Being an independent (self-published) author is a tough row to hoe. You do almost everything—writing, marketing and even your own public relations. Public relations (PR) may be a mystifying concept to some, but it’s actually simple: PR is about finding low-cost ways to make your name and work known. There are numerous aspects of PR–image management, media relations, promotion, etc.—but today let’s focus on the foundation of good PR: becoming a known member of a community.
Writing the book is, of course, the hardest part. The process of producing a first draft, followed by numerous rewrites and the inevitable (and indispensible!) editor’s draft can exhaust you. At that point, you’re probably sick of your own book and ready to get the whole crazy thing out the door and into the welcoming electronic bosom of Amazon.com.
Hang on a minute, though. Before you even finish the novel, you should have several things in place, namely making sure you’re not “coming out of nowhere.”
Seth Godin says it ad nauseum:
build your tribe first, and then spread the word about your book. It’s more complex than that, but the core principle is solid.Seth Godin
In other words, a lousy time to start doing PR is after your book is finished and on the market.
Tips to Build Community for Authors
Spending perhaps an hour or two (cumulatively) of quality time per week on social media can reap tremendous benefits.
For example, the time to set up a Facebook page for your writing is before you publish. (Create a FB page separate from your personal one so you’re devoting it to your writing as well as writing/reading subjects that people will want to follow. You’re also protecting your privacy–no need for the whole world to see your kid’s pictures.) Update it a few times a week with links to items that interest you and the types of readers you hope to attract.
After that, become a “friend” or “fan” of the Facebook pages of other writers and especially pages for reader/book genre fan groups. Next, comment on their links! Post polite, sincere, considered observations. Share some of their posts on your own page. Review books on your blog or Goodreads page and post links on your Facebook page. Heck, just clicking “like” on things that interest you on other pages is good. It’s all about you becoming a generous, well-regarded member of a community.
Speaking of Goodreads, join it yesterday, authors! Goodreads is one of the most-concentrated places on the Internet to connect with readers. Join groups that talk about your genre. Write reviews. Support fellow authors (most decent people will respond in kind). When you publish, do a giveaway. Again, it’s all about being part of a community.
Twitter is also a great way to meet new readers–if you do it right. Posting links to items of interest to readers and writers, sprinkled lightly with personal observations can help make you a person people want to follow. (Do the Twitterverse and me a favor: please don’t tweet a steady stream of “great quotes,” okay? Share great info and occasionally fun personal stuff!)
It’s also easy to get a little too wrapped-up in mostly following other authors. Remember, the goal here is to connect with readers. When the time comes to promote your book, you can do it on Twitter. Just be careful you don’t wear out your welcome with too many self-serving posts–and never, ever “spam” people.
Remember, none of this works very well if you’re just a “hit and run” member of a community. You must be a sincere, contributing and generous person. Everyone knows the guy who’s just there for purely self-serving reasons. Don’t be that person! (This is one reason I don’t do many message boards. Some people swear by them, but I don’t have the time to devote to quality interactions, so I stay away.)
Okay, you’ve built your tribe of friends and fans, and now you want to let the media know about your book in hopes of reaching even more people. This is a huge topic.
For now, know that a well-written press release is a good place to start. Free or nearly free sites like PRLog, Pitchengine and 24-7PressRelease can help you get your book announcement into the SEO mainstream. They don’t necessarily get you media coverage, but they can build “backlinks” to your book’s sales point or your homepage. If you need help, an experienced PR pro can advise you on writing your release and on how to “pitch” your book to reporters, editors and reviewers.
For now, get busy and build your tribe! Make a place for people to congregate and enjoy the community. When the time comes to announce your new book, you’ll have at least a few folks ready to buy your book, review it and tell their own tribes.
Please feel free to leave me a question in the comments section, too!Last modified: March 9, 2021