This is a guest post by Yen Cabag, blog writer of TCK Publishing. In this post, she shares her recommendations on how authors can balance their book marketing and promotional needs with the current heightened need for public safety and social distancing.
Building your author platform is a must-do for anyone wanting to become a successful author.
After all, if you believe in the importance of the message or the experience you offer with your book, you shouldn’t be hesitant about getting it in front of other people.
Authors aren’t just writers – you also need to be intentional at marketing and selling your book, too.
There are many ways to market your book, including exciting things like book tours and book signings, as well as more mundane tasks like keeping up a presence on social media. And, of course, many experts recommend you start building your author platform even before you get your book out.
But, with the coronavirus pandemic upon us, what’s an author to do?
First things first: you definitely don’t want to capitalize on people’s fear by feeding on their uncertainty.
Unfortunately, some writers have done so in order to grab attention and short-term sales. But this strategy never works in the long-term, and can often backfire on the author rather spectacularly.
While you don’t want to take advantage of people in the middle of a crisis, you also can’t just sit back and wait until the pandemic blows over, right?
That’s no way to sustain your author business, and it’s no way to help those who need what you can offer.
Since your platform and author brand is about building relationships with potential and future readers, you can continue to market your book or expand your presence, albeit in ways that may look different pre-coronavirus.
Let’s take a look at marketing tactics you should avoid during this crisis, marketing activities you can continue to do, and marketing activities savvy authors are adding to their arsenal to face this major challenge.
What NOT to Do During Quarantine
First, let’s talk about marketing strategies and tactics that will definitely NOT be possible during this time of community quarantine, or things you should NOT do:
Make light of the quarantine in your promotional e-mails or blog posts
Posts on social media right now range from fearful and panic-ridden to funny memes and silly videos. But you need to be sensitive to your audience.
This is not the right time to make quips about something that most people are taking very seriously, so be careful about the things you post that may be taken out of context or seen as callous.
That said, if humor is part of your author brand, your audience may appreciate your take on the situation. Even the most serious of circumstances can use a little levity to relieve stress and tension. If this is your strength, then use it to reinforce your bond with your readers.
In-person book tours and appearances
Clearly, all travel is out of the question, so remove all scheduled book tours and appearances for the next month or so. In their place, consider adding virtual presentations, group sessions, or moderating panels.
And just as you might try different event venues besides bookstores on your offline tour, go ‘outside the box’ for online venues, as well.
Again, anything that involves you appearing in person and gathering a crowd will have to be pushed off the list.
Speaking engagements, conferences, and workshops
Holding seminars or workshops relating to your book is one of the greatest ways of building and engaging with your audience, but because of the quarantine, this is on hold as well.
In-store or marketing or promotions
If you were big on having in-store marketing or promotions, you’ll definitely have to make some adjustments, as bookstores are currently deemed to be selling non-essential items and have to remain closed.
Sales promotions involving physical (print) books or other physical products
With many companies working with a skeletal workforce, the production and delivery of physical products may be delayed or unreliable at this time.
If you do decide to offer discounts or commit to promotions for your physical offerings, make it clear to your readers or buyers that delays or unexpected complications may arise. (You don’t want your brand to suffer due to circumstances outside your control.)
But, you can benefit from doing promotions for e-book sales, which we will discuss in the next section.
Marketing Activities You CAN Do During Quarantine
Now that you’re clear on what you CAN’T do, let’s focus on the things that authors CAN continue to do:
Build your social media platform
Luckily, you can still make your presence known in social media, and should, in fact, continue to do so.
The key, however, is to remain sensitive to the – possibly changing – needs of your readers, and to understand that it might be more important to give than receive at this time.
Re-evaluate your social media plans and content to determine if it’s still relevant and take the time to restate your commitment to your readership.
Build your e-mail list
Collecting leads and building your email list is important with or without COVID-19.
This is a good time to look into how effective your e-mail marketing strategy is:
- Do you have an opt-in incentive that entices people to join your list?
- Have you set up an account with a reliable email marketing service like Aweber* or Convertkit?
- Have you added email list sign up forms to your website/blog?
- Have you added signup links to your social media profiles and book landing pages?
- Have you created a dedicated landing page on your website with an opt-in form and compelling reasons to join your community?
- Have you created an autoresponder series with relevant and helpful content that includes calls-to-action?
- Are you crafting individual broadcast emails with promotional/launch content, as well as community building content (identifying mutual interests, self-disclosure, build trust and influence, answering questions, etc.)
Work with online book promotion sites
It looks like online is the way to go these days! But, connecting with book promotion sites is something you should do with or without the pandemic.
Getting in touch with websites whose primary purpose is to promote books, is a great way to get your book out in front of people.
Book promotion sites come in two forms: the paid sites and the free ones. If you don’t have the budget right now, start with the free book promotion sites.
Many of them give out book recommendations for people (to read while quarantined…) so if you can get your book out there (with an ebook option), it’ll be a win-win!
Build or update your blog or website
A blog or website is one of the most powerful tools for an author to build their platform and brand.
Take the time spent at home now to make sure your blog is up-to-date, has the ‘must-have’ elements, or tweak your website to make it more user-friendly.
