There are a thousand ways you can market your book, but one that stands the test of time is influencer marketing. The rise of digital and social media has brought this way of reaching the right readers to more authors than ever before. But how does it work and how do you make contact with powerful influencers? This week, the Alliance of Independent Authors AskALLi team dives deep into the world of influencer marketing for authors.
Influencer Marketing for Authors: What is it?
An influencer is a person with authority and popularity within a specific niche. Influencers have a large or dedicated following who pay attention to what they say, like and recommend. Our daily lives are saturated with content, noise and notifications. So one easy way to filter through that noise is to listen to the recommendations of people you trust, like influencers.
Influencers have their audience’s trust and attention—both currencies that are at a premium in today’s busy book market.
For somebody who wants to tap this dynamic to reach more readers and sell more books, influencer marketing begins with identifying influencers in your niche and persuading them to promote your book or premium products to their followers and fans.
A recommendation from a book influencer serves as a form of social proof for a book and can have real impact on book sales and awareness of you as an author.
This kind of marketing works best when the campaign feels meaningful to both author and influencer. And when the author taps into influencer insights about what makes their audience tick, rather than just using the influencer as a mouthpiece for their own marketing message.
As with any marketing approach, you need to think about your overarching marketing strategy and then distill it down into specific campaign objectives.
Influencer Marketing for Authors: Marketing Changes
The traditional influencers in the book business are booksellers, libraries, reviewers and critics. Gaining their attention meant reviews in the literary and mainstream press. The aim with such publications has always been to hit the widest possible number of readers in the mainstream book reading market.
This form of influence is not particularly effective for selling books and it is waning, partly for that reason and partly due to the economies of traditional media.
By contrast, online influence, particularly social media influence, is expanding.
While traditional attention can garner praise and respect for your book, finding those who are most influential with the readers most likely to buy is a better sales strategy. This means knowing your genre, niche and micro-niche and the mediators and other authors who are known, liked and trusted by your potential readers.
Unless it happens organically, you’ll need to invest time and right-minded effort in finding the right influencer for your books. It's an effort that can reap great rewards.
Influencer Marketing for Authors: Principles for Working with Influencers
Finding the Right Influencers: Principle 1: Affinity
Even for short-term campaigns and projects you need to work with a partner who aligns with your values and mission as an author. People will associate you with that influencer, long after a specific campaign is forgotten.
Association with a celebrity name or a trendy up-and-comer can be worse than useless if it isn’t a meaningful fit. The wrong connection can leave your ideal reader cold or confused.
After reviewing an influencer's audience and broad values and tone of voice, take time to observe how they interact with both followers and critics, across time, and assess their standing amongst the wider community. Look closely at previous postings and projects, views and opinions, as well as their audience profile.
Do an audit of their activities across their different social platforms to build your understanding of their influence and how they win it. Check that they pass the know-like-trust test and do actually generate genuine engagement and conversation from followers and peers.
Questions to ask:
- Does the influencer’s audience align well with my books’ values and mission?
- Does this person have genuine authenticity and authority?
- Does their voice align with mine?
- Are their visual communications complementary?
- How do they respond to comments?
- Are there significant differences in tone across different platforms?
Finding the Right Influencers: Principle 2: Reach
Influencer Marketing for Authors: Approaching Influencers
As you plan your approach, do it in a way that makes it likely they’ll be open to it, rather than annoyed. Don't give them the wrong reason to say no.
Before you ask, support their work
Writing or publishing a review of their work, share or like their posts over time, comment on their blog. Get on their radar. Don't overdo this to the point of being a stalker.
Research who (and how) they’ve supported others
Do they promote/support on Twitter or Facebook, blog or website, podcasts or live stream, newsletters or email blast. Study where and how their recommendations appear. Does that suit you? When you make your ask, be specific about what you want and customize your pitch accordingly.
Use their contact preference
Influencers know how they prefer to be contacted–agent, email, Twitter–and they'll have instructions at their website. Follow their lead.
Remember they're busy
No matter how busy you are, they are probably busier and you're the one who is asking for something. So be polite and as helpful as you possibly can and highly respectful of their time.
Make sure your email—or method of contacting them—is short, concise and efficient. Include all of the information you think they need including dates, links to your product etc. but nothing makes an influencer's heart sink like a long, overly-detailed email.
