Where Should Authors Focus Their Limited Marketing Time?

None of us has unlimited time to market everywhere and do everything. If we did, we’d leave very little time for the most important thing: writing. So, where should we focus our limited time and energy? What will make the biggest impact? What’s the best way to reach out to our readers?

All authors must wrestle with these kinds of questions. And the answers will be different for each of us due to our unique strengths and abilities.

Many authors still put a lot of time and effort into “old” methods. And by old I’m talking about the things that worked twenty or even ten years ago—book-signings, speaking engagements at local clubs, radio interviews, passing out bookmarks around town, investing in fancy promotional items like refrigerator magnets, etc.

The old ways of marketing and meeting readers can still be beneficial. In fact, I’ve done all of the above. The old methods have some validity and we would be wise to make the most of opportunities as they arise.

However, in the digital age, we have to be willing to embrace new ways of relating to readers or be left behind. Sure, we can look at examples of well-established, best-selling writers and point out how they don’t tweet with readers or blog. But I’d venture to say that if they were having their debut today, they’d have to do things very differently.

As new authors in a new age, if we hope to connect with readers, if we hope to stand out, if we hope to launch a successful writing career, we have to take a look at what’s “new” and “hot” and find where we fit in and what we can utilize.

I like Eric Qualman’s Social Media Revolution Video because it gives us a big picture of trends within social media. Here are just a few statistics from his refreshed version:

Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30-years-old

96% of them have joined a social network

Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year

60 millions status updates happen on Facebook daily

There are over 200,000,000 Blogs

34% of bloggers post opinions about products & brands

If you have four minutes to spare, his video is worth the watch. (If you watched this before, this is the refreshed version.)

While statistics are constantly changing, one thing is true—more and more people are hanging out on social media sites.

Since so many readers are online, it makes sense that we should be there too.

However, I’ve seen too many authors attempting to mesh the old and new, trying to use social media the same way as traditional marketing. If we’re going to focus our limited time online, then we have to learn to approach the new methods with a completely different mindset than the old.

Social media is about having conversations with people, dialogues. And traditional marketing is about advertising ourselves, monologues. For more on this topic, see my guest post at Marketing Tips for Authors: The New Method of Marketing: Having Conversations.

Social media marketing works best when we keep in mind three key strategies:

1. Connect: Readers want interactive experiences with authors. They don’t want authors who are untouchable divas living far away in fairy castles.

2. Respond: Readers don’t want a one-sided conversation. In fact, one blogger recently said this: “You respond to your readers through your blog and facebook which makes you seem more real, down to earth, and genuine, and I like that. It makes me want to get to know you and the type of stories you write.”

3. Maintain: Readers don’t want to see us just around the time of a book release, where we’re busy around cyberland for a couple of months and then mostly disappear until our next book comes out. Momentum builds when we stay visible and connected.

~My Summary: I admit, I’m not always the first to jump on board the bandwagon with new social media outlets. Sometimes I have to watch what others are doing and evaluate if it’s really worthwhile before I join in. But the point is, I’m willing to try new things.

As authors in the digital age, if we truly care about our readers, then we need to be willing to meet them where they’re at and relate to them in real ways.

Are you willing? And if so, what social media are you investing the most time and energy in? Where do you think is the best place to meet readers online? From a reader’s perspective, where do you like to link up with your favorite authors?


  1. I think book signings are beneficial when you have a huge fan base but for a newbie - eh. Time is probably better spend and some authors have said so too. I blog and tweet but I'd probably say tweeting is more beneficial if a writer were to choose just one.

  2. As always, you churn out a thought-provoking post. This one seems to be quite timely when you look at the bigger picture in our world right now. Social media is strongly influencing world events and it's clear it is a very powerful tool for writers, too. It has definitely changed our lives in so many ways and opened up an endless amount of doors. You're right- you've got to stick with it and interact, though. Thanks for always giving us something to think about!

  3. Great info as always! If I stay connected...can I still have the fairytale castle like the Divas?! :) Have a great weekend!

  4. Good points here. I do see many authors on twitter who are promoting the old way, just posting things like - read my book.
    The one thing I've found is that social networking is FUN! I enjoy meeting new friends and chatting. I especially love the groups I'm involved in (Verla Kay, Elevensies) Though, not sure how much that is helping to sell books, I find it's time worth spending.

