Publishing is what you do with a manuscript so readers can READ it.
Marketing is what you do with a published manuscript so readers can FIND it.
Branding is what you do with your name so readers can find YOU.
We've already decided we're going to write 5 books in our series and one novella. We're going to publish 5 books at $setprice, and the novella is going to be our loss leader set at free. We have the first three books written, working on #4, and have the outline done for #5. Because we've gotten the writing thing down, we know it takes approximately 6 months to write** a book. We're going to use my 6 week timeline as the publishing model for the first 3 books, which gives us approximately 5 months to finish book 4 and begin book 5. We're well on our way to the big time. Yay.
Now what do we do? We sit down, take a deep breath, grab a pen and paper, and decide on our marketing campaign.
(**I say write a book, when what I really mean, is write the first draft, revise, rewrite, send out to critique partners/beta readers, implement their feedback, revise, rewrite again, another round of critiques, and polish, polish, polish, and finally call it good.
Again, some writers write a crappy first draft, then revise the whole thing. Others write a crappy first draft and revise and edit as they go along (I do this) so that when the book is finished, the first draft is actually the tenth or so. It makes for easier reading for the critique partner. But everyone has a different way of doing things and none of them are "wrong".)
I want to dip into this first before Marketing. You can't really market a book to people if no one knows who you are. (And if you wanted to try to acquire an agent, this is a good place to start.)
Back in the good old days (about 5 years ago) when I first started blogging, I was told that you needed to have 1000 followers on any given social media site for you to be taken seriously by agents, other authors, publishing houses. Bloggers were having blog hops every other day, it was like a giant networking party. You would participate in the blog hop, follow every blog in it, and hope that people followed you back so that when/if an agent stopped by your blog they would see you had XX amount of followers. It didn't matter if you interacted with them, only that you had them. Same went for Twitter and FaceBook.
I never subscribed to that notion. I started my blog as a way to connect with other writers. I didn't care how many followers I had. As long as someone commented I was happy. (Because the more followers you have, the more you feel the need to comment in return. Blog commenting can suck up a whole afternoon of writing if you're not careful. Which is why I only blog and comment one day a week.)
Some writers don't blog. Some writers don't Tweet. Some writers don't FaceBook. Some do all three and more. My advice is to pick ONE social media site where you feel most comfortable and make that your home base.
I blog so we'll use that as an example. On my Piedmont Writer blog, I blog about my writing experiences, trials and tribulations in the publishing world, and sometimes my personal life (but very rarely). Nobody likes a Debbie Downer, so I try to stay upbeat. I don't harp on bad reviews, I don't get into controversial subjects, or join crusades (like the Amazon - Hatchette thing). If I have nothing to say, I don't blog. But that's just me. You can blog about whatever you like.
Here on my Anne Gallagher blog, I discuss my books, my research, my characters, whatever I feel is important to my subject matter which is Regency romance. It's not as grand as some other blogs I've run across, but I'm not going for grand. I'm going for what I feel is comfortable enough for me.
I'm going with the assumption that we've all been been on social media for awhile now, but if you're new to the writing game, you may ask "How do I find other bloggers?" Here's how I did it. See the little box on my sidebar that has all my followers on it. Click on the first picture. It will take you to that person's blog. If you like what you see, click Follow on their little box. Hopefully, they'll follow you back. You can do this as many times as you like. And once you get their blog into your feeder, then you comment. Hopefully, if they've followed you back, they'll comment on yours. Blog hops are also another great way to get readers.
Because that is what this is all about. You're a writer first. All writers want to be read.
(Anne R. Allen wrote a fantastic post all about blogging. You really need to follow her anyway.)
So, back to branding. We have our blog. Our topics mainly concern our books that we're writing, our research, and in the case of Susie and Bob, romance. When I first started writing, I didn't have a tagline. I do now -- Timeless Romance... Modern Day Dilemmas. All my books have subject matter that concerns 20th century women/men even though it's set in the Regency period. People are people no matter what era they're from. Emotions are basically the same. Love Hate Jealousy Pride Prejudice etc.
A friend of mine's tagline is Crime Fiction with a Kiss. (I love that.) It pretty much tells everything you need to know right there about her books.
If you've been around awhile, you probably have one already. If you've written stand alone novels before, but nothing ever tied in to a series, you might want to think about one now. Then again if you're widely read, you probably don't need one. Some authors swear by them, some don't bother. It's up to you.
One other point I'd like to make about blogging is that when you set yours up, use your author name, not a subject matter like MyBunnyBlog. Or RamblingsofaMusingWriter. You want the search engines to find you. Hence, AnneGallagherWriter. (And the reason I am Writer instead of just plain Anne Gallagher is that there are several other Anne Gallagher authors who have blogs with their name. Writer distinguishes me from them.)
