Let’s talk marketing.
Now, we’ve talked about social media and graphics and ARC teams, all of which are also marketing, but we haven’t really talked about active vs passive marketing, or how to ride the waves, or even how trad pub glorifies the first 30 days when they’re a lie, or even about the push. So much goes into marketing for an indie, things that you wouldn’t normally think of, and a lot of what I’ve already discussed, things I encourage and recommend, are all a huge part of it, but marketing as a whole… it’s a constant. It’s something that will ebb and flow, and, if you watch your royalty numbers, you can see when you need to push a little harder, or when you can relax. And, every aspect of what you do when you present yourself can be seen as marketing. In particular, your author brand is a huge part of this.
So, let’s break it down. Let’s talk marketing. And let’s talk how to not screw yourself over from the start.
Now, when you see the word author brand, the first thing that might pop into mind is a logo and a color scheme, which is an author brand… but those are the VISUAL aspects of your author brand. An author branding goes so much further than just a cute image and your color palette. Your author brand is what defines you, and it’s what other people perceive about you. It’s what people think of when they recommend you to others. It’s how they describe you.
My Author Brand is what has personally made me the most money and has made me recognizable on other platforms. I’m the girl who writes about fat girls fucking, fat girls getting railed, fat girls with wolf shifters, fat girls living their lives. That is my author brand. Unapologetically fat, supporting fat main characters, and fat femmes living their best lives in the body they exist in. I do not tolerate bigotry or fatphobia, and I start for diversity within writing and books and life and—
THAT is my brand. That is what people know me for. That is what defines me. And that is what I lean into with my marketing.
If you don’t have a defined author brand, then how are you going to make a name for yourself and bring people in?
Now listen, you don’t have to have a cute slogan. Is it nice when it rolls off the tongue? Sure. But having something catchy and a cute logo isn’t going to do more for you than having a platform that readers know you by.
And really, I shouldn’t say, you need an author brand, because, you already do. You already have a way that people perceive you. The question is, do you control it? Do you control the narrative? Do you direct people to perceive you in a certain way? Or are they simply left to their own assumptions because you are not clear?
Listen, before you try to say that your brand doesn’t matter with your books, it does. It 100% does. Because your brand is about who you are and what you write and what you stand for, which in turn, will show up in your books. People say they believe in the death of the author when the author is problematic, but the fact is, every author puts a piece of themselves into their work. Without question.
So, let’s define your brand. How to work it out, and how to work with it.
First things first… you have to be authentic. There’s a lot of fake people in this world, so make your author brand authentic. I am chaotic with my ADHD, so I allow for my chaos, while a little under control, to run with me. I also am fat, hence why I write about fat girls. You want to make your brand something authentic to you. If you love and are passionate about what you’re writing about, then you want for the readers to see that, to see you. You want them to see that you love these books that you are writing as much as they love books similar to yours, so that in turn, they’ll want to read your books.
Your passion will pull them in.
From there, you need to really figure out your target audience. Are you trying to pull in readers who are a little older? People with similar life circumstances? Who do you want reading your books? What similarities are between y’all, that you can lean into to make part of your brand?
And then, you need to think, how do you want people to perceive you? What about you is going to pull those ideal readers in? What about you is going to make you stand out in their eyes? What passion project, or what life experience, or what is it. What is going to make your readers want to trust you into reading your books?
And don’t concentrate and go too niche for one book. While you certainly don’t want to be broad and don’t want to be all encompassing, you don’t want to lock yourself in either, because your author brand should go across multiple genres. And like… it doesn’t have to be anything serious. Your author brand could be a trope, or a kink, or something that will always be present in every single book. That is where the catchy phrase idea comes in – once you know what links it all together, you can then figure out how to assemble a catch phrase, and then your logo.
I write about fat girls, so my logo features a larger body. That is my catch phrase. Etc.
Figure out your brand. Eventually get your author branding with logos and fonts and colors done. And then lean into it. You want to figure out how you want people to perceive you, so then they want to connect with you and trust you and be invested in you. And that’s how you draw them in to read your books.
ACTIVE VS PASSIVE
Something exceptionally important that a lot of people seem to miss out on is passive marketing possibilities. Everyone goes all in for active marketing, which is great for short term bursts, but it’s not going to hold over for long term stability. Active marketing is something you really do during your push and the first thirty days, but passive marketing is something going on all the time, and with a little bit of setup and a little bit of research, it can put in the work.
