There’s only one thing literary agents and editors enjoy more than discovering great unpublished writing: discovering great unpublished writing that’s backed by an author who is an enthusiastic self-starter.
But what exactly do literary agents love to see in a new client? How can a writer do more than merely promise enthusiasm for book marketing?
Believe it or not, there are three simple marketing strategies that can make a huge difference for writers even before they get a book published.
Lay the foundation for your future as a successful author right now, even before you start seeking publication.
Writers: Three Marketing Tactics To Implement Before You Seek Book Publication
First: Define Your Author Brand
A writer with a well-defined, recognizable brand is a writer who can expect to build an audience that will buy book after book for years to come. But how can writers build their brands even before getting published?
Simple. Learn the core concepts of author brand development and how this strategy can work for you.
A strong writer brand starts with the author’s online personality and builds a focused outreach campaign based on the author’s select literary interests.
In other words, who you are as a writer—and what you love to write—makes up the spine of your author brand. With focused effort, a writer with strong, specific branding will develop a unique voice and style that pervade book after book, delivering on the “promise” of the brand with each new title so that readers can expect stories of a consistent quality. A writer’s social media posts, marketing materials, and writing all reflect the core tenets of the author’s brand.
But a word of caution: Writers may have a natural tendency to love many sorts of books written in many different styles, but a strong writer brand is usually only big enough for focusing on a single selected genre. Writers who hop around among genres tend to take on different pen names for each style of book—but that means marketing each pen name with “new author” status and building a readership from the ground up for each new book.
How will agents and editors know you have a well-planned author brand? You can certainly bring up the details of your plans and strategies in conversation. But you can also hint at them in your query letter.
Second: Have A Fabulous Author Website
New writers often wonder: What is the point of having an author website if there are no books to sell, no publishing credits to brag about, and—generally speaking—nothing to offer potential fans?
Friends, let our years of publishing experience AND web design smarts reassure you: New writers are as much in need of great websites as established veterans. Here’s why creating a website before publication can be a benefit to literary agents, editors, readers—and, of course, to you.
- A well-designed author website shows that you’re actively paving the way for the future—a future that you’re willing to invest in. And if a writer is meaningfully investing, agents may find it easier to follow suit. After all, an author website shows that the writer has a strong expectation of publishing success—as opposed to a vague hope that someday, something good will happen. I’m going to be great at this, the subtext screams. So why not start now?
- An author website with integrated social media feeds, a sign-up form for email subscribers, and freebies that encourage connections with fans makes it clear that you are READY to build your readership. Plus, having fan-building functionality on your author website may surprise you: You might find more people than you ever imagined are signing up to learn about your writing. But you won’t know who might become a fan until you give them the opportunity.
- An author website lets you tell your personal story—which is HUGE for personal marketing and branding. If you’re a new writer, your author’s bio page gives you the ability to show industry pros that you’re dedicating real effort to the craft of writing by taking classes, attending conferences, and soaking up knowledge like a bookish sponge. Even if a writer has no publication credits yet, an author website is a chance to show that it’s only a matter of time.
- Creating an author website makes you googleable—when literary agents and editors type your name into a search engine, something will actually come up. Read more: How Writers Can Be More Googleable (So People Can Find Your Writing Online) | Web Design Relief.
- Not having a website seems shortsighted and passive. Literary agents and editors expect their writers will be active promotional partners. In fact, having an author website is as de rigueur as having a business card. Writers who don’t have author websites imply that they are simply not interested in promotion.
If you don’t have a website yet, be sure to hire a company that truly understands your goals as a creative writer and how those goals matter within the larger publishing industry. Start by checking out Web Design Relief.
In your query letter, be sure to tell literary agents to visit your author website so they can get to know you as a writer. Instead of including a basic URL address, try: If you’d like to learn more about me, see pictures from my research and travels, or check out my popular blog posts, visit my website: URL here.
Third: Create A Foundation For Social Media Success
If you enjoy posting new pictures and thoughts on social media, count yourself lucky. You’ve got a natural advantage when it comes to marketing and promotion. You’re probably already out there sharing the ups and downs of your publishing journey and inviting potential fans into your life—and that’s exactly what literary agents and editors love to see from writers.
And here’s a secret about social media for writers: It doesn’t matter whether you have fifty Facebook friends or five hundred.
What matters is your attitude: invigorated, enthusiastic, and active. You’re already laying the foundation for a thriving community of fans, friends, and followers. And this counts big when literary agents are assessing your potential success as an online personality who can command a large fan base of readers.
But if you’re the type of writer who would rather be writing books than social media posts—who breaks out in hives just thinking about sharing any information on social media—take heart in knowing that you’re not alone.
Let’s address some common insecurities (and a few straight-up excuses) that tend to hold people back from developing a strong online social media platform.
Excuse: There’s no point in trying to gather ANY fans since it’s so difficult to gather LOTS of them.
The truth: Literary agents prize the quality of your social interactions more than they care about the quantity. A writer with 5,000 friends who rarely interact doesn’t have more marketing power than a writer with only fifty friends who actively engage regularly.
Excuse: Social media is only for young people who care about frivolous things.
The truth: Though social media is certainly popular among students, older generations of adults are also active online. In fact, the majority of people who use the Internet are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and similar platforms. And though cat videos are perennial favorites, posts that have more poignancy or substance are welcome too. Writers can choose how to make social media their own. Learn more: Tips For Targeting Older Demographics On Social Media.
Excuse: I’m worried about posting anything personal online—it’s not safe.
The truth: It’s possible to post information that isn’t personally revealing but is still engaging and interesting. All it takes is a little creativity and an eye for intriguing, sharable content. Read more: Safety Tips For Social Networking: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Safe Online.
Even if you don’t have a huge following yet as a writer, working with what you already have puts you in a great place to expand and grow.
In your query letter, you can brag to literary agents about big numbers of fans and followers if you have them. But equally as powerful is this simple statement: I’ve been active on social media and am looking forward to continuing to grow my following.
Build An Author Platform That Will Give Your Book Every Advantage
You only get one chance to make a first impression. Take the time to build a marketing infrastructure now, and you might see a bigger payoff when you do finally submit your book for publication.
And remember, we’re here to help!
- Get help with your author website design
- Get help building up some publishing credits
- Get help with social media development
Question for writers: Which of these marketing strategies seems simplest to implement? Which seem hardest?