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Here’s the big, scary truth no writer wants to hear:
Marketing is as important as writing.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Take it easy, Cole. *AS IMPORTANT*? Really?
No, maybe not as important as writing, if what you want to do is write for yourself. But if you want to write for others, to connect with them on an authentic level, to find fans who love you as much as you love your favorite writers, then, yep, marketing is pretty dang important.
You’ve got to be committed to writing AND marketing. And why is that such a bad thing? Who told us marketing was wicked? It’s an epithet we often hurl at others or use to explain away an inconvenience, usually with an eye roll. “Telemarketers.” “Social media marketers.” “Ugh, it’s a sales-and-marketing thug.”
So before we go any farther, we have to deal with that baggage. Marketing isn’t bad, dirty, or evil. It’s helping people find what they want. That’s it. Repeat this as your mantra: “I help people find what they want.” Because, duh, you do. When you try that new restaurant and fall in love with the falafel, you blast the news to nearly everyone you meet–how could they not love those falafel?! Any time you discover a product or movie or recipe that affects your life in a positive way, you share it with people you know. That’s marketing. What’s even better is when you qualify your acquaintances to determine which news you share. If you know your cousin lives on salisbury steak freezer meals and honey buns, you know it’s probably a waste of time for you to opine about the falafel–ain’t gonna happen. Now you’re targeting your marketing.
No one blinks an eye about that kind of marketing, the sort that comes second-nature to us. But God forbid we make a strategy to share our own work. For some reason we think it’s tacky or beneath us as artists. So to help us all, I’m going to say something pretty blunt. Sorry, but here it is: that’s snobby.
Yes, your writing has to be on-point. It has to be polished and the best you can make it. Only then is it ready for its debut, and its subsequent marketing phase. But who knows your work better than you do? Who’s going to care about it the way you care?
Don’t be a goon about it, don’t blizzard your poor friends’ social media accounts with three posts a day or demands to share your book, article, or poem. But do let them know what you’re up to. Figure out what content would benefit your audience, and post it. Most of the time, it’s going to be other content than your own.
I like to do a once-weekly facebook post to my own work, but I use the rest of the week to promote other ideas and writers. On instagram, it’s a little more intimate. I share some sneak peeks into my creative process. When I have a book that I’m launching, I let people know what’s happening in each phase. But when the launch is over, I don’t repetitively beg for sales or post gimmicky offers all the time. My readers are more important to me than quick sales. We’re in a long-term relationship 🙂
Here are some ideas for creating a content calendar for marketing your work on social media:
- Get a website. It can be simple, you don’t have to hire a designer or spend a fortune. But you do need a place for your online headquarters, one that you actually own, that’s not subject to every wind of change or algorithm update sweeping across social media.
- Decide which social media platforms you want to use. *Hint* It should be the platforms where your ideal readers spend the most time. I recommend setting up an account on all the platforms you can, using the same profile name for consistent branding. (Guess what mine is?) Put up basic information in each profile bio, and point readers to your home base–your website.
- Get laser-focused and intense on one platform at a time; don’t scatter your content across multiple sites. I spent a year doing a deep-dive on facebook, then a year learning Pinterest (which is actually a visual search engine, not social media), and now I’m dabbling on Instagram. I still maintain my presence on FB and I’m on Pinterest almost everyday, but I only move on to the next place when I feel comfortable. Later, I may decide to drop or cut back in one area in the future. But for now I’m experimenting on those sites (and having fun doing it instead of trying to learn it all at once and burning out).
- Decide how often you want to post and create a content calendar. Plan a month of posts by recording ideas on your calendar. If you want to post three times a week, find interesting, relevant articles, questions, checklists, etc. Share others’ content more often than you share your own. Stay consistent by asking yourself these questions: Does my reader care? Does this help my reader? Does this uplift my reader and reflect my values?
But what if you don’t know how to market your work?
We’re living in the future! We have a vast wealth of knowledge at our fingertips at all times. Don’t be afraid to learn a new skill. Just skip over to YouTube and watch a few short videos. There are TONS of videos about how to market yourself as a writer and here’s the kicker–you get to pick your mentor. Don’t like that guy’s voice? Pick another video. Is that lady’s advice waaay too advanced for you at this stage? Keep scrollin’, or add “for beginners” to your search terms.
If you can learn all the rules of the English language and write well, I know you can learn how to market and promote your work, too. And here’s the cool part–you might even enjoy yourself!
NOW YOU: Is this the truth no writer wants to hear? Do you love, hate, or just tolerate marketing?
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