So let’s break this down.
What even is Active vs Passive?
Active is what it says – you are actively taking steps to market your book. This is things such as Ads or reaching out to readers to posting on social media to doing newsletter swaps. Passive? That’s the things you set up once and walk away and it keeps helping you out. It puts in the work for you.
Active will take big bursts of energy and putting yourself out there, and will likely result in high returns, however, it often also only lasts for a short rise. Passive will take longer to put into effect and to then build, but it will be continuously working for you.
So where do you concentrate your efforts? It’s a mix of both, but, you start with the passive. Passive takes longer. But it’s there to fall back on.
Let’s take this a step further, though.
Passive marketing, at it’s root, is based a lot on doing research and then putting that research into effect. Now, I know what you’re thinking – passive isn’t going to give the big bursts of output? It’s going to take research time? And more time in general? Okay, but…
FOR THE MOST PART, what I’ve been talking about on this platform… is passive marketing.
So your website, and setting up your newsletter with automation, and having keywords and categories, having a great cover, a great blurb, things to pull your readers in that by simply existing, will market your book… that’s passive marketing! All of that is passive marketing! These are things that you put into play that can pull readers to you. Something that you do once and hopefully shouldn’t have to touch again. Now, will you need to update your keywords in the future or add books to your website or send out newsletters? Sure. Yes. They still take time. But just having people on your email list is a step forward!
ALSO!!! FIGURING OUT YOUR HASHTAGS! THAT IS… part of active marketing, but it’s a passive thing in the future to already have them figured out.
Active marketing is not sustainable, and will cause burnout. That’s why you have to have the passive set into place.
Look at other posts I’ve made. All throughout my blog is examples of passive marketing. You do the research one time, spend a few hours working on it, and boom, it’s done. It exists.
The reason for the big active vs passive… because… yeah.
This… section has to do with the next topic. Because, Active Marketing.
Active Marketing is where you are reaching out to people and trying to pull them in as a reader. So, reaching out to book bloggers is a big one, yes, but there’s also things like facebook ads or doing newsletter swaps and sending out your newsletters, and doing bookbub or bookspry or whatever marketing advertisement boosts, and just…
Those are all active marketing things, but also, your actual social media posts, where you are trying to connect to your readers, that is active marketing. Sharing in another author’s facebook group. Or asking people to promote your book on their pages. Or sending out newsletter things that will draw readers in.
All of it is active marketing, and, it’s an energy sucker, it takes time, it takes spoons…
It’s necessary, but it can also burn you out really fast. That’s why you have to have the passive already in place to fall back on.
I just also want to make a little note here, because, what I’ve labeled as passive and active, others might disagree with, sort of, but…
You can set yourself up with passive things that will help you in the active moments. Like I said above, hashtags. You will already have those created to put into use for your active. You can also have things like templates, and your author brand (meaning the color scheme) and quote posts and… things you pull out of a hat. Things that are not you actively pushing your book but still marketing, that you can throw out there when you have a lack of spoons. Those are the inbetweens. The things that are… sort of both but neither both?
Things with being an author is very confusing, but. Figure this stuff out. Have the passive stuff done. Have yourself set up with the inbetween stuff, so that when you get to the active, you have a better chance of success, because…
I’m going to info dump on all of you really quick. A lot of people will tell you that the first thirty days of a book release are the most important. That anything after that doesn’t matter. That you should have readers chomping at the bit, and follow some insane schedule about a title release, cover reveal, blurb reveal, pre-order link, all of that, spanning months and months and months and—
You’re indie, babes. That’s trad shit, with trad marketing budgets. You’re an indie author, and if people see something about your book and like the idea of it, you better have a clickable link for them to pre-order or save it to their tbr or something, because otherwise, you’ve lost them.
Now, will some people go to the newsletter or subscribe to your social media? Sure, yes. Passive Marketing stuff, but…
People want it right then and there. If something is out of sight, it is out of mind. Your book better be accessible when they come across it, or boom it’s over. And if they’re a KU reader and it’s going into KU, or they only like paperbacks and it’s not available yet? You’ve lost them.
Now, is marketing before release important? Yes, of course it is, but—
okay, hang on. New header.
