Community Building: An Author's Marketing Secret
I’ve worked with hundreds of authors over the years to help them build their profiles and sell books. Some have catapulted themselves into bestsellers, and some have struggled to sell books beyond their friends and family.
So what’s the difference? Is it genre? Is it publicity budget? Is it the quality of the work?
The common denominator among the most successful authors I work with can be boiled down to one thing: community. Building it, fostering it, and providing value for it.
Let’s take self-published author Angela Miller as an example. Angela is a bereaved parent, and her book, You Are the Mother of All Mothers, is a gift to give a parent in their darkest, saddest days after losing a child. Heavy stuff. The heaviest.
Angela is a bestselling author many times over, and it’s not because she hired an expensive publicity team. It’s not because she took out ads all over Facebook and Amazon. What Angela did (and continues to do) was simple: she created a community called A Bed for My Heart. Check out her website, her Facebook page, and her Instagram to see what I mean. Her posts honor her readers and the reasons they have for finding her and her book. Angela provides comfort, support, and encouragement consistently.
She isn’t selling a book there. She’s creating a community. That community trusts her and relies on her. So when they see that she has a book available, they jump on the chance to purchase it. Now that's selling without selling.
Maybe your book isn’t quite so specific, but that doesn’t mean this community-building work doesn’t apply to you. Maybe community building means something different for you: a conference, an event series, or a helpful blog. Maybe it means attending events, joining communities that support the arts and your genre. Maybe it means supporting other writers along their journeys, either by teaching or providing editorial assistance.
Selling books is important. But let’s be honest and admit that people don’t pursue a career in the creative arts for the promise of riches. They do it because they're called to it and because they care about it deeply. That means that your marketing opportunities should go far beyond hitting a sales goal. They should be focused on that sense of fulfillment that comes from not only achieving your own personal goals but impacting others as a result of your creative work.
And the best news about this? Creating community should be enormously gratifying for you. Enjoy the process!
Roseanne Cheng is the author of four books, including Buzz: The Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing. She worked as marketing director at Wise Ink Creative Publishing for over three years and recently created an online school for writers called Evergreen Authors, where she teaches the art of selling books. Find her at @teachablelit.