As an author, you may know that marketing with content is a powerful way to build your audience and boost book sales. But many authors struggle with getting this right. Most authors are not marketers, which is why most of them don’t understand how to create great content that will engage readers and encourage book sales. Content marketing can be a confusing topic for authors because there are so many different strategies and tactics available. And, many fiction authors mistakenly think that many of these tactics will only work for nonfiction authors.
This ultimate guide is here to help authors, whether they write fiction or nonfiction, who want to improve their content marketing strategy. It’s packed with actionable tips and tricks that any author can use to get more traffic, engagement and subscribers from their blog posts. You can do this!
What is content marketing for authors?
Content marketing has been around for a very long time and has gone by a number of other names over time, including article marketing, bum marketing, and even big business card marketing.
It has grown and expanded in nature, as well. Basically, content marketing is creating content and sharing it so that it stimulates interest in a brand, company, product or service without directly promoting it. This content can be in the form of text (such as a blog post), an image (such as a meme or infographic), a video, or even a social media post.
Authors, being creators of content, are in an excellent position to leverage content marketing to spread the word about their books and other offerings.
Why Authors Need to Understand the Basics of Content Marketing
Because authors are in such a good position to use content marketing to their advantage, it is important that they understand the basics of content marketing so that they don’t make mistakes and get poor results.
On the surface, content marketing can look really easy to do. However, like an iceberg, there is often a lot of strategy going on below the surface that isn’t as obvious from watching the results and activities on the surface.
And that’s why I’ve written this post, to help author understand the basics so they can get started with content marketing the right way.
The benefits of content marketing for authors
First, let me share some of the benefits of content marketing, just in case you aren’t convinced that this is a good use of your time.
- Increased organic traffic – When done correctly, content marketing can attract ideal readers to your website 24/7. Many of these readers would not find you any other way.
- Enhanced expertise, authority and trust – Because content marketing increases your visibility and online footprint, it enhances peoples perception of your expertise and authority, and encourages them to trust you. This, in turn, can improve search engine optimization (SEO) and book sales.
- Allows you to connect with ideal readers on multiple platforms and in multiple modalities – People learn and engage with brands in different ways and have different preferences for doing so. Content marketing empowers you to meet your audience where they are in in a manner that they prefer.
- Supports and improves lead generation – Content marketing delivers three times as many leads as other marketing channels, probably because it does not appear to be promotional.
The importance of having a content calendar
Now, developing all this content can get overwhelming, so it is a good idea to develop a general content calendar. It doesn’t have to be too complex. It can be as simple as a document that states for the next 12 months you’ll cover the following 12 topics. As you get more comfortable with content marketing and get into a more regular groove with it, you can start developing a more complex calendar that identifies what content will be shared where and when.
Types of Content Authors Can Use for Marketing
There are many different types of content that authors can use for marketing, but it’s important not to overwhelm yourself. Here is a list of different types of content with an idea of how to approach them. Pick and choose the ones that you will enjoy doing consistently and that will reach your ideal readers.
This one is not optional. Without an email list, you don’t have a platform that you have control of. However, how you do email marketing is up to you. You can email daily, weekly, monthly, even quarterly and still maintain a viable list — depending upon your audience.
There are a wide variety of platforms and different authors have varied success on each one. Before you go all in on any one (or more) platforms ask yourself where does your audience tend to spend their time on social media? Then, of those social media platform, which one would you enjoy engaging in consistently? You don’t have to be everywhere, but where you are you should be there in a consistent manner.
Blogging & Article Marketing
I categorize these together because at their heart, they are the same: You are writing articles. Where you post them — on your blog, on someone else’s blog, on a magazine or newspaper website — is more a matter of effort and strategy. If you have your own blog, be consistent. If you post on other people’s sites, be mindful of what they are looking for before you pitch your ideas.
Whether your video is live or pre-recorded, short, long or somewhere in between, video marketing does take some forethought and strategy. I strongly recommend you give it a try because it is rapidly becoming the strongest way to capture attention. The good news is you can be effective with video without having to spend too much time in front of the camera yourself — even when doing a live stream! With Zoom and other live stream services, you can share your screen, and therefore a slide deck, taking a lot of the pressure off yourself. And, remember to include book trailers in your video marketing, as well!
