Use branding to sell books and sustain your passion
Many writers do not want to engage in social media because they fear their engagement online will detract from (either time spent on or quality of) their writing. It’s a valid concern. It’s also an unnecessary one – if modeling the right approach. You see, using social media is about writing. If you are a writer, in whatever form or shape it may take, your work is content. Your job is content production. Say you are writing a historical fiction book set during the American Revolution. Online, using social media, you need to produce content that is related to historical fiction and the American Revolution. These are the subjects that interest you, hence why you write about them. There you are, brain dumping onto any 8×11 page within your reach and talking to friends, family, pets, and anyone who will listen to you soliloquize about your WIP and its topic, and yet you refuse to go online and share a tidbit or two?
Writers need to remove their creative caps and put on their sales caps. That’s the trick to social media. It requires a change of approach… and the trouble with social media is that it is constantly changing! Writers need to view the process of writing and book production as two separate events. The former is a personal process while the latter is public. To write a book is to create and produce one. Books are objects, commodities; they become much more through the talent, skill and perseverance of the author to draw the reader in and create a meaningful and memorable experience.
If your goal is to write a book, at some point you need to approach it objectively. I’m not just talking about the frustrating, soul-sucking experience of sending out 150 query letters, waiting six months, and receiving only generic rejection letters in reply (which will be painfully examined for any indication of redemption and approval, a tall glass of Tequila in hand). I’m talking about approaching your book as a product and examining it like you would any product in a commercial store. Take your manuscript, examine it objectively and check out the competition. Which is the better choice? How much do the products cost? Is there any sentimental value for one product over another? How did you hear about it? Did you see an advertisement or get a word-of-mouth recommendation from someone you trust? If the latter, was the source reliable and/or a celebrity, an authority, a friend?
This may be a little harsh for writers still glowing and jubilant upon returning from their honeymoon finishing their first manuscript, but just because it came from you does not mean it’s valuable to the rest of the world. The rest of the world doesn’t even know you exist, much less that you have written a book.
So how are you going to change that?
The answer is in social media and it needs to be utilized as a resource for self-promotion. Let me clarify for those of you about freeze up: not the shameless, spam bot kind of promotion (“My ebook is $.99 on Kindle! Buy now and get a coupon for my backlist titles! Spread the word and make me a Kindle Millionaire!”). Rather, the tasteful marketing approach to self-promotion, the stuff of products like the iPod, Ray-Ban sunglasses, Chanel No. 5 perfume, Rolls Royce vehicles, Manolo Blahnik shoes, and Maytag laundry machines. What do all of these products have in common? A brand.
Writers, your name is your brand. Brands suggest authority, reliability, longevity. People recognize brands to distinguish between ranges of products. Not only are brands easier to remember and discuss, but people link emotions to them. If you are a writer, you already know how to capitalize on human emotion; you wrote a book that examines it from an individual or group perspective and you crafted your writing in such a way to produce certain reader responses. The next logical step is to extend this practice to your career. Writer. Aspiring Author. Published Author. You are behind the job so you need to become the face of your brand. No nicknames or cutesy monikers. Exceptions for ghost writers and nom de plumes only, though these fictitious names (or nonexistent ones) have to “brand” themselves using a different approach.
Stop worrying about privacy online because just being published means it is public and the whole point of publishing is to share this work with the public. Just be smart about your social media. As a platform for your profession, all your social networks and groups need to be treated as and appear professional. Don’t overshare – no one needs to know how much your advance is or isn’t paying you, where you live and shop for groceries, or how you spend your time away from “work”. Only share what you are comfortable with the masses knowing, from your great aunt in Ottawa to your ex-whatever from ninth grade. And don’t forget that you can separate social networks: personal and work, two usernames and two passwords. You can have a personal Facebook profile and a Facebook fan page, separate Twitter accounts, even separate blogs or websites. It may be more work and effort on your part but it needs to be considered part and parcel of the job and profession.
I’ve worked in sales for the past three years and I’ve had time to observe and participate from both perspectives: corporate and consumer. During college, I worked in retail at a well-known brand that began with denim but today serves a broad range of individuals in age and body-type. I still work there – it’s my secondary means of income. On any given day, I have wonderful interactions with customers or heinously terrible ones; how the interaction goes depends on the experience we share. This experience ultimately depends on three things: my mood, my employers and employees, and the product we are selling. If any one of these things is poor or unappealing, the company loses brand appreciation and has to resort to other tactics to sell its products (promotions and sales, e.g). However, if all three things work in harmony consistently then the company establishes quality… and the resulting revenue growth means bonus checks for all high-level executives.
Evolving from a writer to an author means becoming your own boss and approaching your passion as a paid position. Not only do you need a product but then it has to be one people will purchase, generating positive revenue for things like income, health care and benefits. As President, Staff Member, Assistant, and HR representative of the company of YOU and YOUR WRITING, you need to create a brand and a mission statement. You will need to run test groups. You will need to spend long hours in development. You will revisit your product, again and again, to check for malfunctions, errors and defects. And finally, you will use social media to sell your product, to leverage it and to spread recognition among consumers. Writers need to do all they can to ensure that those three aspects of shared consumer experience (mood, employees, product) are in alignment if books are to be sold.
If you have passion for writing, make it successful. Work just as hard sharing and selling it as you did writing it. Let your book take flight with a fan base centered on you, the author and face of the brand.