Imagine: your friend has invited you round to her house. She’s having a bit of a get-together, and there’ll be some people there you know, but also lots who you won’t. She answers the door, possibly noting that you’re the only guest who hasn’t brought a bottle, and introduces you to someone you haven’t met before.
“This is Janice,” she says, “We work together.”
“Would you like to buy my book, Janice?” you say. “I’ve got a copy in my bag. It’s on special offer today – only 99p.”
You wouldn’t do that, would you? Few people would… unless they’re on Twitter. And then I unfollow them: end of relationship.
I’m not going to advise you to use Facebook, or Twitter or any other particular social platform; they’ll all come and go. Instead, I’m going to suggest a strategy that applies to whatever medium you use. Here are my three pillars of promotion.
Number One: Be in it for the long term
Relationships take time to grow. I’ve been blogging and posting on threads on various sites for some years now. Although they aren’t writer sites, I’ve found a beta reader, Tweeps and bloggers and when I publish my novel I know these people will be interested, just as I’m interested in what they’re up to. I’d want them to post a link to their book because I like them as people and so I think I might like their books too, and hopefully they think the same of me. That takes months, if not years, to build.
Number Two: Follow the principle of reciprocity
I’m a research student in psychology, and part of the process of carrying out studies involves getting ethical approval because I have human participants. It’s desirable (though not imperative) that there’s something in it for them; some researchers are able to pay participants for their time, others give them feedback on their results that might help them in some way and others might enter them into a prize draw. I’ve found that if you want to recruit people to do a survey, a box of chocolates on the desk seems to increase the numbers willing to take part, although most of them won’t eat any! The same idea of reciprocity applies in promoting your writing. Writers I follow via Twitter or subscribing to their emails, such as Joanna Penn and Jeff Goins, spend time providing useful information for other writers for free. They’re generous in sharing their discoveries. When they publish a book, I trust that it’ll be of the same quality, and will certainly look at what they’re offering.
Number Three: Deliver on quality
This third point is an amalgamation of the first two. When someone buys your book, it has to be good. This leads to two results: firstly, your reader will be more likely to buy your next book, and secondly, they might recommend it to friends – word of mouth is a form of promotion, but you can only achieve it once you’ve delivered something worth talking about. This is a long-term relationship, where both sides give and take. I’ve read Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to Be a Woman,’ her tweets frequently make me laugh out loud, and when her next book comes out, I’ll be buying it. And here I am, plugging it – if rather explicit feminist hilarity appeals, you might want to check it out.
If you want to sell millions of copies tomorrow, these tips aren’t going to help you do that (but there’s nothing out there that would, and you know that). If, instead of thinking ‘I must promote my new book,’ you thought ‘In five years, I’d like this person to be interested in a book that I haven’t even imagined yet,’ what would be your approach? That’s what creates interest from your market.
This is the fifth blog in a series of eight about marketing.