This series has been so much fun to do, and I’ve learned so much more about design and marketing just by doing these posts. In case you missed it, Part 1 was an interview with Adam Pavese, graphic designer and marketer, about the world of design and the importance of visual representation. Part 2 was a hands-on course that highlighted the ins and outs of designing your own book covers and social media graphics.
Today, Part 3 is going to be all about marketing, and it’s probably my favorite of the three posts. Trying to dig up information on marketing is rough sometimes, and though there’s a ton of courses out there on marketing, a lot of them are simply intros to paid classes, and tend to be filled with a lot of vague tips that aren’t very applicable.
In this post, I really want to give you guys a vivid view of what it means to market your book, what it means to brand yourself as an author, and give you some actual, concrete ideas of things you can use in your own writing careers, not just vague, obscure ideas about marketing.
There’s going to be a ton of information packed into this post, so don’t feel discouraged. It seems like a lot, but take it all in stride. Read it once, take mental notes, and then read it again, focusing on one or two areas of marketing that you really want to work on. Marketing can feel overwhelming, especially for us indies without a lot of resources. But get creative, ask questions, and experiment to find out what works best for you. What works for one person, might not work best for another, and vice versa. Make it your own!
And now for some really in-depth Q and A with Adam!
Q. Why is social media important for marketing?
A. Social media marketing is extremely important to marketing because you have a captive audience at your disposal. When people are on social media, they are on social media. What I mean by that is they are using social media to browse, scroll through stories, learn about friends and family, and see what is out there. You potentially have millions of possible customers looking at their phones purely with the intent of looking at their phones and you need to be injecting your product into that feed.
Q. Which platforms should you use for social media?
A. This all depends on your audience. One of the questions I ask my clients all the time is “Who is your target audience?” You have to ask yourself this same question. Who is my target audience and how do I reach them effectively? Lets say you wrote a book for kids age 8 – 13 years old. Something like A Series Of Unfortunate Events. You don’t want to invest a lot of time into Facebook for that audience. Facebook has a lot of people on it but if we’re being honest, it’s mostly our parents’ and grandparents’ generation that have Facebook accounts now and they aren’t who you’re after.
For a book like A Series Of Unfortunate Events, you are going to want to use Snapchat and Instagram. You’ll find a much younger audience on there due to the fact that both of those social media platforms have very easy UX (User Experiences). It’s a more simple, cut-and-dry social media platform for younger kids to use. Below is a list of age ranges and the most used social media platforms used by those ages.
Facebook — Ages 18 – 49 (Mostly Female Users) – Most Popular
Snapchat — Ages 13 – 24 (Mostly Female Users) – Most Active
Instagram — Ages < 35 – (Mostly Female Users) – Fastest Growing
Twitter — Ages 18 – 29 – (Mostly Male Users) – Most Oversaturated
YouTube — Ages 18 – 49 (Mostly Male Users) – Better Than TV
Pinterest — Ages 18 – 64 (Mostly Female Users) – Most Evergreen (most fresh, new, and up-to-date content.)
Q. Should you use all platforms for social media?
A. Oh my gosh no. This would require A LOT of planning and A LOT of time. You need to find a max of about 3 social media networks that you’re going to use.
Q. How do you use social media?
A. This is kind of a tricky question because it all depends on the social media accounts you have or are going to have. I’ll use my accounts as an example.
I have Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and LinkedIn (I hate LinkedIn but I have to have one for work). I don’t use Snapchat or LinkedIn for marketing so we’re down to Facebook and Instagram.
My demographic is select business owners, 30 – 50 years old.
That age bracket isn’t on their social media that much so I don’t need to post too terribly often. About 1 or 2 times a week.
When I do post I make it interesting. Something that showcases me (Slice of life style) or something I can do (Portfolio style).
You can thoroughly explain what’s going on in the post, or you can be vague and leave it up to them to inquire/investigate more about what you’re doing.
Q. What are some tips for posting on social media?
A. Posting Pictures
When you post pictures, don’t post a blurry picture of your greasy cat. I’ll shoot straight with you, no one cares. Post pictures of interesting things going on in your life. Things like where you work, things that inspire you, the view from your work space, etc.
If your life isn’t interesting, stage interesting pictures. Set up your workspace to look fun or inviting. Get your computer set up with your notepad next to it, a nice hot cup of coffee or tea, a pen or pencil sitting out ready to make notes about what you’re working on, and maybe some sort of delicious looking snack on a plate. Create the idea that you’re going to be parked there for the day get a lot of work done. (This is just an example. You can stage your picture any way you want.)
