Marketing & the Spirit of Giving

Marketing is about finding ways to tell people about your book so that they’ll buy it, right?

Technically, yes. But in the unpredictable and often mysterious world of books, it turns out that one of the very best marketing tools, particularly à propos in this holiday season but equally valid year-round, is…giving.

Perhaps this is because unlike so many other products, books are social by nature. They spark ideas, memories, questions and conversations we want to share. They can trigger a whole gamut of emotions from wrath and disgust to adulation and joy, making readers want to reach out and connect, see who else felt the same way. And everything that’s social has sharing — giving — at its heart.

For authors, this means thinking not in terms of what others can do for you (“Buy my book!” “Click on my link!” “Write a glowing review!”) but in terms of what youcan do for the reading community. What hands-on advice or unique insight you can offer in articles, guest posts or on your own blog? What nugget of humor might help a peer through a bad day? Do you have an answer to a question weighing on somebody’s mind? A contact a friend might find helpful? Offer it. Stay open to helping, no matter what the request is or who has made it.

A few other ways to give as an author are:

  • Share others’ blog posts and book news on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
  • Interview people on your blog. Invite them to write guest posts.
  • Contribute to online conversations. In other words (*hint*), leave comments on this and other blogs. There are also dozens of Facebook groups out there for writers, including the Grub Street Self Publishing Network (you don’t have to be self published!) and the highly interactive Writer Unboxed Facebook Group.
  • Respond to emails you get from total strangers. Try to help with any questions or advice they request as best as you can.
  • Use your social networks to help other authors spread the word about their books, hosting giveaways for them, author Q&As or book club chats on or off line.
  • Cite other authors and mention their books when you give talks. Plug them. Hold them up, pass them around. This is engaging for an audience and builds lots of goodwill.
  • Give books away. You can donate them to troops, to church groups, synagogues, local indie bookstores and libraries. You can sign them up for World Book Week or run a few Amazon KDP free giveaway promotions if your publisher allows it.

While you clearly can’t spend every waking hour giving, if you commit to making giving as regular a part of your life as writing is, you’ll find opportunities arising that help spread awareness about you as an author and your book or books. Readers will leave reviews on Amazon or B&N.com and recommend your book to friends. You may be invited to give talks, run seminars, or even speak with reporters.

But beware, there’s an important catch — also particularly à propos at this time of the year: Giving will bear real fruit from a marketing and community-building perspective only if you do it sincerely, with the honest intention of sharing and helping out. Answer strangers’ questions, plug other authors and their books and share their content not because you feel you should, but because you’re genuinely excited about doing so. Or because you care and it’s gratifying to know that you’ve made even a tiny difference this way. And don’t limit your generosity to friends within your personal writerly network. Instead, extend it to people who don’t know you, people whom you’ve never met and perhaps never will. Take initiatives where you see fit in the true spirit of giving without thinking about what they’ll yield for you.

After all, writing is about sharing so much more than stories. When you do, you’ll see your community of readers and heartfelt supporters grow.