Using our Marketing Mantra, we can effectively set up a profitable writing career. But the fact that it is a ‘mantra’ doesn’t mean that it’s magical or doesn’t require work.
That doesn’t mean ‘hard, boring or uncomfortable work,’ though. It can be quite the opposite.
When you think of ‘marketing’ as a subject, you probably still imagine it as spending huge amounts of time and possibly money bombarding faceless masses with ads in the hope of selling a few books. Many of you will have had direct experience of the extremely low success rate from such a strategy, and will have concluded that ‘Marketing is a complete mystery’ or worse, that ‘Marketing is a giant fraud’. As we’ve covered so far in this series, though, marketing doesn’t have to be like that at all: it can be done in a time-effective way, and it can be done in such a way that it can actually be fun and a real extension of your writing.
Whereas many people might spend dozens of hours every week desperately pumping out ads and other promotion about their book, with very little return, I estimate that it’s possible to run an organic marketing campaign on less than ten hours a week, spread through the week, if it’s done properly — and those ten hours won’t feel like ‘marketing’ at all.
That should leave the average writer plenty of time to concentrate on doing the thing they love to do best — write more. In fact, writing more becomes a vital part of a successful organic marketing campaign, because such a campaign is aimed at creating ‘superfans’, and superfans will want to read more of your work.
So what exactly is the workload involved in an organic marketing campaign?
The main marketing effort covers the range outlined in our Marketing Chart between the Superfan and the Occasional Visitor — the focus of your attention is on this group, rather than being wasted on mass advertising which largely falls upon the deaf ears of the Non-Player or the Anti-Customer.
How do you capture the attention of this prime audience?
You use social media groups.
Here’s how you put such a group together:
1. Work out what broad genre your own work fits into.
If you write ‘literary fiction’ set up a ‘Literary Fiction’ group.
If you write ‘Christian testimony’ set up a ‘Christian Testimony’ group.
If you write ‘regional magical realism’ set up a ‘Regional Magical Realism’ group.
And so on.
If you’re not exactly sure what it is you write, go wide. For example, if you write a kind of spooky, edgy horror but with elements of fantasy or science fiction, go for a wider named group like ‘Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy’ group.
If you write in several distinct genres, set up a group for each. (It isn’t going to be as much work as you think running a few groups.)
2. Set up the group or groups and invite a few people into each one whom you know are already interested in that genre or field.
Tip: keep a grip on who joins. Use a ‘rule of thumb’ to see what other groups a candidate is in — if their interests seem aligned, approve their membership; if they look like they might want to join so that they can bombard your group with ads for their own work (because they are still stuck in the losing strategy outlined above) don’t let them in.
3. Fill the group with regular postings to do with the group’s topic.
For example, fill your ‘Literary Fiction’ group with items and articles about literary fiction — news of new releases by other authors, articles to do with writing literary fiction, items about famous authors and so forth.
Fill your ‘Christian Testimony’ group with items about Christian testimony.
Fill your ‘Regional Magical Realism’ group with articles, pictures, features about that region and magical realism.
You get the idea.
I estimate that it might take one hour a day — two max — to find and post items into a social media group that are interesting, relevant and appropriate to the moods, tastes and needs of its membership. Don’t bombard the group with a dozen posts in the morning and then forget about it — drop a few posts in throughout the day, and visit the group occasionally to pick up comments, answer questions, contribute to conversations etc. This takes a few minutes at a time, throughout the day, adding up to about an hour of your time each day.
Tip: don’t let others post anything without your approval. This makes sure that the group stays ‘on message’ and doesn’t drift of into fringe subjects or go completely off the rails.
4. Allow the group to grow steadily.
Don’t have huge expectations of immense or rapid growth — it takes time to ‘appear’ on the radar of interested folks. Of course, if your group is highly topical — let’s say you write ‘contemporary political thrillers’ and your group covers contemporary politics and fiction writing, then you might get a more lively interest from the public at large than, say, a group with a topic like ‘post-Jacobean detective dramas’. But who knows? Many groups find a niche swiftly and basically contribute to the expansion of a small topic.
5. Very occasionally — starting off with perhaps a once-a-week post — mention your own book or books in the context of a conversational thread, or as a minor link somewhere in the group.
This positions you and your work amongst the other topics being discussed. Occasionally discuss how your work tackles the themes, motifs, tropes and issues that your topic throws up from time to time.
What is all this doing?
Remember the Mantra:
Attract generally; attract specifically; engage fully; provide more.
Your social media group is ‘attracting generally’. You’re accumulating attention, gathering an audience of ‘warm prospects’.
Furthermore, it’s not very demanding — it’s easy to find things to post about things that you yourself are probably interested in — and it can be fun: you’re engaging with a live public. This is very, very different to firing ads off into a void and hearing nothing; this is vibrant, active, one-to-one communication with an audience of ‘warm prospects’.
Meanwhile? Meanwhile, you’re busy writing, because you know that after a while there will be a growing demand for your work and you’d better keep ahead of that curve if you want to achieve commercial viability. It will take more than one book to guarantee you an income.
Any questions? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org