MARKETING BEFORE RELEASE
Let’s talk about what you should be doing before release, and what you shouldn’t be doing before release.
Should you be encouraging interest in your books? Yes. You should.
Should you be pulling out your heaviest hitter marketing ideas? No. You shouldn’t.
You want to pull people in on the buildup to release. You want to wet their appetite. But, your marketing should also have a call to action. A reason to stick around. So, you should have a way to get them onto your newsletter, like, offering the first chapter of the book that you just teased them with that they can’t read for a month. Or, promise to do teasers regularly building up. And, really, this should all take place AFTER you have a pre-order link up, that way they can add it to their tbr or pre-order it.
Also! Have the link to your pre-order (books2read for universal) and the link to goodreads or whatever other bookish platform so that they can SAVE IT EASILY.
Make sure to note in your marketing WHEN your book is coming out. Because they’ll want to know.
THAT STATED – this maybe doesn’t apply if you already have other books out, because, you can then go and say hey if you’re interested in this one, go read the other one, etc, but…
I heavily market the books I already have out, because, until they can put their hands onto the books living inside my head and my google drive, they’re not bringing in royalties. Not really.
Oh, but what about the first thirty days after release and the big push before release?
What, are we trad now? boo.
THE FIRST 30 DAYS ARE A LIE
I don’t know how many different videos I’ve seen from Author Coaches or Author Mentors or Trad Authors talking about the first thirty days and how important they are to your book being a big success. And basically saying, the only money you’re going to make is the money you make in the first thirty days, and after that, welp, your book is trash and you just need to work on the next one.
I mean, look at how shocked people were that Babel (WE SUPPORT THE UNION STRIKE OVER HERE) went back onto the Best Seller list at the end of 2022! Like, people were shook. You would think the book was months or years old, right? No. The book came out September 2022. Like… the book was three months old when it went back onto the best seller list. Like, it was a brand new baby book! And people were shocked!
Why? Well, because once your book releases in trad… they stop pushing it. Particularly after the end of the calendar year and the “best of” lists have come out… they move on. It’s time for trad to start pushing the next book from that author (or that genre if the author’s book didn’t do good enough) rinsing and repeating that cycle of releasing the title, then a teaser, then a blurb, then a cover, slowly but surely building up to a big push on release day and the first thirty days, and—
So why do I say it’s a lie? Because look at Ruby Dixon. Ice Planet Barbarians isn’t new, and she’s not a new author, and yet, her books completely took the world by storm, going from indie to now trad releases on the shelves at Target and Walmart! Because Amy Dawson’s Blindsided got number one in the Amazon store last year after being out over five years! Because One Night in Garoureve still randomly breaks the top 500 on the Kindle Store at random and gets itself another orange flag, despite being over a since release.
With indie, a book never stops drawing revenue. All it takes is the one right person to read your book and promote it on their blog or their podcast or their website or their reading list, and boom, you’ve got a best seller on your hands. And tiktok is famous for blowing books up. I mean, hello. Look at me.
Indie books, it’s a wave, and you have highs and lows, and you just have to ride it. And it goes up when you have a new release, or a big marketing push, or whatever, and then it goes down, and up, and—
Don’t consider your success to only be based on the first thirty days. Does the Amazon algorithm push your harder those first thirty days? Sure, but that’s not the end all be all.
Publishing is a marathon. Just keep going.
THE BIG PUSH
Yes, the first thirty days are a lie, but that does not mean you do not do a big push at release. This is the book you’ve been edging and teasing everyone about for MONTHS. You’ve had people pre-ordering it and reading the first chapter and seeing your moodboards and adding it to their TBR, and now it’s here. Now is not the time to slack on marketing!
You should have pretty graphics made. You should have quote posts made. You should have places where you are planning to market it. You big hit videos. Your… everything! You should be building up to release day with months of marketing stuff. Even as I’m writing a book, I will save quotes to later put onto marketing pieces. I’m saving things to my pinterest to later turn into an aesthetic video. I have sounds saved, and filters, and…
When release day comes, you need to do the active marketing. You have to push. Do the newsletter swaps. Do a party in your FB group. Go live on tiktok. Invite others to join you. Swap with friends where they share details. ASK YOUR FRIENDS TO PROMOTE YOUR BOOK TOO. A lot of people will promote it without you even asking, but seriously, if you release a book, send me the damn link to your promo video or your it’s released post, and I’ll share it to my story or repost it or something.