    I also agree on your comment that it's different for everyone. People differ, and so do their books. I think the book's topic may help dictate which type of promotion will be more effective. Sarah Bennett Wealer wrote RIVAL and was clever enough to do a GLEE tie-in with her promotions.
    I've been connecting with dogsledding fans at races.

    I hear the 2K11 group will be posting (on facebook)the results of a questionaire that librarians did to find out where kids hear about the books they read. That will be very interesting.

  5. Willing, yes. And excited about all the increasing options in technology to market my books someday.

    I spend most of my time blogging and on Twitter. I've found Facebook and I are somewhat fair-weather friends.
    ~ Wendy

  6. This is a very timely and helpful post for me... I've struggled so much to figure out marketing and I love it when awesome authors (and marketers) like you share their tips. Thanks so much!

  7. Goodmorning, everyone! I think I'm probably preaching to the choir with many of you who read my posts! Many of you are already doing a great job online! :-)

  8. Just yesterday I tossed an old book I came across for Christian writers and speakers. It was so old school that the author sounded like one of the divas living in a castle that you mentioned! LOL

    Excellent post as always, Jody. Marketing is not easy and I sure appreciate your distilled tips. Thank you!

  9. I link up with authors through their websites which take me to their blogs. I find author blogs fascinating especially when they give me peeks into their real life. It makes them "human". :)

  10. This is wonderful! Exactly what I needed to hear right now. One of the reasons I love the writing career is because the whole marketing thing fascinates me...but recently I've been a bit stressed about trying to do all I want to do as far as that goes, as well as fitting in my writing time. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas. And those statistics are very interesting.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  11. Asking authors to build relationships with their readers is an enormous demand. Honestly, I like the old method better. Despite how much the world changes, people don't change. Some people are intensely social, others extremely private. It would be a shame if the private, cerebral types were left out of the publishing game. Our culture would suffer for it.

  12. Excellent, excellent post, Jody. Thank you. For me, I've had success through my book cover and being genuine and online and writing well. Everything else is filler. :)

  13. Hi, Jody!

    You're still going strong here, I see--wonderful!

    I'm not in your mode yet of having to market, but as a reader I find myself automatically heading to the author's website and if there is a blog option, to it. It always amazes me how many authors have time to keep posting regularly when they must be so busy writing, too. But I sure appreciate the ones who do!

  14. I'm not sure of the best way to market a book. As a writer, I spend my time on blogs and Twitter. Not only is the social part great (and addictive), but I've learned so much. Truly.

  15. Jill said: "Asking authors to build relationships with their readers is an enormous demand."

    My response: Jill, I love your honesty! You're right. It is an enormous demand, but quite honestly, it's one of the best things about being an author (at least for me). When readers contact me and let me know how much my book meant to them, it's a huge bonus. In fact, just in the last 24 hours two readers contacted me and their emails brought me to joyful tears. I'm hugely blessed by being able to relate in real and genuine ways with them. Yes, it IS work (for both the cerebral and outgoing types)! But well worth it. :-)

  16. I must add that building relationships with my readers has been one of the most rewarding parts of being a writer for me. :)

  17. Michelle, Thanks for chiming in again! Have you found any particular places that are better for connecting with your readers over others?

  18. My blog, facebook, and the top one: Google Chat. :)

  19. If the publishing world is changing (who hasn't read an article on this lately??), it stands to reason the author's world is changing too.

    I enjoy reading blogs, chatting on Twitter, and hanging out on Facebook. I wish I had more time to spend on all three, but I'm of the opinion that consistency rules. That's why I don't let too much time pass without checking in on Twitter and Facebook, even if I can only stay on for five minutes.

  20. Holy cow, Jody, this post if full of information. So much to think about . . . :-)

  21. Thanks, Jody! Great post, as per usual. I'm using the holy triumvirate of blog, Twitter, and Facebook. I'm still a newbie, though, so I still have so much to learn about the marketing thing. I appreciate your post taking the approach of the mindset or marketing rather than the tools. I haven't seen that before, and it's nice to have a big picture to work toward. Thanks again!

  22. I agree with all your points. More than once I've tried new authors based soley on their gracious and friendly interacation with readers online.

