5 Must-Follow Authors Who Can Show You How to Market Authentically

how to market a book authentically for authors

But first, the stories work reading this week:

Follow the Influencers: Social Media Stars 2016 (Alex Palmer for Publisher’s Weekly): “The books that succeed, editors and publishers say, are those that are approached as something more complex than a typical online post or promotional tool.”

How to Get Started as a Professional Speaker (Michael Hyatt): “Public speaking is a tremendous way to: discover what resonates and why, build your personal brand, promote your products, and monetize your content. Most important, it is one of the best ways I know to influence people: to expose them to new ideas, motivate them to take action, and creative transformational experiences.”

7 Simple Steps to Building the Structure of Your Nonfiction Book (Chad R. Allen): “A lot of people have some scattered ideas about what they’d like to write about, but they really don’t know how to take those jumbled thoughts and organize them into book form. … [This is] a proven way to take your untidy ideas and organize them into book form.”

Why Indie Authors Need a Business Hat (Helen Sedwick on The Book Designer): “Many writers who dive into self-publishing are surprised to discover they are running a business. They have questions about incorporation and business licenses. They wonder what to do about sales taxes. They fear hiring editors, designers, and other freelancers.”

5 Must-Follow Authors Who Can Show You How to Market Authentically

Two weeks ago I talked a lot about the psychology and emotion of marketing, and why so many authors struggle to do it in a way that doesn’t feel fake and sleazy. I also shared a 3-step process for how to learn what authentic and effective marketing really looks like. (Hint: If it feels icky to you, don’t do it!)

But when you think about it, marketing is all around us, and we can learn so much about it just by watching closely. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel–we just need to pinpoint the people who are doing it well and learn from them.

Think about the last nonessential purchase you made online, and why you made it. For me, it was a gorgeous art print from Jones Design Company for my gallery wall. The thought process behind that purchase was absurdly simple (as really most of my thought processes are, ha!).

It was something like: “I like her. I like that art print (or book, or course, etc.). I will now buy it.”

See? Those are the deep, insightful thoughts that happen up here. It is really hard to keep up with myself.

But if you look more closely at it, that thought process is actually the distillation of authentic marketing:

  • I already knew (or felt like I knew) the person behind the product, because they communicated with me regularly and were personal and real, like a friend would be. Emily from Jones Design Company does this through her blog, which I receive regularly through email.
  • I was told about the product, and I liked it. Since I already liked her free products (blog posts, printables, social media updates), it was natural that I liked her for-sale product. I was the ideal target audience.
  • I was also given a clear path to make the purchase. Emily did this by announcing her new line of art prints through email, blog, social media, etc. And I was also given an incentive to make the purchase right then, rather than putting it off and maybe forgetting about it. (In this case, she ran a limited time sale that made the purchase a better value.)

And you know what? It really is that simple. We support the people we like. And we decide who we like by building relationships with them, and we build relationships with them by hearing from them regularly and liking what we hear. Once we decide we like someone, we’ll do everything we can to help that person. I’d support a new endeavor for any friend, whether it’s a friend I’ve known for decades or an online friend whom I’ve never met. And when I love someone’s work, I’m always willing to pay for it and share it with others.

So, to take my own challenge, here are the authors who I think are excellent at authentic, permission-based marketing. (Which is otherwise known as sharing your work with the people who want it. Isn’t jargon just the worst part of old-school marketing!?) All of the authors on this list have had New York Times bestselling books. All of them are beloved by their readers and have built purpose-driven and profitable businesses around their work. And all of them are worth following and watching how they talk to readers:

1. Ree Drummond.

I love Ree because I feel like I know her. She’s so honest, and funny, and real. And I know these things because she shares them with her readers—she’s transparent about her life, lets us into her day-to-day activities, and introduces us to her family, her house, her beliefs. It feels just like getting to know a new friend. But she’s also true to herself and has boundaries for sharing. So often authors feel uncomfortable with sharing things about their personal lives, and I completely get that. Every one needs to find that line between letting people in and over-sharing. Isn’t the same true for real-life friendships? We need to be open and allow people to get to know us, but we don’t need to give them every little detail about every domestic skirmish. Finding that balance is part of finding your voice as a writer or blogger.

The other thing about Ree? She knows how to sell books. Hundreds of thousands of books. And she knows how to do so without compromising who she is or the longstanding trust and goodwill she’s built with her readers. That’s something every creative can aspire to.

2. John Green.

Everybody loves John Green. He’s the darling of the fiction world, and his fans (otherwise known as Nerdfighters) are rabidly supportive of every single thing he does. (In fact, here’s a whole piece on exactly how John Green built his army of fans.) John Green also knows how to share his excitement for his work in a way that’s authentic and honest. You can tell he’s genuinely excited about the projects he gets behind, and he fully believes they can help people. He also knows that in order for his projects to help people, people need to know about them. So he needs to tell people about them (i.e. marketing), while still being himself (i.e. authentic). It sounds easy, but it’s a practice.

3. Brené Brown.

In Rising Strong, Brené talks about how her first book was a complete flop—how she spent publication day waiting for the phone to ring with interview requests, and then had her book remaindered after only 6 months. (Remaindering is when a book isn’t selling enough copies to justify its space in a warehouse, and so the remaining stock is sold at a deep discount or pulped.) Here’s what she learned from that:

“I [had] walked away from the two values that guide my life—my faith and my commitment to be brave. My faith calls me to practice love over fear, and in this experience I let fear trample all over self-love. I made every decision with the mindset What will people think? rather than I am enough. That is as unholy as it gets for me. Courage calls for me to show up and be seen, and in this instance, I literally hid at home and waited for someone else to show up and do the work, including the publisher and the book-buying public. Of all the things I regret from this experience, the biggest one is betraying my own values and being so unkind to myself.”

After that rough start, Brené confronted her discomfort with marketing and got serious about sharing her research with the people who it could help. She’s now a two-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and more important, she’s helped millions of people feel less alone and lost in their lives. That, right there, is why books matter.

4. Tim Ferriss.

Another classic example of an author who had a built-in fanbase when he launched his first book onto the bestseller lists. Now, you may not be the target audience for his work—I’m not. But millions of people are. And the way he builds and nurtures that relationship—then relies on it when he’s launching something new—is an excellent example of how to connect with the people you’re trying to serve.

5. Myquillyn Smith.

I love Myquillyn because I think her work is soothing. That, in fact, is what she aspires to: she had a clear vision in mind of creating a blog, a book, a course, and now a community for writers that quiets all the noise and comparison of the web and helps readers focus on doing their best with what they have. This purpose carries through into every project she takes on, and her book was a big success because she viewed it as an opportunity to help her readers through a different format. Every time she tells her audience about a new project she’s launching, she sounds exactly like herself. It’s the same Myquillyn whether she’s telling you how to turn a mop into a wall hanging or telling you why she’s excited about her new book.

Those are the authors I love to read, and although I didn’t want to be biased and include my own authors on this list, there are many, many others out there, in every niche, who are building honest, authentic businesses around their creative work. So, go find your people and learn from them!

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