Quotes on social media, images of you doing fun and bookish things, info graphics — there is a lot you can do with image marketing. And there are entire social media platforms that emphasize the sharing of images (Instagram and Pinterest are the most popular).
Marketing through the sharing of informative and entertaining content helps people find out about your work, as well as where they can purchase it. Mix and match your content types so that you reach all your ideal readers, no matter what their content preferences are.
Blogging and Guest Blogging
I touched on this topic above, but I want to go into it a bit more here, as well. There are few things you need to be mindful of when you decide to go the blogging route:
Blogging on Your Website
The main reason for blogging on your website for search engine optimization (SEO). This bring organic traffic to your website so that ideal readers can find you with you having to go out and find them. However, in order for this to work, you need to do it correctly. I can’t go into all the things you should do in this post, but here are a few pointers:
- Choose a topic and set of sub-topics and don’t stray from it. That just creates a mess — I know because I’m cleaning up one now!
- Choose a posting cadence or schedule and stick to it so that readers will know when to expect new content. Consistency may also help your SEO.
- Use an SEO plugin for WordPress such as Yoast or Squirrly to help you get all the details of optimization right. After I started using Yoast, my organic search results doubled and tripled on my blogs. And I was using the free version.
- Learn more about SEO. Neil Patel has an excellent blog on the topic and provides very valuable advice.
Guest blogging can be a time consuming task, but the return on investment can be really high, as well. Again, there is a lot to this strategy, so I can’t go into detail in this post, but here are a few pointers:
- Get clear on what your pitch ideas are and fine tune them so that they sparkle and shine. Treat pitching bloggers like you’re pitching Oprah and you’ll have much better success.
- Before sending your pitch to a blogger, do your research. Does the blog accept guest articles? Do they have any guidelines for guest bloggers? If they do, follow them to the letter. Research the content on the blog to make sure you’re not pitching content they’ve already covered. If they have, can you give them a new twist on the topic?
Use tools such as Google Sheets, Excel, or Postaga to help you keep track of all the pitches you’ve sent out that that you can follow up in a timely manner and make sure that you’re not sending the same idea to more than one blog at a time.
Podcasting and Guest Podcasting
Podcasting and guest podcasting is pretty much just like blogging and guest blogging, only with sound and a little more tech. All the guidelines above apply, plus here are a few more pointers.
- Invest in a decent microphone. It shouldn’t cost you more than $200, but you can even find a decent starter mic for around $25. I wrote a post that included my recommendations on my public speaking blog.
- Decide where you will host your audio files. I use Amazon’s S3 service which is very affordable, but there are excellent platforms built just for podcasters, such as Blubrry, that provide other services beyond just hosting your files. Don’t host them on your blog’s server, as this will become problematic very quickly.
- Use Blubrry’s podcasting plugin to make distributing your podcast across multiple platforms easier.
- If you decide to do a video podcast, you will also need to consider lighting (which I also talk about in that article where I recommend mics), and video hosting platforms.
For answers to more questions about podcasting, check out my post 11 Commonly Asked Questions About Podcasting [FAQ].
The Importance of Social Media in Author’s Marketing Strategy
Social media is an important part of an author’s online footprint. Does that mean you need to be on every platform? No. However, you should have a presence on the platforms that are most important for your readers. Most likely those will be one of these:
This is by far the most popular social media site and the place where you are most likely to find readers. There are lots of groups on facebook dedicated to readers and readers love to follow their favorite authors here. Using Facebook Live and Facebook Groups are two excellent ways to market your books.
YouTube is one of the top search engines, so if you do video make sure you post them on YouTube, as well. YouTube also allows you to do live video. If you enjoy doing video, you can also make your YouTube channel your main social media point of content for marketing your books. It is also a useful tool for hosting videos that you can share and post elsewhere.
If your books are visual or related to a topic that is visual, this is where your readers probably are. There is a lot of reader activity on Instagram, so it is worth investigating.
If your ideal readers are professionals, this is a very good place to find them. Marketing on this platform is different, but it is worth learning if this is your audience.
This platform was created specifically for readers. It is not as easy to use from a marketing standpoint as the others, but I strongly recommend maintaining a profile and at least a monthly presence on the site.