  23. Hi Jody and fellow bloggers,

    I really feel strongly about strategy number 2. If you are going to blog then what's the point if you don't interact with your readers? But I see this happen and it doesn't draw me back to that blogsite.

    It's hard to know what's best. I'm struggling now with the best way to reach potential readers for upcoming release especially since I have a pen name. It may be a matter of getting comfortable within my published author skin and the name associated with it. It's sure to be an experience. :) I look forward to it. But I'd like to make as few errors as possible along the way.

    Helpful post Jody. Thanks for your thoughts.


  24. I'm still learning and trying to find what social medium I enjoy. You've brought up some great points. Between trying to finish several books, promotion for a new release in May, and blogging that doesn't leave a lot of time, so right now I'm enjoying Twitter. Tweetdeck is a amazingly helpful, I think. Just downloaded it last night and I'm not sure what I'm doing.

    Great post!

  25. As always, your posts and information is right on target for me. I have extensive experience in marketing but you are correct in saying that there has been a shift to new methods. My blog has been up for a short two weeks and every morning I rush to my computer to see how many visitors were to my blog over the past 24 hours. It has opened a whole new world to me and I pray that I will be up to the challenge of being consistent in responding to those who post comments.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom.

  26. I'm definitely willing. This is my task over the next week or so - to start looking at getting the website set up. I know where I want to host it but I need to design it and I keep getting stuck on the fact that I have nothing really to put in it. I'm on submission, I don't even have a contract. But we've all got to start somewhere. This post and video are great reminders of why it's important to make that start, and, as you said, not right as a book might be coming out. So it's time to start a blog. Now the hard part, figuring out how in the world I can be different than all the other blogs out there to justify being out there at all.

    Questions, questions. And not too many answers... yet.

  27. What an exciting post, that music alone has me all pumped up. I can't deny I'm increasing enjoying social media but I am getting better at doing the writing first (writing done for the day :) I ought to be so much better at seo and all that because I used to work at Jobsite Uk Ltd which is supposedly superior to Monster which I am sure you ahve all heard of. Jobsite's marketing strategies were and probably still are superb and I hope when I have more time i will implement some of the things I learned there. targeted marketing is so much more effective than large scale marketing to the masses. Think smart and different rather than numbers. I think I'm digressing somewhat from the topic, maybe for another post Jody. Your posts are always fantastic. I throw mine together at the speed of light, oh well.

  28. Hey everyone! Sounds like so many of us are struggling to know where to put our energy online.

    Jen, I think it's great that you're ready to start a website and a blog. This really is a good time to do it. And honestly, coming up with author bios, a description of your book, contact info.--it's all great preparation for the future. You'll save yourself some time down the road if you get all that started now.

    Yes, Catherine! I totally agree that the music for the video is inspiring! Everytime I watch it, I get pumped up! :-)

  29. This is such a wonderful, comprehensive, intelligent post! Loved the video, too - eye-opening to say the least.

    I rarely do booksignings anymore - I did them at first, but decided not to do them anymore (exept in rare instances)... but I am active with my blog and visiting others as much as I can. I'm quite active now on Facebook. Although I'm on twitter I'm not quite as active there as I could be, I suppose!

    I'm on some other networking sites but Facebook and blog seem to be the places I am most!

  30. Hi Jody -

    Thank you for differentiating old-style marketing and new marketing as monologue versus dialogue. That one sentence clarified a lot for me.

    I agree connection should be ongoing. While I don't have a book out yet, Facebook and blogging help me meet both other writers and readers.

    I don't want to link with others for marketing purposes only, but to establish genuine friendships and acquaintances. Obviously, we can't be best buddies with everyone, but I don't want anyone to feel like my primary concern is making a sale.

    Susan :)

  31. Jody, clearly I'm a bit behind in reading this one. Was out of town spending 4 days in a college dorm with my daughter...but I digress.

    I'm learning this social marketin thing right now. What a learning curve.

    Greap post!
    p.s. I have to admit, I don't think I will do many book signings. I consider them the "open house" of the real estate market. The only people who come are your family, or lookey-loo neighbors. Just my opinion. :O)

  32. You're right, Jody--too many writers use their blogs or websites as press release and event postings when they could become so much more--and therefore benefit in sales so much more from--to the readers who love them.


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