How do you market your book (and yourself) when you suck at technology?
This was a hot topic discussed in my Women in Publishing Zoom group. I wanted to provide some insight based on my experience with Substack. This is going to be a two-part newsletter.
Still high from my experience at the recent Women in Publishing Summit, I kept thinking about the women I had met and the things we talked about in our Zoom coffee chats.
Many were feeling overwhelmed by the marketing sessions, as a lot of them were about how to promote your book. Get on social media. Start a blog. Start a podcast. Do everything.
I could see how all of this feels impossible, especially if you’re of an older generation. When you’re lost in the tech world, where do you start and what social media channels should you focus on?
How would you start a podcast if you’ve never even listened to one?
How do you use Facebook to create an author page when you don’t even know the basics?
Why I use Substack
These conversations made me think about when I first started my memoir journey and felt daunted by how to structure my book. (I’m still struggling with this.)
What chapters and scenes do I include? How do I link them all together so it moves the story forward in an interesting way? As I dug for answers online, I kept running into authors who focused on the marketing portion of their books.
I was like uh oh, maybe I should pay attention. I began to understand why these authors become marketing experts. No matter if I self-publish, go hybrid, or find a traditional publisher, I learned that I have to market my book.
Up until this point, I had no desire to grow a following or promote myself. But this is the path to authorship, so I decided I had to at least try.
At the time, I kept hearing about Substack and how it had a built-in tool for subscribers. There is a one-click button for subscribers to follow you. It piqued my interest because I wouldn’t have to design a button or pay for a plug-in (WordPress) for a “subscribe” feature.
When people sign up to follow you on Substack, the emails are collected for you. If you ever decide to leave Subtack, you can take your email list with you. 🤯
Instagram and other platforms don’t have this feature.
Check out a guest post I wrote for Shayla Raquel which details the other platforms I checked out and why I ultimately chose Substack.
Also, Subtack is free. I have two WordPress websites that I pay yearly fees for—both for the domain names and website. I really didn’t feel like paying for another one.
I’m not saying this to convince you to sign up for Substack. You’re going to have to figure out what platform or social channels best suit your situation.
You might be thinking, “Oh no, I have to learn some new social channel. Who has time for that?”
I get it. Despite my background in marketing, I don’t use TikTok, I barely use Instagram, and I’m not an expert at Facebook. But before you feel overwhelmed…
Ask yourself the following questions
1. Are there any particular social channels you already use and know?
If you know the basics of a social channel you already use, like Instagram, start there. Or if you use several social media channels, start with the one you enjoy using most.
Can you dig deeper and explore other tools they offer? Maybe you can start creating 30-second Instagram Stories, for example.
Starting with what you know always makes more sense to me than trying to figure out something new. I’m reminded of the time I downloaded TikTok and felt so discombobulated that I immediately uninstalled it.
If you aren’t familiar with any social channels, start with Facebook. Join a Facebook group like Women in Publishing and start posting and commenting. Just learn the basics.
2. How much time do you have?
If there’s one thing everyone had in common at the WIP Summit, it was lack of time. So, be realistic. This is going to be an ongoing commitment.
For me, I wake up at an ungodly hour to write, so I make time for my Substacks. Plus, I enjoy it. My schedule is probably less hectic than the next person who has a full-time job, pets, kids, and meals to make, so I’m able to pump out lengthy posts like this one.
Choosing a social channel or platform should be based on your unique needs and schedule and how much time you have to dedicate to it.
Can you bang out a blog post once a week? Twice a month? If you know you don’t have time to write blog posts, rule it out. Instead, consider a different medium other than writing. For example, Substack offers a podcasting tool so you can just record your voice.
3. Have a goal in mind. What do you want to convey to your audience?
This one is super important. For me, the goal of my Substack was to gain a following/subscribers so that when my memoir is one day published, I will have a group of people who may want to buy my book.
I’m guessing this is your goal too. Great. Now, think about what kinds of topics would appeal to this audience and how frequently you can post.
Having a consistent set of messages that go out on a regular schedule puts your audience in a “what to expect” mode. They know they’ll receive snippets of your book or how your writing is going that particular week.
I implore you to focus on things you’ve learned and takeaways for your audience. It doesn’t always have to be about that, but we are talking about marketing and growing your audience. Therefore, make it relevant for them too.
I think once you flesh (flush?) out these three things you’ll be able to hone in on the type of platform that matches your schedule and goals.
Don’t rush into signing up for a platform until you have these in place.
To be continued…
In next week’s newsletter, I’ll uncover how I plan my Substack articles and what social channels I use, and why.
If you have questions or want to learn more, I’m considering expanding on this post and doing a webinar about my experience with Substack. It’ll be about how I’m marketing myself and my book (which has yet to be finished and published).
This webinar is something my WIP Zoom group and I discussed, but I’d love to find out if this topic resonates with anyone else. If you are interested, leave me a comment below.
Or just keep the conversation going and let me know what you struggle with when it comes to marketing.
Remember—just the fact that you’re thinking about how you’re going to market yourself and your book is your way of starting. How’s that for some bite-sized motivation? 😁
Check out some of my writing tips…
Claire, thanks for posting this. I’ve always known that I would need to address the social media aspect of my most recent writing project. But, like you, it seems a bit overwhelming to think about the requisite time to do it justice, so I’ve done very little. And I’m fairly adept at social media! I’ll be reading your next installment to better understand how your using various platforms.
On a positive note, I’ve been contacted by someone who’s affiliated with The New Yorker about the possibility of my story being a podcast. It was interesting that you recently told me the you “can totally see it as a podcast.” We’ll see.
Thank you for this Claire, it's really helpful. I'm writing memoir at the moment and I have also moved from Wordpress to Substack for much the same reasons. I am already getting far more engagement on here in three months than I did in 5 years of wordpress. My query though is about how much memoir should one put on a free substack? I started writing my memoir initially as a book, but no publisher was interested, and I didn't feel confident enough to self-publish. I started putting short chapters out onto substack (they're episodic and more essay-like than a chronological 'story') and people love them. I think ,maybe they could be collected into a book for selling - but....if most of them are already on substack....do you see?