How to stand out from the crowd?
Unless you’re already Suzanne Collins, J. K. Rowling, or Stephen King, you need readers to find out who you are and what you write, so your books sell.
Your mom can afford just so many copies.
By the same token, although authors are the best ambassadors for their own works, publishers also must market themselves and their books. This is not only how to sell books, but also get more submissions from great authors.
Small to medium presses close every year, not only because they and their authors fail to promote books well, but also for want of overall marketing plans and brand recognition.
For this discussion, we also need to define what a publisher is. Almost any website is a publisher, and so is almost any business with a blog, or who produces other marketing materials.
Even if you, as an author, have a publisher who produces your books, you should be a publisher as well, with a blog, website, and guest posts on other websites.
Standing out means doing something innovative, something different to market yourself and your work. Your books are exciting and entertaining. You produce quality work that is also useful. Here are some ideas to break out of the typical social media or pay-per-click “buy my book” posts.
Data by itself is boring; data visualized, on the other hand, can be stunning, and even fun. How can you do this?
Well, there are a number of different ways to show what you or your book are about than by simply posting your book cover, a banner made with your book cover or a picture of yourself over and over.
Don’t be afraid to use humor in your visuals, even if your book is more on the serious side of things. Some of the most fun authors I know, and those with the best sense of humor, write horror and thriller novels.
Remember, fans of your books also want to be your fans. If you are funny and easygoing in person, don’t be afraid to let that show through in your visual materials.
So what do I mean by unique visuals?
Infographics? Aren’t those usually reserved for business applications, explaining some concept or other? What do infographics have to do with books?
Here’s an example. I am currently writing about serial killers and tend to write character driven stories. This means I study the personality of these individuals, what their personality types are, and how that means they react to different situations.
As part of this study, I look at past serial killers, even famous ones from history. So as a part of the buildup to the release of my novel, I could share a well-done infographic, even one I have created that talks either historically about these killers or analyzes each. I could also create something about the personality types of serial killers.
Does your publisher or do you as an author have a YouTube channel? You should. Setting one up is relatively easy if you follow some simple steps. The video service owned by Alphabet (the Google parent company, in case you did not know) is the second largest search engine on the web.
While traditional book trailers are not your primary marketing tool, there are many innovative ways to use video. Readers what to know you and what you do. A video, even of your hobbies or on subjects related to your books, can be an invaluable tool.
These can be humorous. Even pranks can work as effective marketing, like the T-Mobile Onsie revealed for April Fool’s Day, a spoof accessory of the T-Mobile ONE Plan, and designed to highlight their deals on iPhones and various devices.
The videos you post can also be more serious and include podcasts, free classes, interviews, and video or book reviews.
Although authors are creative, they often struggle with applying that creativity to marketing and other areas. However, video is writing too — creating a script and a very short story, and matching it with images.
Video is not essential. However, if you do it, you need to do it well. It is another tool to get you noticed, and using it in unusual ways can set you apart from the crowd and introduce your work to an entirely different audience.
Business cards are old school, and many times end up thrown away. If you are like me, you have come from a conference and thrown dozens of them in the trash. However, I have kept several that are either actually useful or have something unique about them.
Julie Frost, a sci-fi writer approached me at a writer’s conference with a business card that had a complete short story published on the back. I not only kept it, but I have since seen other writers copy the idea with a poem or another piece of short fiction.
You don’t have to go that far. Infiniti Telecommunications makes business cards useful by printing the phonetic alphabet on the back so that if you have to call 1-800-GET-JUNK to clean out your home office, you don’t have to squint at the tiny numbers on your cell phone or try to remember what number goes with what. Not only did I keep their business card, but it has a spot on my desk calendar for quick reference.
The point is that although business cards can be boring and dull, they can also serve a purpose and be something the person you hand it to wants to keep rather than throw away as soon as you are out of sight.
Not everyone loves maps as much as I do, but a lot of people find them fascinating. There are a number of innovative ways to use them. You can thank your readers and map them, or do the same for your social media followers.
The map above is of my Twitter followers, created using Tweepsmap (I’m @tlambertwrites if you want to be added to the crowd). There are a number of advantages to social media mapping, besides getting a cool visual of your followers.
But you can use maps in other ways: You can create maps of your stories, and even of the places they occur. Google Maps Pro is now free, and other mapping apps and programs are relatively inexpensive and easy to use.
If you are an app creator or can have one made for you, you can even use these maps to lead an interested reader on a journey, whether using virtual reality or a literal map that leads them around the place where your story is set.
Writing and publishing are tough businesses, and if you are going to make a living at it, you need to treat it like one. Every small business, whether you are a publisher or an author, needs to track performance, from cash flow to returns on marketing investments.
One of the ways to make those returns is to be innovative. Do something different and stand out from the crowd. From video to mapping, from innovative visuals to infographics, as an author or a publisher of any size, you improve the discoverability of your brand simply by taking a path less chosen.