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For most authors, launching a book often begins with three big "F's."
I'll add one more: Favicon*.
You know your goals and you want to start this conversation now. You've made a choice that you're writing for more than the pure love of the written word and that you want to reach as many people as possible. Your big toe is dipping into the social marketing river.
You're not selling used cars and not offering a free set of Ginsu knives and a Last Supper tablecloth with every late-night purchase. Marketing is not synonymous with hammering. It's synonymous with conversing.
Learning about the tools, techniques, sites, blogs, and people that populate the social marketing space is a HUGE undertaking. It's easy to become overwhelmed. You have to focus your efforts so you don't feel like you're chasing your tail all day long.
If you are a beginner in the world of marketing (remember, this is a conversation we're starting, not a media blast), you already have the beginnings of a platform. The first segment of your marketing plan contains the 3F Softstart: Friends, Family, and Facebook.
- Friends: Chances are your friends have already read your work in its various stages of undress. They've seen your poem or short story in the daylight and have gently told you that its dimply butt is not pretty. So, you went back and worked on its shape and tone. They know about you. They know about your work. They will support you and tell more friends. Ask if they will host a book group for you.
- Family: After a few more deep breaths, roll your work out to mom, dad, and that sister that doesn't have a kind word to say about anything. If you're smart, you'll listen very critically to their comments. Much will be good, solid advice. Much of it will be crap. This is the beginning of where you need your backbone and the clear message of what you are trying to say in your work. If you take everyone's advice and change your work or your message to suit their opinion, you will end up with poo on a page and a muddy image. Go to your mountaintop, think about what you were trying to convey and focus in on that message. Putting yourself "out there" is hard, hard work. If you are not firm in your message, you will be weakened by criticism and tempted to morph into something you are not.
- Facebook: With the click of a "Post", you will reach a few hundred of your friends and friends of friends. If you're like most people, this is on-the-job-training for social media. Use this stage for a few items.
- Readership Feedback and Identification - See who your work resonates with. Who is commenting? What are they saying? Are there any points in common with the folks who like or don't like the work? This is the beginning of knowing who your audience is. Knowing who your audience is will help you answer the question, "How do I reach my core audience in the most effective and efficient way?"
- Vetting - Is your message the right one for you and your work? Are you reaching who you want to reach? If not, take a step back and figure out why.
- Launchpad for Your Message - Facebook has a wealth of tools out there for the emerging author and small business person. Click around and learn the difference between "Likes", "Groups" and "Subscribe". This is where your social marketing voyage really begins.
Think of Facebook as a social media with water wings. Its population of friends and family will keep you afloat while you learn the skills of leveraging your network into greater influence.
Essential tools for this phase:
- Succinct summary of your work that also answers the question, "Why this work is worth your time."
- Image of your book cover. (Yes. Even before the book is complete, invest in a cover. Social media loves images. Associating your work with a cover image encourages awareness and sharing.)
- Decent headshot of you. Please resist the temptation of cropping a headshot from your nephew's wedding two years ago. Candid shots are great, but nothing beats a professional picture.
*Never in a million years did I think I would need to know what a favicon was. Short for favorites icon, it's also known as a page icon or an urlicon and is an icon associated with a particular website or webpage. Take a look at the tab for this page. See that shamrock? Yup. It's a favicon and is part of a cohesive image branding of me and my book. Did you think Irish? I'll bet you did. Consider yourself educated.