Marketing has changed a great deal since the days of Mad Men. Advertising agencies used to be able to essentially tell consumers what they should buy – broadcasting the message over mass media (television, which used to be 3 or 4 channels, and radio, in newspapers and magazines).
But media itself has changed radically in the last 15 years. The World Wide Web, cable television, satellite radio have all contributed to a fracturing of the “mass” audience. Messages now have to be tailored to these fragments, rather than broadcasted to the whole. And – particularly on the Web – these fragments tend to talk back.
A central tenet of the Web is that “anybody can say anything about anything (at any time)”. One great example of this is customer reviews. When Amazon first began publishing these on its book pages, many professional critics and traditional publishers were appalled that any reader could so publicly express an opinion about a book on the same page as an excerpt from a New York Times Book Review article. So book marketing has had to evolve from less broadcasting to more engagement – because that’s what book customers now expect.
As a self-published author, this marketing will largely fall on your shoulders, so it’s important to understand what tools you have at your disposal.
- Social media – this warrants an article in itself, but suffice it to say, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing are all great ways to interact with your readers and potential readers.
- Customer reviews – many internet bookstores have rules about authors commenting on their own books or talking back to reviewers. (This includes “sock puppets” – made-up personas). But you can certainly read what people are saying about your book. This information can inform your marketing strategy.
- Blogging – writing regular posts about your work, the thinking that went into it, what you’re working on now, other authors whose work you admire – this is valuable for your readers.
- Conferences – these events vary widely. Some are for professionals (such as BEA, MLA, or conferences about specific topics). Some are for writers and readers (local book festivals). Some are specifically for self-published authors. At conferences, you have a chance to mingle with your audience face-to-face. You can give presentations or talks about your area of expertise. Sometimes you can have a table or booth, and offer promotional or educational material about your work.
- Other writing – join online forums and engage in conversations there; offer to write blog posts on other blogs than your own. The important thing is to present yourself not as an author with a book to promote, but as an expert with information to share.
Smashwords has a great document about marketing for self-publishers. The important thing about marketing is to remember that it’s no longer a one-way message. Your readers can and will talk back to you. Make it a great conversation, and your books will sell themselves.