Congratulations! Your book is published! If you’ve done it right, whether you’ve self-published, published traditionally, or gone a hybrid route, you’ve made it through several rounds of development, editing, and proofreading. You’ve worked closely with a skilled designer to craft a great cover and a great interior. You’ve secured distribution. And so now it’s time to turn on the publicity machine.
Yes, you need to do all of those things, but the time to turn on the publicity machine is (was) much earlier in the process. If you’ve waited until your book is off press before you’ve given any serious thought to your marketing plan, you’re already losing sales. That’s because you’ve lost precious time building your platform, brand, and community.
Instead of waiting until your book is out, it’s crucial to attract legions of loyal followers well before your publication date. You want readers in place, waiting with baited breath, the minute your book comes off press. That’s because those readers—the fans and followers who make up your community—are the ones who will buy your book, talk about it, tweet about it, post about it, blog about it, and generally create the kind of viral, organic buzz that no one else can.
I’m frequently asked by aspiring authors whether it’s too early to build a book-dedicated website and Facebook page. They wonder if they should be blogging about the same material they’ll be covering in their book. They’re not sure if they should be out there giving speeches that cover the same topics their books will cover. They’re often afraid they’ll be revealing too much or giving away proprietary information—the very information that will make their book fresh, new, and unique.
In most cases, these issues aren’t really issues at all. Rare is the book—fiction or nonfiction—that truly breaks new ground. So the chances that someone will steal your ideas and co-opt them are slim. What authors really should be concerned about is not having in place an audience who wants to read their book when it comes out.
This might all feel a little chicken-and-the-egg: You want to share your message without giving away the farm all while building an audience who loves the message you’re sharing enough to buy a whole book about it even though they’ve been reading about the subject in your blogs, posts, and tweets.
Don’t worry about it.
In today’s “sharing economy,” ideas are meant to be shared, spread, and talked about. Sharing ideas helps you build your brand. It empowers you. Don’t squander that by waiting too long to fire-up the publicity machine. Get yourself and your ideas out there, engage with your fans and followers, and build your community.
Today’s publishers are looking for authors who have devoted followers. Today’s readers are looking for authors who will engage with them. Building your community will help you test your ideas, spread your message, engage your audience, and attract publishers. Don’t wait until you have your complimentary copies in hand to start building your community. Get out there and do it now!
- Use every social media avenue at your disposal. You’ll soon discern where your most loyal readers are, whether on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or whatever. Set up and keep updated your author profile pages on Amazon and Goodreads. Engage frequently with your fans and followers, sharing your ideas with them and chatting with them about your book, similar books, reading in general, and any number of related subjects.
- Make the most of traditional media. Write for those media outlets that are related to your subject matter, whether fiction or nonfiction. It doesn’t matter whether your work is published in print or digital, the key is getting your name out there and making sure you are viewed as a subject-matter expert. Write articles, op/ed pieces, and guest posts—before (and after) your book is published.
- Build your brand. Use all of your social media accounts, your own website, and your own blog to craft a finely tuned message that paints a clear picture of who you are, what you’re about, and what you have to say. Remember that you (and your book) are your business, so make sure that all of this is done well and looks professional. Don’t go out there half-baked.
- Work your local connections. Don’t forget to tap in to the power of your local networks. Your local library is more than a book depository—it’s a community center that offers all sorts of programming, including guest speakers, readings, author signings, and other literary events. Your area community college may well provide you with an opportunity to teach a workshop, lead a seminar, or make a presentation. Local book clubs, writers groups, professional associations, civic groups, clubs, and so on are often looking for speakers. Make yourself known to these places, tell them about your work and your book, and ask them if you can get in front of their members, students, etc.
- Befriend your area bookstores. Indie bookstores are thriving, and chances are there are at least a few within a fifty-mile radius of your home that you can easily visit. Let them know about your forthcoming book so you can arrange a launch party. Connect with them to do readings and signings. Local bookstores can help drive those grass-root hand-selling efforts that can propel you and your book to the next level.
- Tap into alumni organizations. Your high school, college, and graduate school want to hear about you—they love stories about alums who have done well. Pitch a feature story. Write up a blurb for your alumni newsletter. Send a copy of the book to your campus library. Connecting with your alumni organizations can help you reach hundreds if not thousands of potential readers.
- Align yourself with speaker bureaus. Speaker bureaus come in all shapes and sizes, from internationally and nationally known organizations to regional and local outfits. Writers organizations often offer outlets by which their members are listed as speakers. Look into organizations where you can present yourself as an expert who can speak on a few key topics (and make sure you brush-up on those speaking skills!).
In a world that moves faster than lightning, you cannot wait to start promoting your book. You have to promote your ideas—and yourself—and you have to do it now. Don’t wait for your book to come off press before you start promoting it. The key is to make your community wait for your book—and to await it with baited breath. So get out there now, and be creative about it. With all the tools at your disposal, there are any number of ways for you to share your ideas, spread your message, and make yourself known as a thought leader in your field.
June 1, 2015