We are writers, not marketing gurus. We know how to shape words, not sell products. But, chances are, if your experience is anything like mine, you’ve had at least one person hear that you’re a writer and ask for your website. When this happens, I tend to panic and blurt out some semblance of “I’m working on putting one together still.”
As writers, it can be easy to think that our only task is putting words together to form sentences to form chapters to form a book. And while this is undoubtedly the main task, realistically, in this technologically-focused twenty-first century, it cannot be our only one. I am finding, in my own writing career, that it is truly vital to my work that I have not only a functioning website with basic information, but a coherent social media brand that tells my readers the story of who I am. Phew, you may think, there’s a familiar word. Story. It’s trendy, but it’s important for a reason (and since we are writers, I like to think we have a built-in leg up on marketing our brand and telling our story).
Telling the story of what you do and why you do it is easier than ever before, and it’s also more necessary than ever before. Wherever you are on the spectrum of resistant to enthusiastic when it comes to the idea of marketing, here are three practical ways you can work toward building your unique brand.
Know your voice. Think of it like a hook. You have a unique voice that matters (read that again - it’s true!) and some concise, well-chosen sentences, taglines, and images can convey that in such a way that sets you apart from other authors. You get to use your voice to create a physical space connecting your readers to the books you have produced in a meaningful way that convinces them to buy your products. Don’t rush this process either: it can take awhile to come up with a fully-fleshed idea. Make the time to do some research (we recommend checking out Donald Miller’s Story Brand workshops) and give it your best, knowing that you will make multiple updates as your experience and readership grow. Trust me, this work will show if you put effort into it.
Know your audience. I am in the process of editing a book that is an epistolary memoir about teenage cancer survival. Unique, anyone? As soon as I realized how niche the genre of this book was, I knew the author had to find a way to focus her audience on those to whom this story will be relevant. She may want to market her story to cancer survival groups, to hospital gift shops, etc. This will require a different marketing strategy than, say, a book about a sports legend or even a romance novel. The key is to anticipate where your readers are (on social media, in print, in person or a combination) and work up a plan to meet them there. Here at Relevant Pages Press, we offer consulting services to help you not only define your audience, but also create a plan to reach them
Know your limits. For instance, I possess precisely zero web design skills, but I need a website. I have two options: I can do a ton of research and figure out how to cobble myself together a website, or, I can find a professional to do it for me. (By the way, we highly recommend Wix.com for those who want to create their own professional-level websites!) The same is true for social media engagement. I know my time is best used honing my writing, but I also know my readers want to hear from me regularly, so I can choose based on my needs and abilities how to balance my time between social media marketing and writing projects. When it comes to marketing, there are undoubtedly many ways we can use the skills we have as writers to benefit ourselves, but it also behoves us to pass off certain tasks to the professionals once we reach the capacity of our abilities.