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Marketing ~ The Ever-Present Thing We All Love to Hate to Do with Elana Johnson

I think marketing it one of the hardest things we authors have to do. Isn’t writing the book hard enough? Revising? Editing? Cover designing? But now we have to sell it too?
Sometimes it can be exhausting. Never fear! I’m here to discuss some inexpensive marketing anyone can do. Trust me, I’m an introvert, and even I can do these things.
First, you should decide where the bulk of your time and money will be spent. Online? Or in person? I ask, because knowing this determines a lot of things. For instance, swag. Do you need it if you’re only promoting online? Sure, you can do some giveaways, but I daresay that if the majority of your promotion is going to be done online, you only need bookmarks. That’s it. Nothing more. Don’t waste your time or money.
However, if your focus is in-person events like school visits, book signings, panels, presentations, book clubs, etc. then you might want more than bookmarks. I will say that what you decide to get swag-wise depends on your audience.
The bottom line here is: Know what you want and who your audience is.
Second, be aware of what’s going on in your community. A lot of my publicity comes from people I meet at conferences, events, or book festivals in my local area. Once I meet a newspaper book reviewer, a magazine editor, the library administrator, or a book blogger (all people who live right here near me who are attending the same events I am!), I can solicit myself and my books to them for a Sunday book feature, a review, an event, or a blog tour.
All of the above were obtained by sending an email – after attending an event where I made the contact. I consider conferences and book signings to be opportunities to market myself as well as to gain inspiration and knowledge. It’s like a two-for-one dealio!
If you live in a rural area, or can’t afford to travel to conferences, there are a plethora of places online to do your marketing. Whenever someone asks me where I found my critique partners, I tell them the same thing that I do for marketing: Hang out where writers hang out.
Online, these are places like Agent Query Connect, QueryTracker, Facebook (lots of author-type groups here!), Twitter, and get out into the blogosphere. Every author relationship you make can lead to an increase in contacts for your marketing purposes, which in turn leads to reaching more readers. So don’t discount hanging out with authors, even though you’re trying to reach readers.
So how do you reach readers, particularly YA readers? Here’s my (possibly unpopular) opinion: Don’t worry about it. Young adults are hard to reach, because their time spent online isn’t looking up novels.
But, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter. I promise. Because librarians hang out online. They read a lot of books, as well as run/read a lot of blogs. Teachers hang out online. Parents hang out online. And 55% of YA book sales are for adults.
So I know we want to reach our “target audience” of young adults. But I propose that reaching their gatekeepers (teachers, librarians, parents) by gearing our marketing toward  adults who actually buy our books (the 55%), our books will make it into the hands of young adults.
That’s my philosophy anyway.
So if all these people are hanging out online, how do you reach them? I actually think blog tours—with authors or book bloggers—are an effective way. Perhaps they don’t translate into sales, but it’s the visibility you’re going for with a blog tour, and it’s visibility that well-planned and executed blog tours provide.
Goodreads ads can reach readers. Goodreads giveaways. Goodreads excerpts. Basically, Goodreads should be your friend. Familiarize yourself with it, and use it as your time, money, and resources (giveaway copies) permit.
Other than those two things, I think the key to online promotion is to spend some time coming up with something unique. The noise online is intense, and unless you’re doing something different, your voice is just that: another voice.
So get creative! Look at the platform you’ve already built (blog, Facebook groups, contacts), and think of unique ways to expand on those. Group online event? Submit your expertise to an event/blog? Host a blogfest with a theme geared toward your book? Join a group of like-minded authors? Book a blog tour? Organize a book blitz? Run a giveaway?
No matter what you do, remember: Even one new reader/contact is success!
Elana Johnson is the rockin' author of the Possession series. She blogs for the League of Extraordinary Writers and is a founding member of WriteOnCon. She also teaches, watches a lot reality TV and drives too fast.


This Post Has 15 Comments
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  2. Wonderful piece Elana! I try to plan my events a year in advance as well as my marketing budget of time and money. It can run away on you and make you feel like you are drowning. I personally love networking with other authors and with readers and local event certainly do help greatly to this degree. Thanks again for posting.

  3. Great article, Elana! Trying to reach my audience, middle grade readers is especially difficult. I have had most success on Goodreads and joining groups. Thanks for all the great ideas!

  4. I know I’ll be doing all of my marketing online so at least I’ve got my direction planned. I like the idea of being unique for my book launch (when/if I get there…:)) – I have a few ideas, but nothing that makes me jump up and down yet. Hopefully! 🙂

  5. I’ve been volunteering at our regional SCBWI conferences the last few years and it opens all kinds of doors–you get lots of opportunities to talk to faculty and make contacts. Plus you get a discounted rate on registration. There’s a bookstore for books by volunteers and members too, but they have not chosen to let indie-pubbed books sit alongside traditionally pubbed books. Yet.

    One swag item I consider a must-have for my YA urban fantasy, Crow’s rest, is custom temporary tattoos!

  6. These are some great ideas. I wished I lived closer to more conferences–I definitely need to find some good online hangouts. I’m shy in person and online, so it’s tough!

  7. Good info in this post. I feel like I’m floundering when it comes to marketing my work. The world can be such an overwhelming place when you’re trying to be heard above the noise. Guess I’m still trying to figure out how I’m different, what about me and my writing is unique, and find the best way to communicate that to readers.

    Thanks for sharing your insights, Elana.

  8. Excellent suggestions Elana.

    With all the writers out there doing the same things to gain attention, as you said:

    The noise online is intense, and unless you’re doing something different, your voice is just that: another voice.

    What kind of things have you seen that are different enough to stand out?

  9. Thanks! I’m introverted too (like a lot of us writers) and kinda cringe at the thought of the marketing aspect whenever I get to that point. Some great ideas here!! I need to get out more locally, I think. And get more familiar with how Goodreads works as far as book promo. 🙂

  10. Hi Elana, Excellent advice and so practical! I have been overwhelmed with suggestions regarding swag and other promotion. Your post is a breath of fresh air.

    My takeaways…

    With ebook releases focus on blog tours and Goodreads. As for swag, bookmarks are enough.

    A few questions…

    There are so many blog tours out there. Can you recommend any? I’ve written a paranormal romance for the boomer crowd, though many young’ uns have expressed interest.

    When should I start giving out bookmarks? One month ahead? Or wait until the book comes out?

    I’m also considering a trailer. How far ahead should that be released?

    BTW…Between Land and Sea will be released in late September.

    Thanks again 🙂


  11. This was a good, eye-opening read Elana. Thank you very much. I’m pretty much a greenhorn when it comes to marketing, and I’ve got a rewrite of a first novel I wrote years ago that I want to get published, and marketing is another issue I’ve got to think over as well. I’m nervous about it all, but as you say, every new contact is a success.

    Book signings are great, and I’d love to do them, but I can see the web is becoming the main search engine for readers. Hopefully I’ll keep blogging and all these other options in mind.

  12. Another thought provoking blog. Many thanks Elana. The one thing that hits me is the staggering amount of options. It seems that each week there is a new way to market yourself. Blogfests, book blitzes, query connect and query tracker are things I know so little about. Maybe I should, but there must be a limit. Indie writers do need at least 6 hours sleep a night!

    My takeaway was the item about Goodreads. I keep reading how good they are as an authors friend and realise I’ve ignored this advice for too long.
    Maybe 1 day I will find out what a query tracker does but it sounds like a a painful exercise and will park this up until something else less intimidating comes along!

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