Also, when blogging, make sure you label your posts. This also aids in Search Engine Optimization or SEO. SEO is very important to the branding process. On almost every post I write, I label it Anne Gallagher, Regency Romance, Reluctant Grooms Series. The bots pick this up, and when someone enters Anne Gallagher into a search engine, my blog posts, my books, my author pages at Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, Barnes&Noble, and sometimes LinkedIn pop up. For the first couple of months after I published, the Anne Gallagher who writes about Human Trafficking used to be there as well, but she's not anymore. There's also a chef in Chicago, and another Anne Gallagher who's a voice over artist. But if you're looking for me, there I am, usually taking up the entire first page of the search. THIS is what you want. You want to be on the first page, not page 27.
One other fine point, is that whatever you decide to do for your main social media site is to stick with your schedule. If you blog on Monday, stick to it. If you FaceBook on Sunday, stick to it. That way, if someone looks for you on Tuesday, they know you've already posted. But if you're willy-nilly about it -- "Oh, this is kind of neat, I'll think I'll post on Thursday night" people might not be aware of it and miss it.
To recap our Branding -- We have our main social media site we post regularly on (and that's not to say we don't have others, but more on that later), we label our posts, we have our author name, and our tagline (if we feel the need to have one), we have our schedule, we have our books ready to go. On to Marketing.
This is the hardest part for me, and other writers I know because most of us are really introverts. We don't like being social, we just want to write our books and publish them. I am a Quiet Marketer. I don't splash and blog tour, I don't Tweet incessantly "Buy Me", I don't really even think about the books once I hit "publish". I look at it this way -- people will either buy my books or they won't. If I shove them in reader's faces, it's not going to make a difference. No amount of marketing will sway them either way unless they're looking for what you're trying to sell. I'm not going buy the next Stephen King novel, no matter how much it's hyped because I don't read his genre. And, no amount of hype is going to get me to buy the next Jo Beverly novel either unless I like her cover copy.
As I said before, word of mouth sells books, not social media. Sure, social media is how they find out about them, but you can't get a horse to drink just because you lead him to the stream. He'll only drink if he's thirsty.
I'm going to digress here, and discuss this for a minute.
Let's talk about covers. The first thing readers see when they're looking at books is the cover. You want a cover that looks nice. However, we're writing a series now, so you want to be able to tie all your covers together. For that, you really do want to hire a cover designer. Some are cheap, some are expensive. Shop around. If you're good with design, you might be able to do your own, but try not to make them look homemade. You want them to look "professional". (Find a cover designer who has a blog. Follow them. Ask other writers who designed their covers. Blogging is about networking, as well as being social.)
My covers all have the same "look". An old portrait surrounded by feathery things and the font in block letters.
When I first started publishing, I decided I didn't want half naked men and heaving bosoms on my covers. I don't write sex, so I didn't want to lead my readers on thinking that's what they would be getting. Hence, my "period" covers. (I see more and more "period" covers in my genre so I think I hit that nail on the head.) To get a clearer picture of what you want, go to Amazon, type in your genre in the search engine and take a look at the covers.
If we use the example of Susie and Bob and the arsonist, I know that I would definitely want some sort of fire element in the background. Maybe a fire truck. I would discuss it with my designer to see what they come up with.
The next part about the cover is the back "cover copy". You want that to entice the reader to read your book. If on Susie and Bob's book I said
Susie meets Bob at the hospital where he's just been hurt by a fire started by an arsonist. They fall in love and find their happily ever after...
You would put that book down so fast it would make my head spin. However, if I wrote something like
Susie's running out of patience with her wicked stepmonster's cloying ways. She needs to find a place of her own, but waiting on her father's inheritance is killing her.
Bob's a confirmed bachelor who doesn't need domestic tranquility to be happy. He's perfectly content playing the singles scene. Until a mishap in a burning building leaves him blind.
Susie gets the short straw and draws Angry Bob on her weekly visiting nurse schedule. Between his grumbling about bumping into furniture, and the fact Susie's perfume makes him sick, she wants to throw in the towel. Bob just wants to see again so he can return to work to catch the arsonist who put him in this position in the first place. Can these two work out their differences to find their happily ever after.
Okay, not the best cover copy but I'm writing on the fly, and it's just an example of what cover copy should be. Enticing. Short, sweet, and to the point. Notice the adjectives. Adverbs. Yes, you can use these to your advantage. (The rules of writing generally don't apply here.) Entice. Draw a quick picture. Leave the reader wondering what is going to happen.
Usually, once you have your cover, you do a "cover reveal" on your blog. Now some people go way overboard and every single person they've ever come in contact with also has your cover reveal on their blog as well. That's overkill in my opinion. I generally skip right over these blogs in my reader. I've seen it once. I don't need to see it again. And for one or two of my books, I forgot to even do a cover reveal. I've even forgotten to say I had published a book. But that's just me. (Once you get into the "business" of writing, you tend to forget some steps.)
So to recap -- We have our books ready to publish, we have our covers, our cover copy, we have our future first chapters in the backs of the books. We have a blog or FB site on which we post regularly. We have some followers. We are ready to click that tab that says "publish".
Unfortunately, this post is already way too long and I don't want to overwhelm you. So next week, we'll discuss all the different ways to market once we're ready to publish.
Twitter, Goodreads, Blog links, Buy links, SEO, Metadata, Back matter, Keywords
Hope to see you.
Anne Gallagher (c) 2014