We’ve all heard the saying ‘practice makes perfect’ at one time or another, and book marketing is no exception. So when Tellwell author Rachael Bell-Irving decided she was going to publish her first book – Demons at the Doorstep, she immediately began exploring and experimenting with marketing in preparation for her book’s release.
First, she embellished her online author presence with a Facebook Page and website, and began to establish a voice through social media and a blog. While she knew it was important to be on multiple online platforms, Bell-Irving decided to focus on the tool she felt most comfortable with: Instagram.
She did her due-diligence researching effective hashtags and exploring community spaces like “Bookstagram.” As she began to post content, she started to pick up on some of the nuances. Beyond the importance of imagery, Bell-Irving discovered the value of allowing your personality to come through.
“People like to know who you are behind the scenes and behind the screen,” she says.
Some of her most well-received content on Instagram has been posts of herself – whether they were related to the writing process or not. Even online, the reading community seems to appreciate a personable, humanistic approach to brand awareness.
Another advantage of the pre-marketing process for Bell-Irving was getting a better sense of her genre and her target audience. Prior to exploring the literary community on social media, she didn’t realize her writing is tailored to young adult readers.
Having learned that, she found her approach online shifted to accommodate the interests and habits of YA readers specifically. The most prominent thing she discovered was the strength of the community she had become a part of through her writing. Not only are YA readers and writers extremely interactive with one another, but being genuinely invested is quintessential to building support within the community.
The concept of “being a reader as much as a writer” goes a long way, Bell-Irving explains. So, she started to get back into reading again to really immerse herself with her audience.
Thematic profiles also seem to draw in a consistent audience, especially when it comes to reviews, says Bell-Irving. She’s come across quite a few Instagram accounts often featuring books alongside artisanal coffees. Despite the “unrealistic coffee expectations,” they seem to have become a trademark of the book blogging community, she laughs.
The author’s online engagement also led to her discovery of YA subscription boxes – a themed box featuring a new release and other book-related memorabilia. YA enthusiasts can subscribe to receive a monthly gift box from companies such as OwlCrate, LitJoy Crates or BookCase Club.
“I would certainly feel like I’ve made it if I was featured in one,” says Bell-Irving.
So far, starting early has paid off for the author, not only in a strong online following of avid young adult readers, but more importantly in gaining a better sense of what’s out there and what works to reach her audience.
Bell-Irving describes her pre-marketing efforts as a good warmup to develop consistency for the book release. She’s also found the practice useful for gaining early feedback from those outside her personal network.
Using Wattpad – an online tool for authors to publicly share their writing with a forum of other authors and readers, Bell-Irving released some of the material she’d been working on to gain insights from preliminary readers. Not only was it a confidence builder, but it also paved the way for some early unbiased reviews.
While growing her following, this gave Bell-Irving a chance to further engage her audience. “It’s nice to have a space to direct people to,” she says. “It became a useful tool for sneak peaks.”
Bell-Irving’s biggest piece of advice to her fellow first time authors is to try to plan a few weeks in advance. While it’s important to be flexible in your approach, it’s critical to gain that initial exposure, she explains. And for that, you’ll need at least a skeleton idea of what you’re going to do next, she adds.
“I didn’t have an extensive plan to start, but I knew I didn’t want my book to come out and have people saying ‘Who’s this person?’” says Bell-Irving. “It’s important to give yourself time to take breaks, and to be patient throughout the process, especially when you’re learning.”
With a group of loyal followers waiting for the release of Demons at the Doorstep, Bell-Irving says she’s onto planning her social media countdown. Now that she’s laid the groundwork, she says she’s looking forward to exploring new marketing methods post-release.
Demons at the Doorstep will soon be available online through Amazon, Chapters and Barnes and Noble. For more on the author, visit her website: www.rbellirving.ca.
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