Note: This post was first published on my blog for authors.
I’ve been a general member of the Romance Writer of America for a little over a year now, and a member of two chapters, the Georgia Romance Writers and Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal, for about the same length of time. Between those interactions and time spent browsing the kboards Writers’ Cafe, I meet a lot of authors, aspiring and published alike.
The two groups of writers (those affiliated with the RWA and those at the Writers’ Cafe) tend to focus on two different aspects of writing, the former on craft and the latter on business, but all of these authors have one thing in common: They all struggle with marketing, even the ones with established, thriving careers.
I’ve been published for less than two years, but even I can see the power of things like e-mail lists and platforms in helping newly published authors establish and interact with their readership. In fact, the first piece of advice I usually give anyone thinking about publishing a book is to create an e-mail list now. I even offer my own experiences as anecdotes.
There’s nothing, however, like being able to recomend a well-thought-out book written by an expert in the field. I struggled with this for a long time, as I didn’t have one book I could point to that explained the whys and hows of it all in a clear, concise fashion anyone could understand.
In Your First 1000 Copies: The Step-by-Step Guide to Marketing Your Book, Tim Grahl lays out exactly what steps authors should take to establish a strong relationship with their readers and how to translate that into sales.
He begins by explaining exactly what marketing is, and then breaks the process into four steps: Permission, Content, Outreach, and Sell, followed by a brief conclusion titled “Building the System.” In each section, he outlines what does and doesn’t work, including what attitudes authors should adopt when interacting with readers and peers.
Grahl emphasizes the importance of building assets authors can control, like mailing lists and websites (and particularly the content we choose to publish in those places), and firmly puts social media in its place. All of this is part of what he calls a Connection System, integrating his four steps (Permission, Content, Outreach, and Sell) into a unified, interconnected workflow designed to help readers attract new readers and retain their existing ones.
As part of that, he discusses reader magnets, guest blogging, podcasts, automated workflows (like the ones I discussed last week), and other tools authors often use (or not!) without fully understanding why they should be utilizing them. To me, the whys are the most important aspects of his discussion. It isn’t enough to tell people that they should, for example, have a website. Without explaining how authors benefit and what content they should focus on (in other words, why), they will flounder and end up wasting a lot of time and effort building a website that doesn’t work to draw readers in and keep them coming back for more.
Isn’t that the ultimate goal of all writers?
Your First 1000 Copies is an indispensable reference. It belongs on every writer’s shelf, and I suggest literally adding it to your physical library by purchasing the print edition. (The Kindle edition is currently free with the purchase of the paperback.)
Once you’ve studied, absorbed, and begun to implement Grahl’s words, you may wish to follow through with Nick Stephenson’s Reader Magnets, which includes a little more detail on that particular aspect of platform-building and -marketing. Write. Publish. Repeat. also discusses reader magnets by including them as part of their funnel system. I recommend both highly, but neither is as simple, persuasive, or easy to use as Your First 1000 Copies. So start there, follow up with the other two, and best wishes to you all as you begin to build your audience.