After attending the London Book Fair with Inscribe in April, seeing all the different publishers, writers and writing organisations, I was inspired to write about the one thing every writer wanted to know – how to promote yourself as a writer. Though the sessions I attended were useful, they all seemed to be lacking that one thing ‘how do they do it?’ Speaking to best selling ebook authors, children’s series fiction writers and even women who translate fiction, I put together a list of things every writer should think about when trying to promote themselves.
No-one, especially most writers have any money to invest in themselves, let alone hire someone to promote their work! Even if they do, I think the best form of promotion is self-promotion. And all of us hate it! Ask a poet to write a poem and they’ll do in an hour, ask them to write a 50 word bio and watch them struggle.
But in today’s age, where the internet and social media has brought forward new mediums for us to market our services, it should be easy. Some of us may fear the jargon used and others don’t think its effective. But see how successful 50 Shades of Grey is (I said successful not well-written), James started with Fanfiction, then made an eBook and before she knew it, almost every woman over the age of 25 was clutching a copy of the book on the Tube.
So let’s get on with it.
- Get a website. I cannot stress how important this is. You can promote your services (workshop facilitation, readings, mentoring etc) or sell your book/upcoming books, you can write a blog – an easy way to get people to know who you are and hear your name. You can limit what people know about you. Sometimes is you have a common name your fans may not be able to find you at first. Having a website directs them to the right you. You can put all sorts of mixed media on it, from videos, to animations, to extracts from upcoming publications. If you do not have money for a website, get a free blog e.g. Tumblr, blogspot.
- Business cards – a card with just your name, email and website will do, that way you can get people to go to your website – you can change what it is that you want to put on your business cards eg I have one that just says ‘Writer’ and another that says ‘Workshop Facilitator’. Or you can keep them simple and plain and that way you can be whatever it is you want to be – so long so long as your website corroborates with what you have said.
- Social media — please ensure you have a facebook/twitter/linkedin/maybe a tumblr. I know it can get exhausting but different kinds of people are on different sites and it’s a good way to get out there. Also when people type your name into google, they will come up with many different options for you—hopefully your website, facebook site and twitter and maybe sites you have been interviewed on.
Rules about social media for promoting your book/services :
o Get hootsuite or tweetdeck. It’s a way for you to schedule tweets to keep your followers entertained even when you are having a bad/lazy few days (or in my case weeks).
o If you use hootsuite it’s a way of stopping yourself from spamming people and then having nothing to say for weeks. You can see how much you post and make regular tweets over a certain time period. Research online what the best times/days for tweeting is – usually 11am when people wake up, and then lunch time 12.30-1.30 lunch and then when people are on transport on the way home around 5pm ish.
o I know it may feel wrong to ask people to buy your book and if that’s the case don’t. Start a debate/ask questions related to your book/s /services and indirectly plug your stuff, just add a line at the end with your website on, or quote something from your book as a taster. When adding a link to fb comments/posts make sure you have a picture attached, chose a nice colourful picture – one they will want to click on.
o Engage in conversation with followers that reblog/comment on something. If they have shared an event/book thank them, maybe even start a debate.
o Try and be current and relevant. Don’t jump on bandwagons though – tweeting about deaths and then coming out with how much you love them can come off as insincere.
o Use current hastags – if you don’t know what these are research them!
o Set up an rss feed on your website. It will show your recent tweets on your site and gives your site a more personal touch.
o Follow people, most people follow back, retweet people and then start conversations – Take out 30 min each day to converse with strangers/followers. Don’t follow everyone back just because they follow you, follow ones that interest you – People will look at who you follow as an indication of what sort of person you are.
o Post pictures – ok don’t take this too far, we don’t want pictures of your food unless you are telling us you got a deal and then telling us how you got it. Nice pictures of you in workshops/speaking on conferences/at radio stations etc.
- Ebooks – ebooks are a good way to get people to read what you’re doing. You can self-publish these, – if you need a hand creating them many people will charge a small fee (including me) – give it away for free for a few days/weeks to build audience that way for your future work people will already have heard of you.
- Anyone you ever talk to should know who you are. Best way to do this is to engage about anything, ask them what they do, get a business card even if you don’t want it (you might need it one day), then give them yours. If you find it difficult to engage with people ask them for something, directions/for a pen – people feel more connected to you when they have invested in you. They trust you more. Complement people – if you get a chance do a quick Google search on your phone find out about them, then tell them you have heard about them – makes them feel important and good and then they’ll want to know about you.
- Make small talk with everyone and anyone – a receptionist at one place could have a second job somewhere else, or may market your work the most through word-of-mouth
- Be useful, try and mentor people or other writers
- Add a signature on your email – at the bottom of your email put a link to your website, your book/s on amazon/book sites. Put a little quote of your book on the bottom, nothing too big of it will get annoying. But a small something as a taster. – make sure you have a firstname.lastname@example.org email or email@example.com email. It looks really professional – again this can be done easily when you have a website, most sites offer you a plan with an email option too.
Make sure YOU know what you do. Have ready answers to
o What do you do?
o What do you write?
o What genre do you write?
- Let people know what you’re up to – send websites/news websites an ebook version of your book/details about events and play your angle. – black/Asian/lgbt/woman/young – people want to know about how you got there so be prepared if they call you in for an interview on telling them how you did it.
- Apply for funding. You can apply for funding from the Arts Council for R+D projects. It will help you get money to write and to promote yourself properly. Ask writer development organisations to help you with writing this – there are specific things you need to put in and key words that they look out for.
- Update your website – like every 5 months. At least update it on what you’ve been doing, maybe add new pics/change colours etc
- Go to conferences – this can be costly but it’s a good way to network, to give people your cards/websites details and also to find new contacts. – if you’re speaking at conferences then even better
- Set a price list for readings/performances/workshops, so when people ask you get what you’re worth. As much we love our friends don’t do work for free, give them discounts, give charities discounts but don’t do work for free unless you really really love them (or unless they’re me J )
- Radio – try and get on radio a much as you can. If you have an in, i.e. know someone, tell them you have an upcoming book/event and that you would like to promote it on air – again play your angle, BBC Desi-Nation is good for Asian writers, Gaydio is good for lgbt writers- do your research. Listen to the show so you get a feel for it. If you need help with this ask friends if they have any contacts in local or national radio