How to Market Yourself as an Author Before You Have a Book to Sell

How to Market Yourself as an Author Before You Have a Book to Sell

September 2015 saw the release of three of Chuck’s new books, the, the, and his anti-clown humor book .

Chuck will pick one commenter of this post at random after two weeks to receive their choice of any of his books. Must live within US/Canada to receive a print book. Otherwise, he can send a PDF ebook. Beware clowns. Update: The giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who commented! Our winner is Marlene Bumgarner.

Let’s say you have a book out and want to promote it. So you a website and offer to write a free guest post (or several) for them.

In exchange for providing the free content, you have some requests:

  • You want the column(s) to be accompanied by your book cover
  • You want the column(s) to be accompanied by your headshot
  • You want the column(s) to be accompanied by your bio, with a link in the bio that will redirect readers to a buy page for the book — Amazon or IndieBound or whatever you ask

Some people may have further things to promote, like classes or workshops or consultation services or an eBay profile full of knickknacks. It doesn’t matter.

The point is that if you’re writing the column for free, what you want out of the exchange is the chance to promote something. Simple and easy.

This is Guest Blogging 101, and everyone wins in this deal.

The best time to promote yourself: now

But what if you don’t have a book or anything to sell yet? What are you selling then? Simple:  You’re selling a connection to yourself.

Sure, you don’t have a book for sale now, but you will in the future — so you need to connect yourself to interested individuals now so you can inform them of the book release down the road.

You can encourage potential readers to stay connected to you in a few simple ways:

  • Follow you on Twitter
  • Sign up for your free email newsletter
  • Like your Facebook fan page, or befriend you on your personal page
  • Subscribe to the RSS feed for your blog

If you get someone to connect with you in any of these ways (preferably in multiple ways), then you establish a lasting connection with a person that doesn’t likely disappear.

This means that when your book comes out in three weeks or three years, you still have an avenue to inform them of its existence, and thus possibly make a sale. This is your author platform, plain and simple.  

Quick note from Chuck: I am now taking on clients as a . If your query or synopsis or manuscript needs a look from a professional, please consider my . Thanks!

Give people a real reason to connect with you

Not sold on this concept? Let’s imagine a simple, watered-down scenario.

Say you get a call from the local Toastmasters Group. The coordinator says, “We just had a last-minute speaker cancellation. I’ve got 50 people in this room waiting to hear a speech. I got your name from [acquaintance] and she said you were an aspiring writer and a very good speaker. I wonder if you might be able to come down and talk to my crowd.”

Your answer is yes. You throw on some nice clothes and head down. Then for one hour you speak in front of this Toastmasters crowd about [anything you want].

At the end of the speech, you motion to a sign-up sheet near the door. “If you enjoyed what you heard today,” you say, “please sign up for my email newsletter so I can update you from time to time on my writing.”

This is the key element. You’ve given them 60 minutes of information for free. The whole payoff is them signing up for your newsletter.

Then all 50 people slowly get up and mosey out the door, with not one leaving an email on your sheet.

If that happens, then what was the point of speaking?

Fifty people just walked out the door and you have no means to them later.

If you don’t have a product or service to immediately promote and sell, you must connect to people so you can have a selling avenue down the road, or else they can slip away forever.

If they befriend you on Facebook or subscribe to your blog, then you nabbed that valuable connection and can potentially get them interested in your future products and services when you reach out down the line.

Keep in mind that people need motivation to stay in with you — they need to know you’ll be giving them something of value.

Let’s just say the Guide to Literary Agents didn’t exist and I had no books to sell, but I did have social media accounts.

In my bio on a guest post, I would say, “If you’re looking for a literary agent, check out Chuck’s blog, sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter. All those channels include free information about queries, submissions, new agents, interviews, platform and more.”

In other words, I don’t just say “And follow me on social media — pretty please.” I drive home the incentives of connecting with me.

And by doing that, more people link with me online, and I gather more followers to inform of a book down the road.

What tips would you add for forging relationships with potential readers?

Filed Under: Marketing

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  • Jenna Brownson says:

    Your point of three weeks or three years is a salient one, especially in light of the slow wheels of publishing.

    Thanks for pouring a little lighter fluid on the embers,
    Jenna Brownson

  • Good information here for writers even if they don’t have a book to sell yet. Thanks! I passed it along.

  • S.K. Lamont says:

    Thanks Chuck! I’m looking at ways I can entice people into taking action to sign up for a newsletter, I’m an unpublished middle-grade fantasy writer! Any ideas are much appreciated, have not begun the query process yet.

  • LD Blenn says:

    thanks for the encouragement to get going!! I have several projects, and yes, this is exactly what I need to be doing, PROMOTION: self-promotion!! Chuck, thanks for the great post!!

