After months and months of grueling hard work you can see it now: your name, prefaced by those simple yet magical words “best-selling author.”
Writing a best-selling book is about a lot more than simply being a great writer (although that certainly helps). You have to be a savvy marketer, promoting both your ideas and yourself in order to top the charts at Amazon, the New York Times, or other lists. And we know a thing or two about this: we’ve helped launch over forty different titles and move over a million books in the past 6 years.
The common thread through all of these successful launches is a focus on building a platform and a movement – not just on selling a single book. Today, we know that readers aren’t buying a title because they want the information inside of it, but rather because they want the souvenir. There is plenty of access to information on Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter, and even the public library. Readers want that book on their shelf, the cache of saying they “read that one,” and most of all to feel like part of an in-group.
At the core, building that following and cultivating a movement and following requires two things. First, you need a captivating brand story. Second, you need to bring that story to your tribe.
Discovering Your Brand Story
Ultimately, a brand is not a logo, slogan, or jingle. A brand is a promise. Our favorite definition of a brand comes from legendary marketer Seth Godin:
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”
So, how do you build a brand that readers choose? You start with a seed that is called the brand essence. Your brand essence is a distilled summary of who you are and what you stand for, typically a 2-4 word phrase from which everything else grows. It doesn’t have to be, but sometimes you can imagine a brand’s essence as it’s tagline.
This may all seem a little abstract, but you know it better than you think. Here’s some examples with famous brands:
- Disney: Magical Happiness
- Starbucks: Rewarding Everyday Moments
- Hallmark: Caring Shared
For you as an author and thought leader, this may take many shapes. Maybe your essence is:
- Badass Natural Healing
- Leadership by Service
- Small Town Palace Intrigue
Once you have your brand essence, you begin to define your audience and build the story you tell them. Stories help people make sense of the world, and framing your message as a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end will help your brand stick in the minds of readers. We recommend reviewing the famous Pixar Storytelling Framework for a simple outline on how to craft a story that captures attention.
Building a Following
All marketing boils down to the message and the medium. What are you saying and how are you saying it. The first half stems from your brand, and the second is about meeting your audience where they are.
Successful authors build a lasting relationship with their tribe through their website, email list, and social media platforms. Your website is crucial as a home base for your brand and content, but for now we’ll focus on building a following across email and social media – channels which empower you to actively communicate with your followers.
Email is the most important audience you will build. Full stop.
It may not be the sexy new thing, but year over year email sees high conversion rates and better return on investment than any social media platform. It’s also the one channel you truly own and control, everything else is merely leased from the companies that run the platforms and want your advertising dollars.
The other side of the coin is that it takes more effort and creativity to effectively build an email list than growing your follower count on Instagram or Facebook. You’ll want to explore website pop-ups, dedicated landing pages, lead-capture ads, and a variety of other tools to find the tactic that works best for you.
While email is the most effective single channel, you will also want to invest time and resources into building compelling public presences on popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Should you be on all of these networks? Probably not. But you should consider the ones which fit your brand and you have the capacity to properly execute on.
Across all of these platforms, the currency of the realm is content. We often liken these social media networks to a great big man-eating content monster that is always hungry for more. As an author you have a leg-up on other brands: you already know how to produce content that people want to see and read.
How to Do it: Join Our 10-Day Email Course
We simply can’t fit everything that is involved in a successful book launch into a single blog post, so we’re inviting you to join our comprehensive ten-lesson email course, the Author Marketing Academy from Digital Natives Group. In this course, we go over the whole process of building your audience and launching a book step-by-step, with over a dozen guides and worksheets to help you through the process. Sign up today and let us know your thoughts.