So, you’re an author or an aspiring author and you want to use content marketing to help you grow your author business? Great — you’re in the right place! If you haven’t read the first post in this series, A practical guide to using content marketing in your business, then check that out first so you’ve got an overview of how to get started and then pop back to this post to find out exactly how to apply it to your writing business.
In this series of posts I’m going to outline 12 steps that will help you use content marketing to build your audience and sell more books. This will be a mix of template and guide that you can use as a starting point. Once you’ve got the basics down pat, the sky will then be the limit.
The 12 steps are:
Part 1 (this post)
- Recognise that you’re running a business
- Choose a focus for your first content marketing series
- Choose a market to target
- Choose which problem to focus on solving
- Find a topic for your first piece of content
- Plot the rest of the content series
- Decide what types of content you’ll create
- Research SEO keywords
- Plan your content distribution and promotion
- Create your content
- Create your distribution and promotion assets
- Create your copy
Step 1 — Recognise that you’re running a business
Before I get into the nitty-gritty stuff, I want to make this first and most important point. Regardless of whether you’re writing your first book or your fiftieth, and whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you have to treat your writing as a business.
If you treat it as a hobby, you won’t sell as many books. You can still sell some books. You may even sell a lot of books. But you will sell more books if you shift your mindset and treat your writing as a proper business.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. It does mean you may have to do some things you might not find as enjoyable (like marketing) — unless you pay someone else to do them.
The good news is, if you use content marketing to help you sell your book, you don’t have to give up your entertaining social media chats — that’s all part of the strategy 🙂
Ok, with that out of the way, now we can look at the more interesting steps.
Step 2 — Choose a focus for your first content marketing series
This is fairly easy for authors. If you’re writing your first book, then you’ll choose that first book. If you’ve published multiple books, choose just one — perhaps the one you most want to succeed or the one that’s struggling the most.
If you want to market a series, start with the first book. You’ll create a content marketing series for the first book and then you can up-sell and cross-sell the other books in the series.
You will also want to create content to market your author brand more generally but it’s easier to start with a book first.
Step 3 — Choose a market to target
Too many people want to sell their product to everyone. Authors generally recognise that their audience is going to be restricted to readers that are interested in their genre (for fiction) or topic (for non-fiction), but that market is way too broad when it comes to creating marketing materials.
You’ll have a much better chance of selling your book if you tailor your marketing efforts to a narrower target market. The narrower you go, the more you can tailor your marketing and the more successful it will be. Once you’ve concurred one market, or at least made a start by creating a content marketing sequence for those readers, you can then create additional marketing resources for other target markets.
So, how do you choose your target market? There are lots of ways to do it and your approach will likely be influenced by the type of book you’re writing. Having said that, the basics don’t change.
If you’ve already published your book, take a look at the people who’ve bought it. What do people like about it? What do they dislike? What can you tell about people who’ve reviewed your book? What do people say about your book on social media and what characteristics do those people share? What are common characteristics shared by many of your social media followers (if you’re on social media)? What do your social media followers talk about on social media?
Using that kind of information, you can build a picture of the kinds of readers that won’t be interested in your book and those that will. Get as much information as you can about those readers that enjoy your book and use that to build a detailed understanding of your ideal reader. And don’t restrict the type of information you gather. Do lots of the people who read your books talk about their cats on social media? That kind of information might seem irrelevant if your book isn’t about cats but when you’re using content marketing, it’s all crucial information that can give you an edge.
If you haven’t published your book, you can still do the same kinds of analyses but you’ll have to stick with your social media followers for the most direct information. To supplement that info, take a look at people who read books that are similar to yours. If you’re writing non-fiction, look at readers of other books on the same or similar topic. If you’re a fiction writer, take a look at the readers of books in the same genre or that deal with the same themes.
Once you’ve gathered all that information, you can create what’s called a ‘customer persona’. Although in this case, I’m going to call it a ‘reader persona’. A reader persona may sound complicated, but it’s basically a profile of your ideal reader. It might read something along the lines of: Katy is a 23-year-old university student who loves gardening. She’s got a cat and likes to hang out on Twitter. She loves growing edible plants and lives in USDA zone 9b. And so on…
Personas help you compile your ideal reader research into one spot but their real power lies in the fact that they give you a ‘one reader’ to talk to when you’re creating content. When you create content that speaks to that person, your target readers are much more likely to feel like you’re speaking directly to them. When that happens, they’ll feel like your book is written just for them and they’ll have to buy it.
Your research is probably going to reveal a number of ideal reader personas. If so, pick one and start your content marketing efforts with that persona. Once you’ve got a content marketing series for that persona, you can then follow the same process to produce a series for each of the others.
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