New year, new…whatever.
ANYWAY! Thought I’d get back into the groove here with some more blogging. Not that I haven’t been blogging/writing/podcasting, It’s just that I’ve kind of left my website all by itself and that ain’t right!
Okay. So I thought I’d bring some things up for y’all to think about — ESPECIALLY if you’re an unpublished author looking to be published and get your debut novel out there for the world to see.
What new authors don’t realize is that publishing is not end-game. It’s not even part of the game. Publishing is a goal — and an admirable one, whichever route you decide to go in that regard — but it’s only one aspect of this whole writing gig. There are all kinds of moving parts to being a published writer, and I see a lot of writers who complete a novel and then submit it somewhere and think everything’s copacetic, they’re on their way to all kinds of money and fame and…
Disavow yourselves of that notion right now.
Indeed, there are working writers who do make a living writing and publishing and the whole enchilada. But there’s a lot of hard-ass work that goes into that, and oftentimes a bit of luck, too. In other words, just because you get published or you self-publish does not mean your work will sell.
And many first-time/new authors don’t realize that there’s a whole helluva a lot that published writers need to be doing to market, promote, and brand themselves. So let’s talk about 5 things I think new/unpublished authors should think about doing.
1. Start thinking about your author BRAND. Do this months and months before you actually publish. This is one of those moving parts that will play into your website and your social media, so you need to start pondering that.
What exactly IS this thing called an author brand?
It’s how you present yourself to the reading world. You are selling something. That something is both the things you write and YOU, the person behind the writing. It’s your IMAGE. It’s what a reader is going to get from you and your writing. It’s the genres you write, and what someone can expect. There’s a reason, for example, that actors have PR firms and agents. Because they’re marketing themselves in addition to the roles they play in their work.
As an author, you, too, now have an image to get out there and maintain.
See: “Your Guide to Branding Yourself as an Author,” NY Book Editors
See: “7 Best Ways to Build an Authentic Author Brand“, Creative Penn
See: “How To Build Your Author Brand From Scratch (And Why You Need To)“, The Book Designer
2. Get yourself a website. Yeah, I know. Pain in the ass. But there are so many platforms now with easy-peasy dashboards and templates and low rates to get access to sexier templates that it makes no sense for you not to do this. And register your site as yourauthorname.com. Don’t do something like yourauthorname.blogspot.com or yourauthorname.wordpress.com. You want to be official-looking, and the way to do that is to spend about $15 a year on WordPress or whatever site to register as a dot.com.
Why do you need a website? Because when people try to find you online, it’s a good idea to have a static home address, if you will, where they can find you. Look up any well-known author that you read. Every single one of them has a website.
Here’s the thing. Get that website up and running even while you’re writing your first novel. Even before you’ve published anything. You can use it to blog (which plays into your branding) and to post free stories on so people get a sense of who you are as a writer. Link it to your social media. I launched a website two years before I published anything. And then I used it to post blogs and stories and the like. I still technically do that.
Also, when you approach a publishing house (or an agent) with your first manuscript, the first thing they’re going to do is do a search to find out if you have an online presence and what kind of presence that is. So get yourself a website.
See:”10 Best Website Builder Platforms for Writers and Authors“, Writing Cooperative
See: “Top 5 Platforms for Easily Creating Your Author Website”
See: “Author Website: Examples, Templates, and How to Build One“, Booklaunch
3. Social media. There are two schools of thought on this. One argues that authors don’t need to engage on social media; they should use promotional tools and market that way and avoid social media in order to focus on writing instead.
See: “Why Authors Should Not Use Social Media“, TCK Publishing
And then there’s the other school of thought that encourages authors to engage with social media, and integrate it with other platforms.
I fall into the latter school.
Choose the platforms that work best for you. I use Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook. I detest the latter, but it comes in handy for engaging with people. And sadly, Facebook owns Instagram, which pisses me off. And Tumblr has also irritated me recently with a shift in its terms of service that have gutted it. But, hopefully, something new will come along that will be awesome. We’ll see.
Anyway, don’t just randomly go out there and get an account on every platform you can find. Use platforms you’re already comfortable on. That’s the key. Why?
Because social media is NOT for selling books. Not really. It’s super freaking annoying to potential readers if you do nothing on your social media accounts except demand that everybody buy your books. You’ve seen THOSE authors, right? All they post anywhere is “BUY MY BOOK.” You get no sense of who they are or what they’re doing.
