Marketing Your Book 101

Remember middle school when “reputation” meant everything? A little of that still exists today, except that as adults it’s more about commerce, and less about wearing the coolest clothes or hanging with the right people.

Marketing expert Erik Deckers explains personal branding, and ways to promote yourself that get people to associate happy thoughts whenever you come around, whether that’s in social media or in real life.

Erik will be sharing his knowledge at this year’s Killer Nashville. His sessions are a no-miss, standing-room-only opportunity.

What Does Personal Branding Have to do With Writing?

By Erik Deckers

As writers, we all need to market ourselves. We need to promote our “personal brand”. That’s how people know us and decide whether they like us and our work.

A lot of writers hate it when I tell them this. “I shouldn’t have to market myself. My art should speak for itself,” they say.

Maybe you shouldn’t, and maybe it should. The world is filled with very good writers who don’t believe they should do something so crass as marketing.

One of them sold me my latte this morning.

Personal Branding

Or my personal favorite, “I’m not a brand. I’m a person.” (And they do it all pouty, with their arms folded, like a child being told it’s bath time.)

A brand is the emotional response people have when they see your face or hear your name. (With a company, it’s what happens when they hear the company name or see its logo.) Everyone creates an emotional response in the people they know.

Think of it as a Yay/Aww feeling. People say Yay and Aww when they see us coming or going. Whichever they say at whichever time is entirely up to you.

That’s personal branding. It’s what people think when they see us, hear from us, read our name, or hear about us when we’re not around. Other people call it reputation, but I wrote a book on personal branding, so I need to stick with the jargon in the hopes of selling a few more copies.

There are plenty of articles out there telling you what to do with each of the four basic social media tools—Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogging. Rather than do that, let me share three principles that will help you connect with people online and communicate with them.

Build Relationships

Social media is not a broadcast tool, although many companies and hucksters use it that way. It’s a two-way conversation tool that we’re forgetting to use properly. Think about your Facebook friends. You “like” things they post, and occasionally you comment. But unless it’s a vigorous political debate, most people don’t actually engage each other. We think we’re “talking”, when we’re really just having two one-sided conversations at the same time.

So what if we commented more, asked more questions, and had more conversations? How much deeper would our Facebook relationships be? What if you could do that on Twitter? Ask and answer questions, talk to people about books, or the news, or whatever’s happening in their lives. Talk to people and form online relationships. You’d be amazed at what you can learn just by having real human conversations on Facebook and Twitter.

This is an ideal way to build a reader base—these are your online “friends”. They’ll support you, because they like and trust you. There’s an old sales maxim, “People buy from people they like and trust.” Build online relationships with your readers, rather than just broadcasting news, and they’ll buy from/respond to you when it counts.

Gather Information

Social media is also a great source for information. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard about major breaking news on Twitter before I saw it on the news that night or the next day.

Think about people who are only informed by mainstream nightly news, or the morning paper. By the time they hear the latest news, social media users have gathered the information, processed it, and are formulating next steps.

You can gather information from people in your field, the literary world, or anyone else who shares news and information. Create Twitter lists and fill them with journalists, scientists, writers, agents, publishers, news organizations, and so on. This way, you can gather information in real-time, not on an artificial schedule—often eight hours after the fact.

Share Expertise / Entertainment

As a business writer, I’m always looking for people who will hire me as a conference speaker or marketing consultant, or buy one of my books. As a humor writer, I’m always looking for people to subscribe to my column or buy one of my humor books (once I get around to writing them).

As mystery writers, you want to entertain your readers, but if you also have a nonfiction side, you want to establish your expertise. Blogging is the ideal way to do that. Write about topics of particular interest to your target audience, or write stories that will keep your readers coming back for more.

Push that work to your blog, LinkedIn page, or Facebook author page as a way to share your expertise or to entertain. Since traditionally published books can take up to a year to reach readers, and trade journals are a slow and inefficient way to establish expertise, online channels can help you accomplish that in weeks and months.

You can even go so far as to share items from your Information sources with your own networks. This curation strategy will further enhance your Expertise in your field, or if you practice Literary Citizenship (see last issue’s column), you can further Entertain your own readers.

You can easily enhance your personal brand if you focus on building relationships, gathering information, and sharing your expertise or entertainment with your readers. All it takes is doing what you’re already doing—having conversations, gathering news, and sharing ideas—but with social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogging. If you can do that, you’ll build a positive personal brand, and you’ll have fun doing it.

Erik Deckers headshot 1065x1065Erik Deckers owns a content marketing agency in Indianapolis, and is the co-author of four books on social media. He is also a professional speaker and newspaper humor columnist, and was named a 2016 writer-in-residence at the Kerouac House Project. He spoke at Killer Nashville 2013, and will return again this year.

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