ASK PEOPLE TO TALK ABOUT IT.
You should have already had an ARC team who will hopefully share it as well, but ask your author community to help! And keep going with the waves! Don’t give up!
Honestly, looking at my numbers, I have a big number of orders on the first day, which is the pre-orders, and then 2-3 days later my KU reads go up, and then orders go up, and then Page reads, and—
Like I said, it’s waves.
And you need to be posting. A lot. This is when you post the most. Post constantly. Post everywhere. Every platform.
Because you’ve been edging readers for months at this point, and all of those readers who didn’t click the pre-order link or the subscribe to newsletter button? You need to find them and remind them that, months ago, they were interested in your book. And now, it’s available.
The newness of something makes it extra shiny, and people love extra shiny things.
But after that?
I’ve mentioned throughout this post that marketing and royalties come in waves, and, I want to talk about that a little further. In particular… I want to give a few ideas as to how and when to recognize that you need to actively push your book, or push a series, or push one book in the series, or what. This can also play into doing a free book or a discounted book, although I only recommend doing that if you have OTHER books that they can also go and purchase and read, so it’s not all royalty losses.
Let’s talk the waves.
FOR A MOMENT LET’S TALK THEORETICALLY AS THOUGH THIS WAS A PERFECT WORLD WHERE SHIT WORKED OUT HOW WE DESIRED.
With Passive Marketing, you will have a baseline. That is the minimum amount you make based on people finding your books via categories and keywords, plus also your already current activities on social media, and the average person (not a big book promoter) reading and recommending your book on social media / reviewing it, and their friends seeing it. Then, with Active Marketing, each time you promote your book in some way, with a big push that gets traction, you will see an increase. This is where your wave goes up. You then post again, and get more traction. And once more, higher the wave goes. Then, when you stop actively marketing, people will continue to see that burst as the algorithm continues to push it out, the burst of people who saw your book will then share it, and yet, the wave continues to go down, until it returns to baseline.
This is the theoretical wave. You push your book, wave goes up with page reads and orders and interest, and then the wave goes down.
And, theoretically, if it is a series, the wave goes up on book 1, and then up on book 2, and so on and so forth. You should, theoretically speaking, watch the wave flow from one book to the next.
That stated, this is all theoretical in a perfect world, we all know that marketing isn’t really like that, and particularly if you are an author who relies on tiktok, with an algorithm that is constantly changing and utterly unpredictable…
Still, the theory of the wave does apply, particularly as you publish more books. Picking which books to promote when, when to remind people of bonus content, when to republish art, when to go on a week long promotion campaign, that can all be determined by the wave. If one book is going up up up, keep pushing it, but also take note if another one is going down, or is stagnate. When a book is on a downward path, switch over. Remind those people who just discovered one of your books that you have others for them to read as well once they’ve finished the first.
But, does this mean you shouldn’t constantly be marketing? Well, no, not at all. You should always be doing some sort of existing on social media, but there’s a difference between posting general brand content, updating people about your projects, and sharing old quote posts, vs posting 2-3 videos a day on tiktok, multiple reels on instagram, and sharing your books in facebook groups. The first is more general marketing, floating, while the second is targeted marketing to increase the wave.
And yet, don’t study one day too hard. Let’s say you’ve been going up all week, then on a day there’s a sharp decline, then the next day it’s back up again, continuing the wave. Don’t stress about one bad day. Like I said, this is a marathon.
All of this is just to say, don’t burn yourself. Pace yourself. Continue the push, continue with yourself, continue existing, and don’t let burnout get to you.
Set yourself up for success. Know yourself and your brand. Have templates for the physical aspect of the brand with colors and fonts. Have quotes saved from books. Have ways to share things. Have graphics made. Have your various platforms existing. Have a newsletter and a website. Have call to actions available in different places.
And then, when the wave goes down, push it back up again in a burst. Take advantage of the free things out there before you dive right into paid ads. Work with other authors. Ride the waves together.
And don’t stress so much about release. Plan it out leading up to the release day, so that you can have a successful first thirty days, but also don’t doubt yourself if your numbers are not as high as you wanted. A book will never stop being available to be read and earn royalties unless you pull it from circulation. The race isn’t over. Just keep pushing.