Another great post from over at Bad Redhead Media
AUGUST 17, 2014 BY
I asked my Facebook friends last week what confused them the most about author marketing and social media. So for the next several weeks, myself and several esteemed guests will be answering those questions for you! Thank you to all who answered. Here’s the first question:
How do you build an audience before you have a product? MJ Kelley @themjkelley
Many aspiring authors or bloggers ask this question a lot, and really I see this as a question of confidence more than anything — what do I have to talk about? Why should people tune into my blog or social media channels if I don’t have anything for sale yet? Is this an ‘author platform’ issue?
Many authors start off blogging, so let’s begin there (and if you’re not blogging, you should be!). Your blog is your your home, your place for folks to come in, take off their shoes, have a drink, hang awhile. Get to know YOU, and you get to know THEM. In other words, start building a relationship now (not to mention, it boosts your SEO and SMO, but that’s a whole other post).
Did you hear me mention anything about product, or selling? No, and it’s not because you don’t have anything to sell (because you do — you’re selling you, whether you realize it or not). You are utilizing relationship marketing skills as opposed to more old-school transactional (sales-focused) skills — building relationships for future sales and customer satisfaction. You’re also genuinely and authentically being yourself — letting people know you, and they are letting you know them. This is invaluable foundation building time for whatever it is that you will be ‘selling’ in the future — a product (book), a business, or a service.
I suggest you begin your pre-marketing at least six months to one year prior to the release of your book. Even earlier is fine. Why? Because you are building relationships with your demographic, people who read your genre, people with whom you share a common bond.
Where do you pre-market your non-product? I know, it seems kind of ridiculous but… remember, we ‘brand’ the author, not the book. So since we’re marketing YOU, let’s make you easily visible. Twitter, Facebook (you must have a personal account where people ‘friend’ you to manage everything else over there — even if you never use it — so grin and bear it), a Facebook page (required for any product or service), Google+ (you may think it’s silly but Google is the largest search engine in the world, and they own Google+ so…), plus either Pinterest or SnapChat or Instagram or YouTube — pick one.
You may think these new visual apps are silly but frankly, who cares? This isn’t about you or me — it’s about your buyers — your readers. If you are a YA author, you best be on SnapChat because that is where your demographic is. Most importantly, remember that social media is about building relationships, not ‘selling.’ Not having a product to sell is actually an excellent way for you to focus on being a person, not an automaton who constantly spouts ‘Buy my book!’ links, which is a turn-off anyway.
Once your book is ready to go, you’ve built this base of people who have taken an interest in you, Jo Author. So now, when you tweet or post that your book is ready to go and is anyone interested in beta-reading or reviewing, you will have people READY TO GO. We’ve all seen the desperate, ‘Will anyone, anyone, review my book? Please?’ tweets go by and feel kind of sad for the lonely, misguided soul because clearly, they have done ZERO pre-marketing. Not only that, but by asking anyone and everyone to review their book, they aren’t focusing on their demographic, risking poor reviews by having say, a sci-fi fan review their romance book. Not a good fit. I’ve seen it happen and it’s not pretty.
Here’s why that’s a mistake: it comes across as disingenuous. What’s in it for the reader to purchase and read your book if you’ve never approached them before? Nothing. It’s all about you, the author. But what if that person has known you for six months already, is part of a private reading group or inner circle you’ve created, has signed up for the newsletter you’ve set up after you read this post (hint, hint —Mailchimp is easy to use and totally free), knows that your kitten died, you know that their Uncle Mort just turned 90 and danced on the table at his party even with his arthritic knees, etc. That makes them special to you, and you to them.
That’s what relationship-building is all about!
CHANGE YOUR PARADIGM
Ask not how to build your audience before you have a product, but how can you build relationships leading up to the release of your product. And remember this: your product will change with each book release — but you, the author, will not. Don’t open a new Twitter account or Facebook page with every book — it’s a waste of your time and effort. Focus your marketing efforts on what we’ve discussed here today — say it with me one more time — building relationships! — and you will build a readership that will last through many years, not only one book release.