What do you do now that you’re published?
Award-winning author and guest contributor Johnnie Bernhard offers her advice on how to market yourself and your book, and to reach your audience.
When A Good Girl was published in 2017, I was very aware of entering a schizophrenic publishing market. It was saturated with self-published books, books from small and medium presses, and the New York big houses. I needed to find out immediately who my audience was, and how I could best meet that audience.
I quickly learned if there was ever going to be a second book published, I would need to sell the first book. Publishers have bills. They must pay the typesetters, editors, book cover artist, and the lights and water. It is a business. Writing is a profession. We should treat it as such. It is naïve, and yes, quite egotistical to believe a book will sell
itself in such a flooded market. You are competing with thousands, upon thousands of authors to sell your book. Yes, the story must be good, but so should the work ethic of the author.
I wanted Texas Review Press, the people who took a financial chance on me as a novice author, to feel they had made a sound investment. I did my homework. These are several key concepts that worked best for me in finding my audience.
I began building a platform as a writer. I submitted freelance work to newspapers, magazines, journals, anthologies and literary magazines. Ninety-five percent of the time, I was not paid. It didn’t matter. I was entering a new profession, and I needed to build my resume.
I began entering my creative work in quality literary competitions. These are not the
competitions you pay $100 to enter. In this profession, there are lots of charlatans ready to tap into your writer’s ego and checkbook. You must vet contests, just like a publisher, literary agent, or publication. My first literary competition was with Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society, Wisdom-Faulkner Literary Competition. A Good Girl was short-listed in 2015. This international competition has a stellar reputation for launching writers. The annual conference, Words & Music Literary Feast welcomes Pulitzer prize winners as well as the novice writer for learning craft, pitch sessions, and networking among professionals.
Southern Writers Magazine champions both the novice and seasoned author. The magazine offers craft, contest information, interviews with successful authors, as well as conference information. Writer’s Digest is also available as a trade publication, online and in print.
State book festivals are a great networking opportunity for readers and authors. They are often sponsored by the state library systems and free to attend. To be considered for an author panel, visit that state’s book festival website for the details and appropriate deadlines. Remember, you must have a published book to do so.
Create buzz for your book through blogs, social media, and a street team. Prelaunch of a book begins with Amazon. Purchase an ad in a writer’s magazine to advertise the launch date. Online marketing ads through social media are effective, as well. Kindle Book Review, Author’s Newsletter sells social media marketing packages for a fair price. If funds are tight, advertise the launch date with social media posts or through a blog. One of the best writer’s blog I have found is Cowbird. It is an international site for networking with readers and writers.
Facebook is a free tool for marketing, but you must be careful not to overexpose in self-promotion. Be that author who supports other authors, as well. Write book reviews, buy other author’s books. Yes, there are those vampires who will never return the professional courtesy. They soon disappear. You will be surprised at the number of people who will champion your work if you are a professional with an ego in check. These supporters become your street team.
Learn everything you can from experienced, professional authors. Read their work. Watch their marketing. There is no better tutor than the author who continues to be published. She is a sound investment to her publisher and her readers.
Never underestimate the importance of a professional website, book cover, and book blurb. These are the basic tools for marketing your novel. Invest in quality. Once a reader sees you on social media, they will vet you according to your branding.
Professionalism in writers is defined by their work, work habits, and communication skills. Your integrity as a writer determines your success. Networking is a necessity – no one should work in a bubble, lest you become your greatest fan!
JOHNNIE BERNHARD is a former English teacher and journalist with a passion for reading and writing. Her work(s) have appeared in the following publications: The Mississippi Press, the international Word Among Us, Southern Writers Magazine, Southern Literary Review, The Texas Review, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America. Her entry, “The Last Mayberry,” received over 7,500 views, nationally and internationally. Johnnie’s first novel, A Good Girl received finalist recognition in the 2015 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition. It is a featured novel for the 2017 Mississippi and Louisiana Book Festivals, a finalist in the 2017 Kindle Book Awards, and a nominee for the 2018 PEN/Robert Bingham Prize. Her newest book, How We Came to Be, will be released this spring by Texas Review Press.