By Megan Henry, author of Always On My Mind
As I held the wondrous publishing contract in my hands, my heart poured over the contents until my eyes fell upon ‘Marketing & Promotion’. It stated, ‘Get started now!! The most successful authors are the ones who believe in their work and hit the ground running’. At the back of my mind I knew that my fabulous publisher would work tirelessly in promoting and marketing Always On My Mind but before I even signed the contract I knew deeply that I would have to get on board the social media rollercoaster and not only sell myself but sell my book!!
The benefit of signing a publishing contract is that you have anywhere between six to twelve months before it hits the book or ebook shelves. This is an absolute blessing and gives the author time to morph into super uber publicity mode. Autopilot kicks in and suddenly the writer turned debut author now evolves into a passionate publicist who learns on the job and quite often wings it!
Social media is an absolute force to be reckoned with. For a country chick in the outback of Western Australia who counts sheep for a living, the concept in all honesty seemed quite daunting. Gone are the days when an author can relish in the writing process and then palm it off to their publisher to do all the marketing. A modern day author must be tech savvy, organised, dedicated, obsessive and possess one helluva great sense of humour. Having a publisher is an absolute blessing as they will market and connect your book to all their fabulous publishing networks. However, what I’ve learned over the past five months is that the relationship between author and publisher is nothing less than a beautiful literary marriage. Your book cannot soar unless both parties are marketing and promoting like unrelenting fiends.
From day one I was loyally committed and dedicated to the writing process and if I wanted my memoir to set sail into the hearts of as many readers as possible I also had to be dedicated in marketing myself and my writing. In my mind the art of promoting your book is just as important and requires just as much work as the writing process, if not more. After spending days, months, and years writing my book the journey was far from over; in fact this wondrous literary ride was just beginning.
Writing a book takes faith, hope and courage. Promoting it yourself takes fearlessness and buckets of it. Before the ink had even dried on the publishing contract my mind had already brain-stormed many fool proof marketing campaigns. Thank goodness for Google and a wonderful internet connection that didn’t drop out all of the time. Literally overnight (well, actually after endless hours and days of amateur research) I suddenly found that I had morphed into an enthusiastic publicist that had convinced my creative self that if I could run eight shearing teams for fifteen years while shearing nearly 4.5 million sheep, then surely I could conquer this ‘publicity thing’. Surely.
Selling, promoting and marketing my own book felt quite contradictory to my heart which believed in a quiet, graceful, internal creative process. As a writer I have always written for myself and for my own heart. Trying to market this peace initially felt strangely odd and uncomfortable. For some unknown reason I was the newbie author that believed my book would somehow magically sell itself. On reflection I find this bloody hilarious. Thankfully I also deeply believed that whatever is written in any form also belongs to the reader. Words are meant to be read and this belief overrode any apprehension of self-promotion.
Sitting with the publishing contract in my hands, absorbing and reading every single word, after many months of submissions, everything started to become very real. My dream of writing and actually being published was no longer a dream, this was bloody real and the release date of my memoir was a mere five months away. I started this beautiful literary journey a committed diarist and writer and somehow ended up blessed to be called an author. In all honesty, I am still trying to absorb this title and feel very thankful.
A key factor in becoming an author is having an unfaltering deep faith in not only your self but in the originality of your themes and story. I am absolutely committed to a life of writing which I find has been deeply imbedded within my heart since the age of seven. This is fact. It is also fact that there can be no successful publishing without a deep commitment to promotion and marketing. Writing, publishing, promotion and marketing walk hand in hand.
I deeply believe in the power of sharing and what follows are some promotion and marketing suggestions that I have found very successful over the past five months of marketing and promoting Always On My Mind. I hope you enjoy. Keep writing, believe in yourself and never ever give up.
1. CREATE A FABULOUS WEBSITE WITH FLAIR
During the submission process and months before receiving and signing any publishing contract I had a fleeting thought, ‘well what the hell will I do if I were to suddenly receive a publishing contract’? I had faith that there was a slight possibility that one day I might actually get published and being prepared and organised was an absolute must. So that I stayed ahead of the game and didn’t fall behind I immediately started designing my website and engaged a talented web designer who was able to create my exact website vision. Many months later when an amazing publishing offer was blessed my way the beautiful website www.meganhenry.com.au that I had just spent months creating to showcase the rural memoir Always On My Mind, was nearly ready to launch and go live. I had used my time efficiently and the timing turned out to be perfect. When ever you get the chance to design and promote yourself, do it! Never procrastinate as it will save you an immense amount of time in the long run.
2. BECOME SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY
When I first started writing Always On My Mind I will admit that I had limited experience with social media. Yes, I had the standard Facebook page like everyone else but that’s about it. It wasn’t that I couldn’t Instagram, Tweet, share, screenshot and post, it’s just that I chose not to. I preferred immersing myself in a glorious bush sunset or sunrise rather than my desktop screen or smart phone. When you become an author all the rules change. Hang on, let me rephrase that. ALL THE RULES MOST DEFINITELY CHANGE AND THE NEWBY AUTHOR MUST BECOME AN EXCEPTIONAL SOCIAL MEDIA GURU. There is no choice. A social media savvy author is essential.