This site is great for driving traffic to your website and is highly visual. Most of the users of this site are women and they are shoppers. So if this is your audience, learn Pinterest marketing!
There are other social media sites that can be important to authors, as well, but these are the top six that I’ve seen authors experience the most success with.
Public Relations and Press Releases
I could teach an entire course on this topic, but for this post I want to highlight the main things you need to consider.
- You never know when someone from the press may decide to tap you for an interview so be prepared with a digital media kit on your website. You can use mine as a model. Ideally, you’ll want two kinds of media kits: One general one about you as an author, and then one that is specific for each book that is listed on your website.
- Be proactive and pitch the media with ideas. There are a few ways you can do this.
- The first is to create an ever-green calendar of annual events that relate to your topic. For example, every June is Entrepreneurs Do It Yourself Marketing Month. I could pitch idea around how authors can do their own marketing and pitch them to the press in May for their stories coming up in June.
- The second is to keep on top of trending topics and looks for ways that you can link what you are an expert on to what is in the current zeitgeist. For example, right after Elon Musk announced on Twitter that another biography was being written about him, I pitched the idea of how local business owners could create local celebrity through writing a memoir.
- Be aware that press releases rarely get stories, but they can help with SEO. Press releases are nice, and they can be an important part of an overall public relations strategy. However, I’ve found that when it comes to author and book marketing, they rarely do much more than help with SEO. They can also be a useful tool for information with in a press kit, and sometimes help clarify information for a journalist who is tight on a deadline. But don’t depend on them to get you the story.
Email Marketing and Your Content Marketing Strategy
Remember how I said earlier in this post that email marketing was not optional? Well the good news is that it doesn’t have to be an extra burden, either. If you are producing content in other ways — through blogging or social media — you can use that content in your email marketing, as well. Email should be part of the mix of strategies you use to distribute your message and it doesn’t have to be a different message than all the other distribution channels you are using.
However, it is probably your most important distribution channel. Think email marketing is dead or dying? Think again. According to research by Bluecore this year, email is considered the most personal channel to receive communications from brands by 74% of Baby Boomers, 72% of Gen X, 64% of Millennials, and 60% of Gen Z. In 2019, according to both DMA and Litmus, for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average Return on Investment (ROI) was $42. That is much higher that other forms of marketing.
If you want to drill down into the nitty gritty of open rates and best times to send an email, I found this article on 2021 email statistics very clear and readable.
Resources and Tools for Content Marketing
As you may have gathered from reading through this post, there are a wide variety of resources and tools you can use to help you with your content marketing. Here are a few that I find useful.
- Aweber – Email marketing. There are a lot of email marketing options available and I’ve considered switching many times, but Aweber keeps getting better. And now you can try all their bells and whistles, including landing pages and ecommerce options, for free.
- Tailwind – Social media marketing. This tool helps you schedule posts to Instagram and Pinterest at optimal times. I find it invaluable. The only thing I don’t like about it is that you have to pay a monthly fee for each account, so I’ve only subscribed for two of mine.
Creating a Content Marketing Plan for Authors
Now that you’ve got a high-level overview of the landscape of content marketing that is available to you as an author, it is time to map your plan of how you’ll traverse that landscape. Which methods and strategies will you use? How will you use them? At what cadence will you use them? Start small. Pick one to three that you can master, and then layer on more later if you wish. If you overwhelm yourself by taking on more than you can handle (which I have done, several times), you’ll end up feeling like a failure and possibly give up on your dreams. I don’t want that for you.
Create a manageable plan. Work that plan. Give it at least three months so that you have data to truly tell if the plan is working or not. Then readjust the plan as needed. Remember: Your plan is not written in stone. You can change it up as you need to, as your brand and career grows, as your resources change, and as your goals evolve.
Your Next Best Step
Content marketing is an effective way to engage your audience and sell more books. It is about providing value first by giving away information that will help people solve their problems or answer questions they have — before asking them to buy anything from you.
In this blog post, I have given you everything you need to know about understanding the basics of content marketing for authors. Now it’s up to you! Your next best step is to create an actionable plan that includes the tips and resources I’ve provided today that resonate with you the most.
What type(s) of content have been successful in increasing your book’s visibility? Let me know by leaving a comment below now!