One of the first - and possibly the most important - things authors learn about developing their writing career is that marketing is not something you can just do once and then forget about. Instead, authors should plan on the need to promote their career on a weekly or monthly basis over the course of years.
This might sound like it will take too much time away from writing your next book, but let's not forget that writing is a business. If you don't spend time promoting your work - or to put it another way, growing your audience - then there won't be anyone around to buy your next book when it hits the Kindle Store.
All this time spent in self-promotion might sound like too much time wasted on the boring part of an author's job, but when done right marketing doesn't have to take more than 20 minutes. Furthermore, marketing is one of those activities that only pays off after consistent effort.
Here are seven ways you can promote your writing career, twenty minutes at a time.
1. Reach out to readers, and ask them to post a review.
If you have already published several books, and fans are emailing you or reaching out on social media, now is a good time to raise the topic of reviews. It is perfectly okay to ask them if they have posted a review; you might also drop a hint in the intro of your next newsletter.
Amazon.com is always the best place for your fan to post a review because a review will be reposted to all of Amazon's sites, but it might also be deleted for no good reason. Amazon also requires that reviewers spend at least $50 a year on the site, which not everyone does. That's why you might want to ask fans to post their reviews on GoodReads.
2. Publish a blog post or newsletter.
Blog posts can't drive sales like they did back before Google killed Google Reader, but they can still be a good way to gain the interest of visitors to your website. A kick-ass evergreen post - one that is insightful and well-argued - can attract visitors even years down the line.
Similarly, a newsletter - while not as useful in the long term - is your chance to get the attention of subscribers where they live: their inbox.
If you are coming up short on ideas, here's a tip: Take one of the topics you looked into while doing background detail and write it up in a blog post. Explain it in detail, and provide links to additional background information.
Another way to write a great newsletter is to take something that happened to you and explain what can be learned from it. Be sure to focus on lessons that will interest your readers.
I will be honest with you, though; a great blog post will take you more than 20 minutes. For example, this post you are reading right now took me eight hours to plot, research, write, and edit. That is a huge investment in time, but I am hoping that the investment will pay off over the years as the post continues to be shared and read.
3. Update/Refresh your site (this includes the SEO as well as the content).
When was the last time you updated the bookshelf section of your site?If you have recently written new background detail, or just finished answering questions from readers, now would be a good time to add the extra info. An FAQ is a good way to share details about your books, their release dates, and their background.
Remember, the more _interesting_ details you share, the more your fans will like your work and buy your next book.
BTW, when was the last time you changed the free ebook you offer through your mailing list signup form?
4. Schedule a sale, and pre-announce it on social media.
Everyone loves a sale, and we even like to hear about one in advance. Several authors have told me that they will schedule a sale on a backlist title on a given day, and then announced the sale on their mailing list or social media days or weeks in advance. I am told this is an effective way to both engage with fans and to boost sales.
5. Update your book listings on GoodReads.
When was the last time you updated your author account on GoodReads? (Have you claimed it yet? Why not?) Are all the descriptions, covers, and release dates correct?
Most importantly, have you posted your new book yet? GoodReads will let authors list upcoming books as early as several years before publication day. Fans can add those books to their shelves, and anyone who has a book on their shelf can get updates every time you post an update about the book. This can be a good way to generate pre-launch buzz and boost sales on publication day.
6. Read the daily HARO emails.
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is an online service that connects journalists with sources. It is free for journalists and costs the sources anywhere from nothing to $150 a month, depending on the service tier.
This can be a great way to get your name mentioned in a news publication, but since you can't control how you are quoted there is the risk of being quoted out of context.
7. Schedule a book signing, or author reading.
Go in to your inbox and dig out those emails you were ignoring. You know the ones I mean - the emails where a bookstore, school, book fair, etc expressed interest in hearing you speak. Apologize for the delayed response, and tell them that you are interested.
Edit: While we're at it, don't forget the bloggers who want to interview you!
If you don't have any emails like that then go into your outbox and find the emails you sent to event organizers that did not generate a response. Send a polite follow up email telling them you are still interested.
And if you don't have either type of email then now would be a good time to find events you can attend. Search for writer conferences, book fairs, and author events, and you will find happenings where you can promote yourself.