Evolving your marketing plan
Just over a year ago, I wrote a post for my own blog called “Using Twitter – are you a writer, a brand or a salesman?” and it received more responses than any other post I have ever written. I talked about how, as a writer, you have three choices: you either write books and don’t worry at all about marketing on the basis that if you publish enough books, they will take care of themselves; you are a brand, and you are trying to connect with people at a deeper level, so that readers remain faithful to you in the years to come; or you’re a salesman and all you care about right now is people buying your book!
There is absolutely no doubt that when I launched Only the Innocent, I was a salesman. I desperately needed to get people to notice my book, and I believed that, given most people’s Twitter streams zip by at a rate of knots, I had to tweet about my book at least every 15 minutes, or nobody would never get to see the tweet. I can almost hear people screaming in horror at the thought – but do you know what? It worked. I don’t regret it, and even though I know it turned some people off completely, I did sell a lot of books.
I am not quite naïve enough to believe that I sold them all because of Twitter. In reality, it probably had a relatively low impact once the book started to take off – but I did measure Twitter’s impact in the early days, and I do think that at a time when I was building the book’s visibility it was accounting for about ten sales per day. Not huge, but enough to get the book noticed and more visible on Amazon. Ultimately it was the positive reviews and the fact that people started to talk about it in forums that made it take off – two things that I had very little control over.
However… one year on, and it’s a different story. When I wrote Only the Innocent I had a target of selling about a thousand copies. That was what success looked like to me. I had a vague plan for another book, but I didn’t know when I was going to get the time to write it. I ended up being incredibly lucky, and my first novel has now sold over 150,000 copies. And nobody is more shocked than me. Because of this success, I have changed a few things in my life and I’ve found the time to write the next book.
So why is it a different marketing story this time around?
It’s because now I want to focus on the brand. I was lucky enough to get some terrific readers who have been very supportive of my writing. If these people follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, they’re not doing that to have my new book thrust down their throats every two minutes. I now plan to be a writer for the long haul, and I already have book three planned. So I would love to have these readers stick with me.
In many of my previous blog posts – both on my own site and as a guest blogger – I have talked about my marketing plan. For book one, it was seven pages long. My second book – The Back Road – was launched in the UK on the 18th March 2013, and in the US at the beginning of October 2013, and my marketing plan this time is twenty-eight pages long. And the big difference is that it’s all about reader engagement.
I haven’t got this right yet, so don’t check my Twitter stream and say “oh yeah” in a scathing tone, but the whole focus of my new plan is to create content online that my readers are interested in. That’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the various forums. I want my readers to continue to follow me, and continue to be interested in the future – so that they may (hopefully) decide to read book three, four, five.
The question that my marketing plan tries to identify is exactly how to go about this, and it’s not easy. Some authors seem to think that they must never mention their books – almost as if the title’s a dirty word (or words). They assume their readers are interested in their daily lives, and tweet about what they had for breakfast, or how much they spent at Tesco. That doesn’t interest me at all, so I’m going to assume that it doesn’t interest my readers either. Other writers are funny. I love the funny ones – but I know that I’m not very, so that’s never going to work. Then there’s the group that somehow believes that their tweets are invisible and they write snarky comments about people who have reviewed their books. I really don’t understand that.
To be clear, I am not going to stop talking about my books on social media, but I am going to look at innovative and fun ways of engaging my audience, in a bid to get to know more of them. When The Back Road was almost finished, I was able to approach readers who I had been chatting with on social media to ask if they would be early readers. The response was terrific, and they gave me honest comments about storylines and characters – all of which I was able to incorporate before it went to final edit. I’d love more of this engagement.
Getting a solid bank of people who are interested in my books to follow my tweets and engage on Facebook is now more important that striving to reach the number one spot – a nearly impossible feat given the plethora of 20p books. That level of pricing is beyond my control – it is a decision taken by Amazon to price match other retailers. But that’s okay. I have to focus on what really matters.
And if you’ve published a book, so do you. The decision in terms of marketing is exactly the same as it was a year ago, and each individual will have a different point of view. The question is – are you a writer, a brand or a salesman? If you go the salesman route, you won’t be alone. There was a post in The Guardian recently that demonstrates quite clearly that some big names have no compunction about self-promotion. But for now, I am going to try a somewhat gentler route.
I don’t deny that there will be some promotional tweets – but not one every fifteen minutes! I ‘m going to try to develop ideas for tweets and posts that readers will enjoy in the hope that they stay with me in the years to come. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I’ll get there, and I’m sure it’s going to be worth it.
That was great. Thank you, Rachel.
Rachel Abbott spent the majority of her working life running an interactive media company that designed and developed software and websites, mainly for education. Her company was sold in 2000, and although she continued working for another 5 years, she also fulfilled a lifelong ambition of buying and restoring a property in Italy, where she now lives with her husband and their two dogs. Her website is http://www.rachel-abbott.com and she blogs at http://rachelabbottwriter.wordpress.com.
Rachel’s new book, The Back Road, is available exclusively from Amazon UK until September, when it will be available in other formats.
The paperback will be published in the US in October.
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