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Online marketing can simply be defined as “any effort to spread the word about your product or service that uses the internet to reach people,” and that would be it.

In the publishing industry, online marketing has been a great tool for the success of a lot of authors. Regardless if these successful authors are with a traditional publisher or if they’re self-published, online marketing contributed a lot to their achievements.

But who should really be doing the marketing? When an author chooses who they publish with, the marketing pitch is usually the deciding factor. Publishers typically have marketing programs that involve the utilization of the social media platforms; authors would then get assistance with the setup and with some of its content kick-starters. While this has been proven to be helpful, sometimes, it just isn’t enough. This is where the authors are reeled in.

It has been implied over the years that the publisher are also the experts in marketing. In Chris Smith’s article titled “Why Every Indie Author Should Master Digital Marketing,” he got to ask Chris McVeigh, a publishing and SEO guru, “Why do you feel strongly about author marketing?”

McVeigh responded, “For most of the 20 odd years I’ve worked in the publishing industry, there’s been a tacit agreement between authors and publishers that the publishers were the partner with the appropriate resources and the in-house expertise to market their author’s work. Sadly though, a combination of technology and a shift in the business models of the largest publishers has resulted in an unprecedented number of new titles being brought to the market—publishers’ resources have been squeezed and their marketing and promotional capabilities are no longer as effective as they used to be.”

He also added, “Like it or not, if authors want to be certain that their books have the highest chance of success they have to accept the fact that they’re going to have to shoulder more of the responsibility for marketing themselves and their work.”

This would be easy to agree with for most of the authors, especially the tech-savvy ones. But what about those who aren’t? Not everyone really knows how to market their own material. This could be overwhelming, but everyone has to start somewhere if they wish to thrive in the industry. Kevin Kruse, a Forbes contributor, summarized a list of tips from Fauzia Burke’s Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step By Step Guide.

Burke’s 8 Tips to Help Authors Build A Long-Term Marketing Plan

1. Know your audience. “Understanding your readers will help you devise the best digital marketing strategy for you. Online marketing is customized and personalized. It is essential for you to know your audience so you can find them and serve them best,” Burke explains. “You should know your readers’ age group, gender, interests, which social media outlets they use and where they hang out online. The more you know your audience, the better your marketing will be.”

2. Get a professional website. “Your website is the only place online where you are in total control. No one else can change the rules like they can on other social media sites. Other social media platforms don’t cancel out the need for a website because your website is where you call the shots,” Burke attests. If you are only on social media sites, you are always playing another person’s game. You don’t want your online presence to be in the hands of someone else.

3. Be selective. Choose one or two social media platforms to start. Don’t feel like you have to do the next shiny thing online or keep up with all social media platforms. Just start conversing with your audience by selecting a platform where you think you will find your readers. You can always adjust accordingly as you build your community.

4. Engage. You can’t be a bullhorn. You have to go for engagement. You want people to talk on your page. “Don’t get wooed by big numbers. You want a smaller community that’s engaged as opposed to a large audience that’s not engaged. Look at ways to engage the audience you do have,” Burke states. “Take very good care of the people who have given you their permission to talk with them—whether that’s through a newsletter, blog, or on Facebook. Give them your best.”

5. Put your reader first. When you are creating content to connect with your community, always filter your content through a lens of your reader. Burke suggests asking yourself some questions: “How are you serving your reader? What value are you providing? What problem are you solving? Look at your engagement and see what people are sharing. Be natural but ask yourself: What is my audience telling me? When the content you create solves a problem your audience has, that’s when you authentically build lasting relationships.”

6. Think marathon, not sprint. “It’s OK if your marketing efforts don’t immediately go viral. Be consistent in creating buzz about your brand and book by communicating daily on your social media sites,” Burke explains. “Think big picture because carving out your niche, creating a presence and building a following takes time.” Write down the goal for writing your book and read it for inspiration when things get hard.

7. Follow the data. Internet publicity is customized. “Everything you do online has a digital footprint and analytics. Take a step back and assess what you need to do by following the data. Measure what works and what doesn’t and adapt accordingly,” Burke advises. Now you can spend your time on the things that are most effective for your brand and not what worked for someone else.

8. Tap into your professional and personal networks. Consider reaching out to people individually to create buzz and spread the word about your upcoming book. “You might think a blanket email will do the trick, but a one-on-one grassroots effort will be more effective in the long-term for connection, social shares, testimonials, and sales of your book,” Burke assures.

This may all sound like too much to do—because it is. But as an author, it is important that you start to learn and understand how online marketing works. If you’ve been working with your publisher on the marketing of your material, taking part would really be a great help.

Always remember, “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.”

“An Author’s Guide to Digital Marketing” by Kevin Kruse (
Based on Fauzia Burke’s Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-by-Step Guide

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