Make sure your pictures look clean. If the picture is blurry, take it as many times as you have to until it looks clear, or ask to borrow someones phone with a better camera if you need to. If you’re posting pictures of yourself, make sure the background is in check. You want your viewers to be focused on you, not whether they want to nominate you for season 10 of Hoarders. Also, if you’re posting pictures of yourself, look presentable. Do your hair, pick out a nice outfit, look nice. You have no idea if your aunt Mable from Wyoming is the only one looking at your post or if it’s a scout from a major publishing agency but either way, don’t take that chance. Look professional and presentable. (Also, don’t take weird selfies where half your face is oddly cut off and you’re not smiling. If you look like you got surprised taking your own selfie, chuck that sucker in the “no” pile and move on please.)
Q. How often should you post?
A. The best solution of “how often to post” is to create whats called a “Social Media Calendar”. Go through and set days you’re going to post, what you’re going to post on that day, and what social network it’s going on. It will help keep you consistent and focused on your social media accounts. As a side note, when you’re using Instagram for marketing, try not to post too often and try not to post multiple times in the same day. It’s just overkill. Usually the sweet spot is to post about 3 times per week on Instagram.
Q. What kinds of things should you post?
A. You can post whatever you want. If we’re talking about the world of writing, you’ve got a lot of things you can pick from.
Your work station
Manuscript draft of your book
Conceptual cover art
Places that inspire you (library, outdoors, art museums, architecture, etc.)
Other books you’re currently reading
Snippets of your book
Links to other content/authors
Fun-facts about yourself
Updates about the status of your book or upcoming books you’re working on
Updates about your book
Introductions of other authors
Interesting places you currently are
Things you find fun or amusing (Don’t go overboard with this one)
Don’t underestimate the power of tagging, shoutouts, and hashtags. If you post a picture with one hashtag, don’t be surprised when your post only gets 4 likes, 3 of which are your family members. Place things in your pictures and videos that are worth tagging. The reusable water bottle brand on your desk, the artist you listen to when you work, the journal you use, etc. If the picture or video is well composed, the company/artist will probably like your photo and even better, they may share your post! Tagging helps you and it helps the person/brand/company you’re tagging. I attached an example of a post of mine so you can see how I tag and give shoutouts.
Q. Is it important to have a website? Can your blog be your website?
A. It’s very important to have a website. You need a place where people can go to learn more about you. It’s also a great place to sell your books online too.
I would say no, you don’t want your blog to be your website. It’s ok to have a blog on your website though. If your blog is your website, you’re relying on your viewers to read through all that content to figure out who you are and thats a pretty big gamble. Your website can be small and simple. It doesn’t have to be all that and a bag of chips. Just something where people (or potential publishing agencies) can get to know you more.
There’s something called a “One page scrolling website” and that’s a perfectly acceptable web presence to have. But I would say you defiantly want a website.
Q. What is the difference between branding your book and branding yourself?
A. Branding your book would be giving an identity solely to your book/books. Branding yourself would be giving an identity to you, and everything else you do moving forward.
Q. Do you need to brand yourself as an author?
A. Yes, if you plan on doing more with yourself as a brand. If you’re focusing on your first book with nothing else in mind, I wouldn’t worry about branding yourself right away. If you are finishing your first book but have more in the works already, are going to start a blog about yourself and your experiences, and plan on doing more in that genre like public speaking and tutorials, then you probably want to create more of a brand around yourself.
Q. How do you brand yourself as an author?
Branding yourself goes farther than just coming up with a logo for yourself. If you do decide to brand yourself, you need to accompany that with a few more steps.
Open Secondary Social Media Accounts
You are going to need to have social media accounts purely dedicated to you as a person. On these accounts, you won’t be posting about your book, you’ll be posting about your life. Don’t let these two worlds collide. Keep them separate.
Represent Yourself Well
Any time you appear in front of a camera, you’re going to need to look nice. I would recommend setting a budget for yourself to go grab some good, professional looking clothes. The whole idea of branding yourself is for people to know the person behind all the work they’re seeing. Don’t let them down. Perpetually posting pictures of yourself in the same outfit or in your pajamas is a big no no in the visual representation world. So retire those jeans with the hole in the crotch and hit up Old Navy’s clearance rack.
Be Someone Worth Knowing
Use your self branding as an opportunity for people to really get to know you. Post interesting things about your everyday life. Show them the person behind the book. Show them a person that people “would love to meet” or “hang out with for a day”.
