endeavors?
You help your clients frame their messages optimally for the internet. What are some of the best practices writers should keep in mind when it comes to writing press releases?
The key to a press release’s success is to get a reporter/media decision maker to read it. Ideally, the recipient will call you — now! — and arrange a book review or a media interview. But even if that’s not possible, you still want your press release to stick around in a pile of possible stories for the future. The way to maximize your chances of that is to keep the press release newsworthy and eliminate all hype and sales language. Your press release is not an ad. Learn and honor the difference between the two.
How can an author go about finding the right blogs themselves? Are there any publications that you particularly recommend to spread the word about a new book?
Leverage the fact that, along with your expertise as an author, you’re also an expert in your genre. The best authors are media consumers as well as writers, and they consume the books in their genre. They go to the websites and the blogs of their favorites, and those are the starting points for their own online marketing campaigns. Since the web is the hub of so many book publishing and book marketing campaigns, it’s important to raise the online visibility of your book through SEO efforts. But don’t forget to reach out to traditional book publishing magazines (such as Publishers Weekly and Booklist) as well. Their submission guidelines are anything but intuitive, so use Google to find the publications and learn their book submission requirements.
How might someone go about approaching their friends and family for support? And then how do they take that step to reach the rest of the world?
LOL. You don’t have to worry about approaching friends and family to support your writing endeavors. That’s what you pay them for.
Seriously, though, one thing about authorship remains constant, even with the rapid-fire changes we’ve seen in the publishing industry: it’s still cool to be an author! I expect it always will be. It’s quite an achievement to write, publish, and market a book; and your friends and family will likely feel honored to ask their friends, coworkers, and other family members to buy your book – and, not so incidentally, to write reviews of your book at all the sites that accept book reviews. Just ask them! You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how quickly your own network can begin to spread the word about your literary accomplishments.
You also recommend that an author maintains an online presence as a promotional technique. Can you give a few real-life examples of how to use social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest as promotional tools?
To maintain an online presence that keeps your online footprint as large as possible and helps potential readers discover your book, just keep doing what you’re doing. Think of it in the same way as you think about eating. We all want people to find our books online, just as we all want to eat healthful foods. But not everyone will want to use Google+ or Instagram, and not everybody will want to make quinoa- and flaxseed-based meals the focal point of their diet. Learn about the best options, and familiarize yourself with the most palatable choices. Focus on what works best for you, and keep it up. Eating one spoonful of oat bran (or crafting one tweet) won’t make a huge difference, but disciplining yourself to eat oat bran every day (and tweet several times every day) can make a huge difference.
Can you talk about branding an author, and how that works? How might an author go about using other people’s content – liking, sharing, retweeting – as an extension of their own brand?
With my approach, book promotion is really all about author promotion, so the author’s expertise is of paramount importance. Authors promote their work so they can disseminate their messages and inform and entertain their readers, as well as those who might buy their books in the future. The authors build community through patience and hard work, and what they receive in return is the public’s trust. Using other people’s content and creating strategic alliances are yet other ways to grow your network and disseminate your reach.
Check out our Content Marketing Academy
For more updates from SJ Miller Communications, follow them on Twitter.