Marketing is cited as the #1 pain in the rump for most writers, which is funny because…
1) marketing and then selling our books is the only way we can continue to write and do what we love,
2) marketing is a great way to creatively express your ideas, and
3) you’re a writer so you are already skilled in the best marketing tool there is—more writing.
But, I totally get it because I often feel the same way. We are selling books, literature, art! We aren’t marketing gadgets or gizmos.
Our stories came from our hearts and it feels wrong to “push” them onto people. We want people to love them just like we do.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
If people don’t see your books, they won’t know they are available for purchase.
As writers, writing should be easy, non?
Facebook ads and Amazon ads, etc., are all great but you gain external credibility when another website publishes your personal essays or articles that are tangentially related to your book(s).
Is it slower and more work to market in this way?
Perhaps, but it should be part of your marketing toolkit and you’d be remiss in not trying it.
Here’s an example of how to market your book in a personal essay
This personal essay in Conde Naste Traveler “How My Mother’s Travels Shaped My World View” focused on a the writer’s relationship with her mother.
At the end of the personal essay, the author mentions,
“She wanted to travel the globe, and she did. Because of my mom, I decided to work in food media after college, even though I had zero connections in that world and all my peers were going into finance. I wrote a cookbook while working as a full-time journalist.”
The author bio at the bottom linked to the woman’s cookbook and voilá! This author is effectively marketing her book to a very warm audience.
In fact, she is providing entertainment value and making herself relatable to the audience before inviting them to buy her book.
That’s how you market your book without being annoying.
Do you think readers are more or less likely to share an article about a moving emotional essay about interpersonal relationships than they are an Instagram graphic that says, “Buy my cookbook!”?
Readers are more likely to share writing that speaks to them on an emotional level than they will a clear advertisement.
You have to wine and dine your readers before you ask them to buy. It’s how it works.
Write essays and publish them everywhere
Once you write a killer personal essay with your audience in mind, start pitching it to external outlets.
The bigger the outlet, the tougher it’ll be, but the sweeter the credibility and ultimate reward (more readers).
Research the tone of the articles featured by the publication and match your personal essay to their audience.
This approach gets your book in front of a lot of people all at once without annoying anyone.
You can (and should) feel proud pushing the article on all of your platforms because it’s not screaming, “BUY MY BOOK!”
The downside is that it’s not easy to (successfully) pitch third-party websites your essays and it requires a lot of lead time.
There is a ton of rejection involved in freelance writing and if you’re not experienced, you’re going to become quickly frustrated.
Alternatives to publishing on third-party websites
Don’t have time to pitch and get rejected over and over again?
Here are some alternatives to third-party exposure:
—Publish your essays on Medium
—Publish your writing on LinkedIn
—Publish your writing on your own website (you should have an author platform, hello!)
—Publish your personal essays directly on Facebook itself. Facebook loves long reads because it keeps readers scrolling and scrolling. End with a strong call to action and link to buy.
—Coordinate with other bloggers who might have smaller-than-Conde-Naste-size audiences and see if they take guest posts
Follow the example above—offer authentic, genuine writing that is attractive to your intended audience and weave in the fact that you’ve written a book toward the end of your essay with a link in your bio.
Don’t forget to optimize your homepage
If the website doesn’t allow links to books/products, then definitely ask for a link to your homepage and make sure your homepage is optimized to send people to your book.
For my current children’s book Kickstarter campaign, I optimized my homepage to be a landing page.
My homepage sent people directly to my Kickstarter campaign that way if any third-party website articles take off and link to my homepage, readers will be clearly directed to my book’s campaign.
So, in conclusion, forget the ‘Buy my book!” messaging and write another story. Write a behind-the-scenes story. Write something emotional or transformative.
Write your best work and when readers love your essay, they’ll rush out to buy your book when given the opportunity.