They’re that person standing outside the grocery store with a clipboard wanting to talk to you about signing something. It’s annoying af, amirite? The people who are successful at that approach ENGAGE you with something other than “SAVE THE ENDANGERED SCREAMING CHEETAHS BY SIGNING THIS PETITION.” They might say, “Hey, can I show you this cool cat video? I found my cat under a house down the street from me. Here’s a photo. This is Buster. Isn’t he the cutest?” And then they’ll tell you about the endangered screaming cheetahs, but the point is, they gave you a little bit of themselves before they asked you to do something.
So don’t just take to social media and post a constant stream of BUY MY BOOK BUY MY BOOK OMG BUY IT NOW. People tune out after the first one of those. And besides, don’t you have some writing to do? HMMM?
What you’ll be doing on social media is helping reinforce your BRAND. That is, who you are as a writer and what readers can expect when they read your stuff. You are ENGAGING on social media. INTERACTING. Posting interesting links about writing or something that personally interests you. You’re chatting with people. You’re NETWORKING. THAT is the purpose of social media. Sure, it’s okay to announce the release of a book and to remind people now and again, but if that’s ALL you’re doing on social media, you are failing at social media.
See: “How NOT to Sell Books: Top 10 Social Media Marketing No-Nos for Authors,” Anne R. Allen
I’m going to send you to a blog by Jane Friedman, who is a total guru about writing and publishing. I get that some writers/authors have real issues with social media, and Friedman notes that there are lots of other ways to reach people via the interwebz without having to do social media. I’ll let her talk about these things:
4. Marketing isn’t an option. You have to do it. And you have to figure out what’s going to work for you as a person and as a brand and you have to commit to getting all of that out there. It takes a LOT of time (and money, in some cases), but if you’re going to write and publish, you HAVE to market yourself and your work, no matter what publishing route you go.
You need to start thinking about marketing NOW, before your book is written. Think about its genre. What is it? What audience are you hoping to find? That is, who’s going to want to read this book? How might you reach those readers? These are questions the publisher is going to ask you, too (if you go that route). So you need to think about what MARKETS your book will appeal to and about how you’re going to reach those markets.
See what I mean about moving parts? Marketing, social media, website, author brand all work together in this business. And you have to understand that an author who doesn’t self-promote or engage or work on getting their brand out there is not going to sell books, and if that’s one of your goals, well, sorry. You have to market.
There are so many ways to market and so many approaches that I’m not going to try to explain how to go about doing it because here’s the thing. The best marketers in terms of writing know themselves, and they try different things and approaches and find the ones that work with their style as people AND as an author brand. So there’s a lot of trial and error here, friends, and again, that’s going to take lots of time (and probably some money), but you have to find your groove in this, and you have to remember not to smack people in the face with your promotion.
See: “10 Essential Marketing Tips for New Authors,” Book Marketing Tools
See: “Opinion: If You Want to Sell More Books, Skill Up,” Alliance of Independent Authors
See: “The Psychology of Author Marketing,” Jane Friedman (Guru)
See: “Wait, Keep Talking: Author Self-Promo That Actually Works,” Delilah Dawson
5. Don’t be a douche. I dunno, maybe this one should’ve been number one up there. But this is a mantra that you need to carry with you in your author branding mission and in marketing, and in your public life as an author. Hell, it’s good life practice in general.
People do tend to notice if you’re behaving badly on social media or at conferences and if they decide you’re an asshat, they’re not going to buy your books and they’re going to tell other people why they don’t buy your books.
People may say that they “separate the art from the artist,” but DO they? I’d argue not. And people can have long memories about such things. You know what has an even longer memory? The Internet. Even if you delete something, it’s never gone. And if you said something that was douchey, chances are, somebody screen-shotted it and they’re going to re-post it to remind people of your douchery.
So if you screw up and say/do something douchey, own it and apologize. You’ll probably have to do that a lot of times, but eventually, the point will get across that you are a responsible adult and you recognized you said/did something that was a mistake and you are now trying to make amends.
But the best medicine is always prevention. Do your very best not to be a douche and/or behave badly in real life or on social media (the two can merge). You will screw something up. You’re human, after all. But self-awareness goes a long way in life.
All right friends! Leave other tips for new authors in the comments if you’ve got ’em.