1-2-3 marketing steps for writers: how to stop spamming your book and build a fellowship with your readers
Almost two years ago, I launched a fiction writing community, because I was alone and wanted friends. And a handful of amazing and creative people joined, because they were also alone and wanted friends.
And together, we’ve written all kinds of exciting adventures.
But, as with everything, friends solve problems.
And all of us struggled with the big questions of marketing.
How do we share about our book without feeling weird?
How do we not be spammy?
I want to be real, not fake.
Marketing is ick, right? And anything ick just doesn’t happen.
The conversations have gone round and round. Me? I love marketing. But I also get exhausted by it, because when I love something, I love to spend a whole lot of time with it.
So, I’m finally eating my own dogfood, and started by own author brand, for several reasons:
I want to write and market my own novels
I want to understand the issues from the inside out for my members
I want to figure out what it takes to market myself as an author
Authors are amazing at creating content.
With no one to bully or watch them, they will set timers, show up, and pound away at keyboards till late at night, soul-searching and rewriting like nobody’s business.
They can do that because they have a plan.
A vague sense of where they want to be (the goal)
A pattern of action that helps them get there (the plot)
A simple step to begin to do today (the scene)
In my community, a lot of us are HSPs. Highly Sensitive People.
Which means a lot of us are introverts, and we’re highly attuned to our inner lives, what we think, what we feel, and what feels authentic.
Sometimes we can get almost neurotic about it all, because it is so clear and real to us.
We forget that this is actually a superpower. Most people out there have no idea what’s going on inside them. Most people are emotionally constipated. Most people have no time or interest to cultivate awareness of their sense of self.
Sure, they have their own superpowers. HSPs are not signing up to join the Green Berets or combat flight school.
So after a couple of conversations with some of my community mentors, I gave myself a challenge. Identify 3 themes of content that an author could create that would feel real, without being spammy.
Because I have to say…
My #1 bugbear on following authors is their myopic focus on their book.
I get it.
You want to sell books. That’s kinda the point, right?
But when your feed is your book dropped into Canva templates, or reviews, or your book in different places… a hundred times…
Sorry friend. That’s not a fun page to follow.
Or when you discover your favorite author’s profile, and the content is all political rants, or endless photos of kids building sandcastles. That’s nice and all, if you like that sort of thing.
If that fits the tone of your novels, that’s great.
But a lot of us might not be ready to share our personal lives with our fans.
So let’s identify three suggestions for content for you to post, and you pick how much and how deep.
Feature your book
Research and resources
Personal news and updates
Let’s break it down briefly.
1. Feature your book
Why does a reader choose to follow their favorite author?
We love their vibe. We want to be reminded of the things we loved from your novel. We want to keep a friendship going with you, because you struck chords of connection in their soul.
And maybe because you’re downright awesome to follow.
So yes, definitely promote your book. But that’s part 1 of 3 things you share. Maybe every 3rd post is your promotional post.
Or if you want to get really serious, there are amazing Instagram profiles I’ll follow where every post is a carousel of 2-3 images. They lead with a new piece of art or something awesome that I’ll love, given away for my enjoyment for free. Then the next two slides promote the latest book or a tour schedule.
They’re on Instagram to sell books, make friends, and grow their reach.
But they’re doing it by constantly giving away what people want to get from them with one hand, and following each with an ask in the other.
That’s not everything you can talk about though. Because you’re also an author… which means you’re probably doing some sort of research for your novel.
So stagger your promotional posts with other kinds of content. Share the concept art that you made or created for the book. Feature different characters and settings with short blurbs. Turn your book inside out into its composite elements, like deconstructing a cake. Show off the menu.
Gotta buy the book to eat the cake though.
2. Resources and research
Your novel has specific themes in it, such as a specific kind of person going through something really relatable. It might be all about dragons and warrior princesses, but you know that the actual theme behind it all is about facing your fears. Or overcoming narcissism. Or owning your own identity.
You already have a sense of your audience from your novel. You don’t have to go hunting for a target audience. You are the target audience. You know what you’d like to see, and what matters to you. That’s why you wrote the novel.
So that’s the second kind of content you can share. Research and resources.
Help people find the kinds of resources that are helpful to them. Tag other accounts, or link to them.
Did you watch a great video on YouTube? Drop it on your Substack as a new post. See a great tweet? Retweet it with a little commentary.
Your novel is the fictional arena where you and your readers enjoy drama together.
But when the last page closes, you’ve left them with an awareness of how your mind works, what you love, and what you see in the world.
People want more of it, when they don’t have it.
So share your research. Ask your audience questions. Maybe they won’t respond for a while, because they’re just watching you. It’s ok. You’re showing that you’re open and engaging for conversation.
And that’s part three.
3. Sharing personal updates
These are not about your puppy’s birthday, or family vacations, unless you want to. My first recommendation is to choose the personal updates that relate to you as an author, who writes books, and likes connecting with people.
Maybe you don’t like connecting with people. That’s ok too. But you’ll probably have a harder time marketing then. Might be easier to partner with a friend who can handle that for you.
But if you do, then consider the kinds of things you like to see as you follow authors.
They share their writing environment, their writing updates, their thoughts about the future. Notes about where they live, and big life events.
The goal is to be human, not to overwhelm. If you’re a family-stories kind of author, then you’ll look for family-related content and events, things that make you seem like your novels and your characters.
If you’re a fantasy author, you just might share about your interests in fantasy, novels you’re reading, authors you love to follow, your collections about [insert the thing], and so on.
Of course, if you’re a cosy fantasy author, then you’re all about family life and cafe’s and seasonal things with fantasy mixed into it all.
The point is to be intentional. Don’t share everything. And that’s probably really smart and safer anyway.
So coming full circle.
How am I putting this in practice myself?
Well, first I did two things; started a Substack where I blog about my writing projects, and my progress. And an Instagram where I share art and follow fellow authors, for friendship and networking.
I’m still early days into writing my novel, but am starting to build a plan.
And the first step is to identify the kind of author that I am, and the kinds of promises I want to make to my readers. Since I’m an adventurous fantasy author, trying to hide how deep-thinking I like to be, the content I share should follow that theme.
I’m building a brand as an author, and brands are like superhero masks. When Bruce Wayne puts on his mask, he becomes the person of Batman. And an identity is a consistent way that we think, act, and behave in certain conditions.
For me, it’s a perfect way for me to stay focused. To define what I will and won’t talk about. Focus creates a goal, which opens up the freedom to start moving.
So I’m sharing my resources and research, personal updates, and when I’m closer to launch, also posting about my book.
That way my readers get to know me as a person too, and join me on my adventures.
Because that’s why fans follow people.
To be a fellowship.
So now it’s your turn. What do you think of this list? What would you add, or do differently?