Writing Wednesday: Promotion for Authors

Tonight I’m giving a talk at the Swansea and District Writers Circle, which I belong to. Here is the gist of it:

Have you ever been accosted by someone in the street trying to sell you something? Did you buy? Why not? The main reasons are: 1. Not interested in the product or service. 2. Not trusting this stranger.


What about junk mail through the letterbox? Have you ever bought anything? Same reasons.

This type of advertising is scattershot – throwing it at everyone and hoping to find the one person who will buy. It’s time-consuming, expensive and not very effective.

How would we feel if a visitor turned up at the Writers Circle one month and immediately started trying to sell their books? That’s a bit more targeted – authors are usually readers. But the same reasons apply as above. We don’t know who they are, how good a writer they are, we don’t know what the book is about or if it’s any good.

Several people in the Circle bought my local history books, but not all. I’m not upset about it – not everyone is interested in local history. But at least they got the chance to know me a bit and know a bit about the books. I’m sending chapters of my science fiction novel to the Feedback Group and one poor lady wades through it every month even though she doesn’t like science fiction. I’m very grateful, but I wouldn’t expect her to buy the book when it’s published.

In the past, and today, publishers used advertising to try to find readers, but this was scattershot, like junk mail, totally untargeted. They would also contact any groups that might have an interest related to the book, or advertise in certain magazines, to try to target the marketing. But it was still very ineffective.

The internet today provides the opportunity to get the word out about your book to a lot more people, in a scattershot way, but more importantly, to target those people who are likely to actually be interested in the book. The object of online promotion is to introduce you and your book to people and get them interested in buying.

This means that the sooner you start, the better, even if you don’t have a single book yet. In the same way that it takes time to get to know people in the real world before you try to sell to them, you need to do the same online.

My previous talk on Self-Publishing and Self-Promotion was about all the sites and options available. My notes are available as a free PDF when you sign up to my mailing list. You need to decide where to start and take it slowly. Don’t take on too much and try to rush. All the sites have tutorials and help screens to show you how to work them, but you need to decide what you are actually going to do with them.

When I first started on social media I was excited and eager to get on. But I ran into a brick wall because I didn’t know what to say. Good advice is to watch and learn before you start, but also think ahead about what you want to say and how you want to portray yourself and your work.

Going back to the pushy visitor, the right way to do it is to come to the meetings, introduce yourself, get to know people a bit, and contribute to the meetings. Then you can talk about your book. It’s the same online. First you have to be there, have a presence. Then you have to interact and contribute. This will help you find your target audience. Then sell your book.

You may decide to go on Twitter, or start a blog, but as well as the technical know-how you have to know what you want to do with it. So I want to consider what you’re going to say.

1. How are you going to introduce yourself?
2. Who are your target audience?
3. What do you have to contribute?
4. What is your book about?

1. Who are you?

Everywhere you sign up for social media you are asked to fill in a profile. How are you going to describe yourself? Even if you’re not going to self-publish, you need a bio in your pitch to agents and publishers, and inside your book. If you write bios of various lengths you will be ready for every eventuality – just copy and paste.

Now, think of the book you’re currently working on, or thinking about. If you have not even an idea, pick a book you have read and know well. With the book in mind we’re going to look at the other questions. Your bios will just need tweaking over time, but the rest of the questions you need to answer for every book you publish.

2. Who is your target audience?

Think about your readers. Who are they – be specific. Hopefully a wider audience will also like your book, but who is the ideal reader? What do they like and do? Where will you find them – offline and online? That’s where you need to spend some time.

3. What do you have to contribute?

What could you write about that relates to your book? If you’re going to contribute to social media, or write a blog, you have to have something to say. Think of topics related to your book and that your target audience will be interested in. For fiction it could be a topic the story deals with, the locations, the science, the people.

4. What is your book about?

Find the dramatic or emotional hook. Tell the story just enough to attract interest. Why should I buy your book? Think of selling points, for example what would you put on a flyer? You need a longer version – blurb for the back for print or the Amazon description, and a shorter version – for example for your elevator pitch. Do you need to change your blurb to catch their attention?

Do this work now and save yourself a panic later.


About Ann Marie Thomas

Married since 1974, Christian since 1986, 4 children, 4 grand children, disabled with fibromyalgia but was working almost full time until a stroke in May 2010 changed my life completely. Writing poetry and making up stories since I was a child, I only started to write seriously when my children were grown. My main ambition is to write science fiction, but along the way I got distracted by local history and poetry about my stroke. Taking early retirement gave me the chance to concentrate on my writing. My book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth, was published in print and ebook at Easter 2012. The success of Alina led to the publication of Broken Reed: The Lords of Gower and King John in September 2013, and The Magna Carta Story at Easter 2015. I am still writing science fiction - a series of novels called Flight of the Kestrel. For all my author news, see me author blog at www.annmariethomas.me.uk
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3 Responses to Writing Wednesday: Promotion for Authors

  1. My talk was very well received, even though most speakers just talk and I made them work!


  2. Pingback: Writing Wednesday: 2015 Writing Roundup | Ann Marie Thinking Out Loud

  3. Pingback: Writing Wednesday: After Writing | Ann Marie Thinking Out Loud

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