As soon as I received a couple of emails interested in my Query Letter and manuscript submission I immediately created a Twitter account, Instagram profile and author Facebook page. I linked all accounts to each other and after quite a lot of google research I ensured that I began to share my writing journey, the beauty of literature and the publishing process with the world.
Networking, promoting and marketing yourself and your book is impossibly futile without social media. I live in a small rural town three hours from anywhere. Some people have heard about twitter but they certainly don’t use it. Most are still quite unsure of what it actually is. I sent my first tweet in 2014 and right from the beginning could see the immense benefits for marketing and promoting Always On My Mind.
Social media has been integral for revealing my book cover, blurb, release date, book launch and many literary firsts involved in the publishing process. This sharing not only engages the reader and promotes the book but creates an enthusiastic audience both nationally and internationally. Get savvy!
3. BLOG CREATIVELY
It is absolutely imperative that an author must blog. Use blogging to get people interested and talking about you and your book. Ensure that you provide original, captivating and relevant content that will keep your readers coming back. The best thing is to be yourself. Show your followers that you are real. Update it regularly with insight into the publishing, writing process and use it to showcase your themes within the book and the wondrous writing life. No matter how great your blog is, unless you promote it, then no-one will know about it. Ensure that you link it to all your social media accounts and keep the conversations flowing. This in turn sends traffic to your website and generates added interest.
4. FACTOR IN A PRE-SALE
Once you have established your website it is super important that you factor in a shopping cart and a pre-sale feature. Once the social media rollercoaster takes off, people and potential readers all over Australia will be genuinely excited for you and will want to purchase a copy immediately. If you do not have this pre-sale feature readily available for your reader, the potential for them to lose interest is very real. A writer knows and understands that the publishing/editing process does take time. In fact it could be many months before anyone is able to hold a copy of the book in their hands. Most readers will not understand the lengthy publishing wait and will want to secure a copy immediately. As an author you must give your reader the choice to buy now or later. Within minutes of launching my website and social media pages with the wondrous news that I had just signed a publishing contract and that Always On My Mind would be available within six months, I had about five pre-sales. As each day passed and the news about my book began to rapidly spread, more and more pre-sales started to trickle in. Never underestimate the beautiful reader and their want to read. For any book there is a potential market and a pre-sale option is vitally necessary.
5. SAY YES!!!!
Say yes to everything. This is important. As the marketing and promoting begins to take an effect. You will receive emails and phone calls from newspapers, radio stations and magazines that have come across your wonderful website, blogs or social media pages and are interested in you, your book and your story. It is imperative (despite maybe a little fear lying in the pit of your stomach) that you accept and say yes to all media interviews. Promotion and marketing is the key and if a journalist or radio presenter has taken the time out of their day to contact you then you most definitely accept. The opportunity for people to read and hear about your book is immense and will instantly secure you additional readers and followers. I was fortunate enough to be blessed with a few radio interviews leading up to the launch of Always On My Mind and each one immediately generated more followers and pre-sales. Say yes to everything!
6. PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE
Get promoting! Send emails about your book launch and the release date via community email and to all newspapers, radio stations, community resource centres and libraries across your state ensuring that you have links to your website and all social media pages. Finding the email listings for these groups is quite easy online so get emailing and promoting! Post about these details on all facebook writing pages, community buy and sell pages, author pages and library pages.
Get in contact directly with Writing WA, Writing SA, Writing NSW etc. Your states official writing organisation will enthusiastically promote your book launch, website, cover reveal and blurb giving your book an immediate platform. So get emailing!
Leading up to the book launch and release date create a couple of fabulous giveaways for your loyal literature-loving followers. Everyone loves a giveaway, plus it’s a great promotion for your book and your book launch. Create a book giveaway on facebook or instagram rewarding the best themed photo/comment with a copy of your book. Creating a book launch ticket giveaway also generates discussion, anticipation and excitement. I created a ticket giveaway on facebook awarding book launch tickets to the person that shared the most memorable book they had ever read and why? Everyone who commented came away with many new books to read and one lucky follower with book launch tickets.
If people ask about your book, take the time to explain it to them concisely so that it captivates them into wanting to read it. Marketing and promoting is a must and the more you do so the more successful you and your book will be.
As you can see, there are many creative ways to promote yourself that are not too difficult or strenuous. They are a little time consuming but if you are committed to the writing process and following the evolution of your book right through to the very end, then any marketing and promoting is easy because you want to do it. I learnt on the job and you can too. All that is required is enthusiasm, dedication and a heart that loves words.
The above examples will start the ball rolling on word of mouth and create an audience that can’t wait to read your book and be a part of your literary world. When your promotion and marketing is combined with your publisher’s this is when things really start to become beautiful. The author and the publisher are a wonderful team with the same directive. To promote and market your book as best they can as far and as wide as possible.
Megan Henry is an author and mixed media artist who lives in the architecturally rich shearing town of Wagin in Western Australia, two and a half hours South-East of Perth in the Great Southern. Her memoir Always On My Mind was published in 2015 by Storyworks Publishing, a sister company to Impact Press. You can find her at www.meganhenry.com.au.