In yesterday’s article I gave you a tantalizing introduction to what I consider the new paradigm for DIY book marketing–a kind of cart-before-the-horse strategy where you market yourself first, and then publish later.
Here’s what I think it could look like for any writer approaching the publishing process for the first time. (Warning, this a 1-2 year strategy…)
Step 1: Decide what your project is going to be
What are you planning to write? What is your area of expertise? If you already write, who is your audience, and where are they interacting online? What social media platforms do they use? What are they passionate about? What are you passionate about? Will this project support your professional growth or underwrite your public speaking? These are all critical considerations. Do some real research.
Step 2: Define a personal brand that’s consistent with that project
For this strategy to work, you need an identity that is more than just “I’m a writer.” It could be “I write gardening books, I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m inspired by nature.” Or “I’m a YA author living in Nashville, and when I’m not scribbling in coffee shops, I’m shooting pool and eating cupcakes.” Or “I’m the top flyfisherman in Montana, and I’m on a mission to teach people to fish without killing themselves. I also love beer.” Whatever it is, you should inject some real authenticity in it, because you’re going to have to walk the walk everyday for the foreseeable future. It should give you something to talk about besides your writing. This is the most interesting version of you in a sentence or less.
Step 3: Develop a strategy for building an audience that will eventually love the project
One of the best examples of this in action is John Green’s Nerdfighters project which started as a series of video posts between John & his brother Hank, and which has grown into a passionate online community that is about “bringing nerdfighters together to increase awesome and decreasing world suck.” They talk about everything but the writing. It’s hi-larious, very authentic, and along with his various social media channels it has propelled John’s career into the YA stratosphere. (Of course, it helps that he writes fantastic, award-winning books.) It’s been so effective, he managed to push one of his unfinished books onto Amazon’s bestseller list just by suggesting his fans pre-order. So for John, it started with videos. For you it might be completely different, but it should definitely be a strategic choice.
Step 4: Open your social channels
There are lots of channels to choose besides Facebook and Twitter. Think about YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, WattPad, LeanPub, Reddit, #TED, Vimeo, Tumblr, Instructables, Byliner, and online communities around niche blogs and special interest groups. It might be a combination of a couple of these. The best solution for you will be at the intersection of your own technical comfort zone and your target audience’s entertainment zone. Don’t freak out. Just pick one, and make sure that wherever you decide to open up shop, you’re not just talking to other writers. If you’re really a social media genius, you can set up channels for your characters as well, like Amanda Havard, and start building up a storyworld in real time. And finally, make sure your pictures, descriptions, artwork and other elements are consistent across all channels.
That’s a lot to digest and we’re only halfway through, so tune in tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion of our Topsy Turvy adventure. Interested in what the road ahead looks like for authors? Come join us at TOC’s first-ever Author (R)evolution Day where we’ll discuss book marketing, the opportunities and challenges facing authors, and a whole lot more.
Postscript 1-9-13: After this piece was released, I got a great note from my friend Mark Ury at Storybird–a wonderful visual storytelling platform–about a piece he wrote way back in 2009 on new patterns of content creation called “From Product to Process”. In it he gives many wonderful examples of the “marketing inversion” in action. He argues that now that the means of production are so cheap, not only is possible for everyone to be a producer, but it has fundamentally changed our relationship with our audience.
Media used to be made at what could be described as the “front end” of the process. I produce a song or book and release it to the market where it is consumed and talked about.
A product leads to a conversation…
But now that my cost of experimentation is zilch—and networks enable me to be in constant communication with people who share my interests—the diagram can just as easily be flipped and start at the “back end.” I can talk about and share my ideas with you, and once we have a collective vision of the “thing,” I can produce it (to then have you consume it).
A conversation leads to a product…
Furthermore, if the thing I produce (or we produce) is dispensable (like songs or stories), you might consume more of it and the process can stop being linear altogether…
I highly recommend the whole post, and I highly recommend Storybird. It’s one of a new breed of platforms that empower the content creator in all of us, and in this case, you can get a very beautiful illustrated story out of it. Thanks for sharing, Mark!