If you haven’t set up your author website yet, schedule a time to get started using these recommended tools:
- Namecheap* (for your domain name)
- Bluehost* (for site hosting)
- Elegant Themes*/WordPress.org (your website theme/software)
- Aweber* (for your email service provider)
Determine if you will have a blog, or if you will be using another way to drive traffic to your website (a podcast, guest posting, hosting contests and giveaways, utilizing YouTube, paid ads, etc.)
Then begin developing your content strategy and decide what tools and strategies you’ll implement to start building your email list and reader community.
Offer discounts or price promotions on e-books
Thankfully, ebooks can continue to be sold easily, as everything is done online.
Think about possibly offering a discount or running price promotions on your ebooks. Given the economic instability and the need for people to stretch every dollar, temporarily dropping the price of your ebook or offering discounts can help readers save money, AND encourage them to buy.
And with more people spending time indoors, an ebook may be just as attractive as (or an alternative to) binge-watching their favorite series on Netflix.
Continue creating exceptional content
If you have the time, use it wisely to create great content for your current and future readers.
- Write the next book in your series.
- Reflect on your objectives and reassess your content strategy. Are you still on track, or has your content become scattered or unconnected to your goals?
- What questions have readers been asking that you now have time to answer?
- Video, images and graphics, audio podcasts, or even presentations, can be time-consuming but are a great way to share certain ideas or info with your audience. Can you add some of these new mediums into your content strategy?
Start or continue to grow your network
Networking is a valuable way to expand your knowledge, learn from the success of others in your genre or topic area, grow your community of readers and influencers, and get the word out about your author brand and business.
But how you network is as important as why you network. Add value before you ask for anything in return, make it personal (and be personable), and when you do go for the ask… be very clear on what you want from them and why.
Take the time now to reach out to influencers, book reviewers and other authors. It’s always better to build these connections before you need them.
Marketing Activities to ADD During Quarantine
Here are some excellent marketing tactics you can ADD in this unique season of COVID-19 quarantine:
Webinars and Live Streams
This is one tactic that may have been either non-existent or largely underused in your pre-virus marketing strategy, but with the community quarantine, everyone is flocking to Zoom or other video-calling platforms.
You can still continue with your schedule of seminars or workshops by converting them into Webinars or Live Streams.
Note, though, that because of the crisis, many people will not have much extra to spend on workshop or training fees, so many authors have resorted to offering their training webinars for free (with the option to purchase more advanced training, if a person wishes to do so).
You can also add author Q & A’s, group chats, interviews, or a book club to your live stream schedule (or even join some online summits), which works to build engagement with your new and current readers, as well as build connections within the industry.
Give away free courses or e-books
An author’s marketing strategy has always included giving away free material. If you haven’t done so, or if you haven’t done so in a while, now is the time to give this a serious look—and as quickly as possible—to get your name out in front of people.
Consider giving away a free book as your opt-in incentive to entice people to join your email list.
If you have a series, you may want to set the first book in that series as permafree to encourage the purchase of the next book in the series.
Or you can set up a giveaway for your existing course or e-book, join forces with other authors in the same genre, or work with relevant businesses or organizations to put together a valuable package to give away.
Treat this as an investment in your business. It may not convert to sales right away, but remember, your goal is to build a career and long-term relationships with your audience.
Arrange an online blog or guest posting tour
A targeted blog tour is a great way to get your author brand out there, even before the quarantine, but now is a perfect time to focus on this.
- Research blogs that have audiences interested in the topic or genre of your book.
- Share their relevant content on social media and/or comment on their blog.
- Determine the perfect guest post topic and send your pitch via email.
- Write your guest post and follow up with comments and sharing once it goes live.
- Repeat for all blogs on your tour.
Virtual book tours and signings
Since up-close-and-personal book tours are out of the question, consider doing virtual book tours: this can include podcast interviews, an excerpt from your book getting featured in a blog (or a tour, as above), a Facebook party or event, or getting other bloggers to review your book.
Virtual book signings are obviously a bit trickier to accomplish. Signings are usually about the experience of meeting the author or the memory of the encounter, so you’ll have to get creative to get a similar feeling virtually.
- If possible, get print versions of your book, sign, and give those away via a contest or raffle.
- Create printed quote cards, branded postcards, or custom bookplates and sign before mailing out to people who’ve purchased your book and have requested a signed copy.
- Ask people to share on social, and make a point to respond/comment on all user-generated content (any pictures, videos, testimonials, tweets, blog posts, etc. created by fans).
Marketing Your Book in All Seasons
In the end, every season is a good time to market your book. You just have to carefully determine which methods work best in which season.
Always remember, the goal of building your author platform is to gain visibility and build relationships with your audience. Prioritize being as helpful as you possibly can, giving as much value as you can to your readers and potential customers.
Now I’d like to turn it over to you.
What marketing strategies or tactics do you think are appropriate for use during this pandemic?
What have you tried – or what have you seen other authors or businesses do – to meaningfully connect with their audiences?
Share your comments and thoughts below.
Yen Cabag is the Blog Writer of TCK Publishing. She is also a homeschooling mom, family coach, and speaker for the Charlotte Mason method, an educational philosophy that places great emphasis on classic literature and the masterpieces in art and music. She has also written several books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her passion is to see the next generation of children become lovers of reading and learning in the midst of short attention spans.