Keep your request brief and to the point and if they need additional information, provide a link or two (no more than two) where they can find out more.
Personalize your ask and be specific
Make it as easy as possible for an influencer to help you: tell them specifically what you would like them to do—based on your research of how they most typically lend support, allowing them to quickly offer a yes or no. Offer them specific swipe copy they can edit or adapt.
Gift them your work
Give the influencer a copy of your book or access to your course or whatever it is you want them to promote in order for them to assess it and ensure they deem it of value. If they promote your product, they're risking their reputation, so it's only right they can review your product or book. Note though, that doesn't mean they'll read your entire book or take your entire course. They just need to be able to access what they need to ensure that there is affinity and that their followers will appreciate the value in your offering.
Thank them for any help offered and don’t argue with their response.
Show appreciation for their time if you receive a response, and never try to turn their “no” to a “yes”. Failing on the first approach is an opportunity to learn and you may succeed in the future, but now is not the time to ask again.
Keep supporting that person, as there is genuine affinity and admiration and keep your eyes open for future opportunities to connect or interact.
Influencer Marketing for Authors: Types of Influencers
Like the rest of the growing digital landscape, there are an increasing plethora of influencers out there, and more joining the ranks each day. But rather than heading for the usual suspects, with a bit of thinking outside the box and research, you can find an array of influencers to work with that have a thriving audience.
Book bloggers are readers and occasionally authors who run websites dedicated to reviewing and promoting books. Many of them are genre specific too. Book bloggers are influencers which means their platforms are based on their reputation. The consequence of that is that they must post honest reviews. Just because you get your book in the hands of a book blogger, doesn't mean you're guaranteed a five star review.
A literary or publishing influencer is anyone with a tribe of readers. You can find a swathe of book influencers on instagram in the #Bookstagram community. For example, @darkfaeriestales_ aka Bridget, has 126,000 followers. Every day she posts pictures of books, unboxes book mail she receives from authors and publishers and talks about books she's excited to read or has already read. Bridget has another instagram account that she's currently building which focuses solely on children's books which you can find @storygramkids. There are more niche bookstagram influencers too like Sadie Hartmann who's @Mother.Horror on Instagram and niches right down to focus only on horror books. Meaning many fans of horror follow her and watch for her recommendations.
“I often get book recommendations from instagram now. For me, unlike a lot of readers, it's less about the books the influencers are personally interested in and more that because they receive such enormous amounts of books, you often pick up on books you wouldn't normally have found. Plus you get the bonus of seeing someone else's reaction to it.”
Social Media Influencers
But it's not just Instagram that has influencers. Any social media channel where someone has a lot of followers can be classed as an influencer. You can reach out to influencers on Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and more. But remember, the key is to choose platforms your readers actually hang out on rather than choosing random platforms.
YouTube is a beast when it comes to influencer marketing. Influencers can command high prices for the privilege of them promoting your service, product or book. Typically, because instagram and YouTube are visual mediums, you'll be expected to send a copy of your book. This can get pricey given not all influencers are in your own country. An example of a book influencer on YouTube, is Hailey in Bookland. She focuses on Young Adult books (for the most part) and has almost 300,000 followers on YouTube all ready and waiting to hear her recommendations as she posts videos each week.
Audio is a booming market, that's not news. But what you may not have accounted for, is the influencer podcasters have on their audience. Listening to audio is intimate. When listening, it's only the listener and the voice of the podcaster, that's it. No one around the listener knows what they're listening to, it's a close relationship, and listeners often comment about how well they feel they know the podcaster. You can't hide when it's just your voice and that creates a deeper level of trust. So when a podcaster makes a recommendation, it's heard.
There are an array of genre-specific podcasts like “The Big Gay Fiction podcast” which reviews LGBTQ+ books and also interviews authors of those books. Another example in the same nice is “The Lesbian Lounge” hosted by ALLi member, Clare Lydon.
- Literary magazines
- Academic critics
- Educators and experts
- University trendsetters
- Professional speakers
- Bestselling authors in your niche
- Newspaper review supplements
- Community leaders
The list is long and we can add many more.
Influencer Marketing for Authors: Being an Influencer
Once your audience grows big enough, you will find the tables turn and you have become an influencer. Being an influencer and promoting products is based on the trust your audience has for you and the reputation you've built.