Keep Your Accounts Separate
This is actually a really important step. If you post too much about yourself on your book account, and too much about your book on your branded account, people will get confused as to which account they are supposed to follow. The idea is to create two separate streams of content for people to follow. If you post the same stuff on both accounts, there’s no point in following both.
shipping and unboxing experience
Q. What is an unboxing experience?
A. An unboxing experience is the idea that your customers’ interaction with your product starts long before they get to use the product. Apple, in my opinion, has created the best unboxing experience so far. (Go look up Apple product unboxing videos if you want to see what I’m talking about.) And Amazon probably has the worst or the least exciting.
Apple has created a a social event out of unboxing one of their products. When someone gets a new Apple product, everyone gathers around to watch you open it for the first time. You get a sensory experience when you open a brand new Apple product and it’s a magical experience, let me tell you.
Amazon (and this isn’t their fault it’s just a good contrast to Apple) has a very different experience. You get a box from Amazon that’s usually too big for the product you ordered. You open the box to find 10 feet of inflated bubble-esque wrap consuming the product you just ordered. After you discard all of the miles of packing material and order slips, you find your product rattling around in the bottom. It’s very “thrown together.” Nothing really exciting or worth taking pictures of.
Q. What are some creative ways to create an unboxing experience?
A. You can have a lot of fun when creating your unboxing experience for your customers! What we did with So Sang The Dawn is we based the experience off of the book itself. The book is staged in a very specific way and we played off of that. If you were in Aurora’s world buying a book from a shop or market, they would most likely wrap it in some sort of protective material to keep it from getting covered in snow. This material wouldn’t probably look brand new or untouched ether. They probably would have tied it up in some twine to keep everything together. And finally to add more of a personal keepsake touch, we added a brown paper tag with the recipient’s name on it and a skeleton key for them to use however they like.
By doing all this extra work for the customer, you’re creating an experience that they can get excited about. They feel like they are part of her world now and they haven’t event touched the actual book yet. Usually what we see is the customers taking pictures of their unboxing experience and posting it on their social media accounts and tagging So Sang The Dawn in the post. Basically, they are doing a portion of our marketing for us. And all of this costs about $0.60 extra per book!
You can go on YouTube and look at how a lot of companies have created unique unboxing experiences and get some really cool ideas of things you can do yourself.
Q. What are the benefits of having book merchandise?
A. We don’t call it book merchandises or product merchandises in my world we call it “Swag”. Swag is little mementoes that you can hand out to people to help them remember you or your product. You see A LOT of this at conferences or grand openings.
The benefits of swag (if you do it right) is it pushes your marking past your customer and onto the people they know and come in contact with. Remember the skeleton keys I talked about? What do you think happens when one of AnnMarie’s customers get their keys out in front of their friends and they see an old skeleton key hanging on their key ring? They probably ask “What does that key go to?” To which her customer probably replies, “Oh nothing actually. I got this really cool book called So Sang The Dawn and when I opened the box, the book was all wrapped up in paper and twine and this key was hanging on the twine. I thought it was really cool so I put it on my keychain.”
That customer just sparked an interest in their friend to go look up So Sang The Dawn and that’s more free marketing.
When you’re thinking about swag keep these few things in mind:
Make it interesting
Choose an item that could potentially start a conversation.
Make it useful…ish
Choose items that are useful but not dorky. Stay away from bottle openers, flashlights, USB storage devices, stress balls etc. The skeleton key is unique because they customer can choose what they want to use it for. A necklace pendant, a keychain, a bookmark, whatever they use it for is up to them.
Don’t “over-brand” it
If you have the option to put your book logo or name on the swag item, don’t do it. I throw away 99.9% of swag I get because I don’t want to be forced into marketing for you. If you give them something that doesn’t scream “IM CURRENTLY READING AN INDIE BOOK RIGHT NOW” they’re more likely to take it out in public with them, and they’re more likely to talk to people about it.
Buy cheap and buy in bulk
If you can afford to give everyone who buys your book an iPad, do it. You’ll get more orders than you know what to do with. (One of which will be from me.) Most of you probably don’t have a bottomless budget to work with so you’ll need to think smart and budget friendly. We can get a case of the paper we use to wrap the books, a couple large rolls of twine, and 30 keys for about $20.00. That will cover about 30 books. Thats a great budget, a good unboxing experience, and a lot of really happy readers for not a ton of money.
Amazing stuff right? And so very applicable. I’m so excited to pass these things off to all you guys because I know they were a huge help to me as an indie writer. It’s so neat how simple some of this stuff is to achieve. Sometimes you can use the smallest of things to make the biggest impact.
Well, that wraps up my First Impressions Are Everything series! Take these things you’ve learned, put them to use and watch your writing career go places you never thought it could. As always, if you have questions, post them in the comments and I’ll hand them off to Adam to be answered.
Thank you Adam for taking the time to give us your advice and encouragement, and thank you guys, my readers, for all your support!