There are many different ways to get your books into the hands of readers. But no matter what they are, they fall under one of these categories: a strategy, a tactic and, a gimmick.
What most people don’t know is that you need all three in a particular order to have success as a published author. Without a strategy, a gimmick is a money grab. A tactic without a big-picture plan is throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it works for you, just like it worked for that other author who tried it in the blog post you read.
Today we are going to break down what exactly is a strategy, a tactic and, a gimmick and how you can use all three in an ethical way to get your books seen, read and recommended by more readers.
A strategy is a wide-lens look at how you’re going to run your author platform as a whole. A plan to decide how you are going to speak, act and promote your writing to potential readers.
When building a strategy, you must consider your brand message and your lifestyle. Your approach has to work for who you are, how you live, what you write, and why you write it.
A strategy is not something that can be duplicated copied or otherwise taken word for word by another author. You can think of your strategy as your map, pinpointing all the places you’ll go. Your journey will not be the same as any other author.
Creating a good strategy can be tricky with fiction because everybody writes differently. Everybody writes for different reasons. And everyone is trying to say something a little bit different about the way the world works or how humans function within it.
You can’t Google ‘ how to build an author strategy’ and lay it out overtop your career verbatim. It will not work. You must create an approach from the inside out.
Understanding the big picture is the most critical step because a strategy is your WHY. Without your WHY, you will never be able to pinpoint your HOW—your tactics.
A tactic is a step by step process that has a very predictable outcome. If you email your readers every two weeks, you will see an increase in sales on release day. If you post on Instagram every day, you will see a steady rise in followers.
A tactic is a system that can be used by many different authors in many different ways and still have the same predictable outcome. But without a strategy, a tactic is simply a guess. A guess that may come with a lot of effort and disappointment when the results are not what you expected.
For a tactic to work for you, it has to align with your strategy—your why. Tactics only become powerful when your heart fuels them. Your genuine curiosity is what brings a tactic to life and gives you reliable, trustworthy data. Those authors who swear by a specific method have their drive, passion, and curiosity to thank for the results.
Once you’ve figured out your WHY, and aligned your HOW’s, you can move on to your WHAT…
A gimmick, if you’re not careful, is something that could come off as being sneaky slimy or unethical. On its own without strategy and tactic, Gimmicks are gross.
A gimmick is your what in the sense of ‘What are you offering your readers.’ Each author has a trick or two or ten, but the difference between the authors everyone trusts and flocks to and the authors that come off as sleazy greedy salespeople is intention. Authors who use gimmicks with wild success are ones who craft intentional, why-driven techniques to incentivize readers.
To be used effectively, they must be clear and transparent.
But they only work if you intend to benefit just your Ideal Reader.
A questionable gimmick is something like offering a $50 gift card to Amazon to sign up for a newsletter.
If you intend to pad your newsletter with vanity metrics—the most readers possible—it will backfire. You are, in essence, just bribing people into the room like a Timeshare pitch. And most of those people are only there because you promised them money and they will wreak havoc on your actual metrics which we’ll talk about in another post.
The problem with gimmicks is they’re way too easy to use for personal gain without any real consideration for your audience. Giving away gift cards, tablet readers, or any other non-genre-specific items comes off as needy and desperate.
But, once you have an established audience—using your branded strategy and picking complimentary tactics—the use of gimmicks to reward or boost your reader, spirits can be beneficial. If you had readers on your newsletter for six months to a year and you want to run a ‘win a $50 gift card’ competition, that will be seen positively by your readers.
When you do the same aimed at strangers, all you will get is Freebie Seekers. They don’t care about your books; all they want is a free iPad. They will sign up for your newsletter and then get mad at you when you send out your actual content which can mess up not only your true metrics but your mindset as well.
Those people will suck the life out of your career.
Don’t let them…
Putting it all together
By creating a solid strategy using time-tested tactics and well-intentioned gimmicks, you can create a marketing machine that finds keeps and encourages your ideal readers to continue engaging with you, buying your books, and recommending you to other readers.
Three steps to a layered marketing plan:
- Create your Why by having a clear message to a defined audience for a specific reason. Why do you write, and who is it for? (Ex: Escape into binge-worthy heart-stopping romance, for 30-something mothers who need a break from the monotony of their day to day lives.)
- Using your Why, choose the best tools to accomplish your How. How are you going to reach your readers in a way that feels authentic to your message? (Ex: Facebook reader group using your fiction to create a common bond and sense of community between these women who may feel lonely, isolated, or overwhelmed.)
- Armed with a solid understanding of your Why, and a clear path through your How, you can now decide on your What. What will you use to inspire, entertain, and engage your readers? (Ex: All Facebook group members that participate positively in the community, both with you (recommending your books) and with your community (encouraging others), are entered into a quarterly draw for a Love Myself reader basket full of goodies like books, journals, pins, beauty products, or luxury items.)
By starting at the top and moving through your marketing plan, you will create a layered and true-to-you marketing plan that will do more than get you book sales—it builds an engaged and sustainable community of readers who love you and what you do.