The most important thing as an influencer is to keep your reputation intact—it's like virginity—once it's gone, you can't get it back.
Three of the most common forms of income you can receive as an influencer are:
- Sponsorship: from big companies or brands. These companies may pay you a sum of money to give their product some airtime on your video, podcast or website.
- Product gift: in these circumstances, the influencer may receive products or items from companies in order to review and or promote them. For example, books, clothing or sports equipment.
- Affiliate marketing: this is where an influencer will be given a web link that is specific to them. When someone in their audience clicks that link and purchases the product, the influencer will receive a small amount of money at no extra cost to the person making the purchase.
Being an Influencer: Principle 1
Only promote products, books and services that you like, know and trust. If someone approaches you about promoting their product, service or book, you should always check out their item. If you promote something that's poor quality, you're going to damage you own reputation. Your audience won't trust your recommendations going forward and you'll damage your ability to promote additional products too.
Being an Influencer: Principle 2
Only promote things of relevance. If you're a historical fiction author, there's no point promoting YA fantasy book. Your readers are unlikely to read those kinds of books and so not only are you wasting your time, but theirs too. That said, promoting tours around historical sites of interest might well be of interest to your audience.
Being an Influencer: Principle 3
Stick to your values. If there's a value you hold dear, then stick to it. Just because other influencers or authors are promoting something, doesn't mean you should. Your audience will be aware of your values and if you suddenly start promoting something that doesn't fit you're brand just because you're being paid, you're going to lose fans and raise eyebrows.
Influencer Marketing for Authors: It's Not all About Big Numbers
As you may know, ALLi runs a twice yearly conference: #SelfPubCon. ALLi members have free six-month access passes for the lifetime of their membership. Members: log in to allianceindependentauthors.org and navigate to ADVICE > CONFERENCE and follow the instructions).
If you're not a member of ALLi, you’ll need an access pass—available for six-month or lifetime access—in order to watch Angela's conference session. These passes are good value because you don’t just get access to this conference… you get access to all the conferences since 2018 and, in the case of the lifetime pass, all the conferences to come. You can find out more about Access Passes here.
Why are we telling you about this? Well, at the March2020 #SelfPubCon, Angela Ackerman, author, writing coach and international speaker, ran a session called: Level up your Book Marketing by Collaborating with Authors and Influencers. First, a little more about Angela:
Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, (now an expanded second edition containing 130 emotions) and its many sequels. Her books are available in eight languages, sourced by universities, recommended by agents and editors, and used by novelists, screenwriters, and psychologists around the world. Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, an innovative creative library filled with powerful tools that help writers of all levels master storytelling. Stop by and give our free trial a spin…writing can be easier!
Here's a short snippet from Angela's transcript to whet your appetite. For more, watch the session or grab your access pass.
“Now with influencers, I mentioned before that we need to remember that not all influencers are huge, some are small, others are big, and both of them kind of have their pros and cons. Macro influencers are those that have a really large group of followers and they trust their brand and therefore they put stock into their ideas, opinions and recommendations. But there's also a micro influencer. And these are people that have the ear of a smaller group of people, they have a more intimate, close relationship. They're more influential in a niche area. Again, both pros and cons, macros have a very big voice. So, lots of people may tune into what they have to say. But they also might not have personal relationships with their audience as much as a micro influencer. Because micro influencers may have more time and energy to really care about the people in their smaller circle. So that's something to consider.
Macro influencers also are really busy. You know, chances are, they've got a ton of stuff that they're trying to juggle, they've got a huge platform, their own marketing initiatives, their own products that they're trying to sell. And so it may be harder to build relationships with them, just something to take into mind. Not saying that you should stay away from macro influencers all I'm just saying that it's something to remember that it will take a little bit more time to build that relationship up.
Micro influencers though, they may be very receptive to a relationship and have more time and energy to work with you when it comes to collaborations. Micro influencers are probably the most likely to enthusiastically enjoy your street team. And word of mouth is also really strong with micro influencers, as I mentioned before, because they have those close connections with people who they absolutely love to read. So micro influencers, they might be your reading fans, they might be a book club or a conference organizer, something along those lines. And you never know when a fan of your book could open a door for you in a big way. So make sure to nurture all of those relationships and think about building relationships with both groups of influencers.”