  • Kathy says:

    Thanks Chuck. I see that all it takes is the willingness to put yourself out there. That’s the best way to interact and find future readers. I’m going to amp up my WordPress account and get to writing on my blog, it may just pay off. Thanks for the tip.

  • M.E. Bond says:

    I always enjoy your literary agents blog and I hope I’m not to late to enter the draw!

  • Valencia says:

    I am writing a book, a book that has been inside me for years. On chapter 4, hoping to finish it soon

  • Ben Oliveira says:

    Awesome text! I live in Brazil and we don’t really have a lot of literary agents over here… So the author has to build his network to sell his books.
    Thanks for the tips.

  • Tikaani Moon says:

    Thanks for sharing. I realizes this is what I have been doing all along, but you have given me new ideas about the newsletters, but I have many blogs on different sites and signed up for every social media site that is available, except Facebook, I will not use Facebook’s services for anything anymore after what they have done to my account.

  • Victoria says:

    Great post!

    I have been toying with the notion of creating a SEPARATE online platform for one of my writing projects because it will have a very different (fantasy) audience than my existing (business and life improvement non-fiction) audience.

    This post is confirmation that I need to develop that separate platform – especially as I intend to use an alias. I’m just not too excited about starting from scratch – a real pain in the derriere!

    Nonetheless – thanks and I’m a new fan! 🙂

  • Sheri Larsen says:

    You had me at clowns. Although, I hate clowns, terrified of them. 😉

    This is a very timely post for me, and something I’ve pondered for some time. What it really boils down to is being personable, which is hard for some (probably most) writers; me included. Exploring the dangers, issues, and joys of the world through words of fiction from behind a screen is one thing. Sharing about myself is completely another. I’ve recently sold my first two books (one YA, the other MG), so I’m revamping my poor-excuse-for-a-website to be more about the books, all while showing who I am, what I like, why I write, and so forth. I’m also developing a tab specifically for writers containing helpful links and trying to come up with something unique just for readers. We’ll see what happens… You’ve given some wonderful suggestions, as well as encouragement. Thanks so much!

  • Cat Darensbourg says:

    Look, you cannot sell a product you do not have.


    That is lying.

    Think of what would happen if any other person (let us say a medical doctor claiming he/she had finished their schooling) tried to even set a broken bone in a hospital.

    It is called lying on your resume. You can be fired, sued, and even jailed for it.

    Also, anyone in support of lying on a resume has tarred themselves with the same brush by posting their positive opinions about it here.

    “Okay!” you may argue, “I am still a writer! I just know it!”

    That’s like saying you are a parent before you have had a kid (and are even still a virgin).

    Would you sign a contract with one of the big publishers in New York for your vapor-ware, then say “I’ll have 60,000 (which is terribly short for an adult book) proofread, polished, self-edited, worth-you-while pages on your desk by tomorrow, like we irrivocably agreed for by 6 AM tomorrow!!!!”

    Not even a team of well trained Saturday Night Live comedy writers would try it. The Colbert team would shriek in real terror and run to lock themselves in the well and deservedly paid-for New York Lofts on the *good* side of town. You irritate one editor, you irritate them all — trust me. Ms. Snark says so — and she would not represent you for a falsified contract. That would ruin her agently reputation. Even under the guise of her pure networking sharpness, it “just wouldn’t do!”

    Alienate one agent, you alienate them all.

    Would you lie — have you lied — to the main way you make money? Did you say you went to Harvard when you haven’t even finished grade school? That is what this article is practically insisting that you do.

    Sorry. Keep yourselves honorable at all costs. And never EVER plagerize to make a deadline. In these days on computer savvy text crawlers, your wit would show up like lightening bugs next to the real lightening (rephrased quote from Mark Twain).

    Do not be so foolish.

    The only person you are lying to if you resume pad is yourself.

    –(Author of 22 plays, all performed, 4 Off-Off Broadway for Samuel French Semi Finals Competition in 2004, 2005, 2006 & 2007. Annoyed Friend of SFWA who will point other people to this page)

    • Lisa Rowan says:

      Cat, I don’t think the author is suggesting you lie at all when using this method. It’s about building your brand by embracing your niche, building your credibility, and finding opportunities to share your expertise. Just because your big project is still in progress doesn’t mean it’s not valid. There’s a big difference between “Fake it until you make it” and outright lying, and in this post the latter isn’t even implied.
      Thanks for reading,
      Lisa Rowan

  • charlie says:

    These days it’s promotion overload. Everyone is promoting.With or without something to promote. At some point it is so saturated out there, much of it becomes noise, background noise. At some point it will have to reverse or take on different form. I live with the silly romantic notion that my book will mean something for what it is. Yes with some authentic promotion just not premature desperate attempts at being relevant for the sake of being relevant.