By Brian Kaufman
The most frustrating part of being a published author has to be marketing. Marketing your books takes two valuable resources (time and money) and offers no guarantees. Worse, for most authors, promotional efforts yield little in the way of results.
If you’re not a published author, you might think, Woe is you. I’d take that problem in a heartbeat. What you should consider is, when my work-in-progress publishes, how will I promote it?
Let’s spend a moment running in a circle.
Authors don’t always understand marketing. They conjure images of book signings, ads, and mailing lists when asked. Wrong. Marketing is a multi-step process that involves moving from a consumer need to one that has been fulfilled. The intermediate steps involve the creation of a product specifically designed to fit the aforementioned need, attention to distribution, a pricing strategy, and a promotional campaign that takes the other elements into account.
I’m betting the last paragraph hurt your head. It broke my head to write it.
You might ask, aren’t supply chains and pricing strategies the publisher’s concern? Yes. But that pesky promotional part? In the modern market, “publishers are not responsible for all of the marketing” (University of Northern Georgia/University Press). Let me restate that. For most published authors, the onus of promoting books falls squarely on hunched shoulders that would rather be alone in a room, perched over a laptop.
I have three stories.
One of my critique groups invited a book promoter from Denver to our Christmas party. I asked the last question of the evening: “So, what’s a surefire strategy?”
He shrugged. “Nothing.”
Second story. I asked the editor of a mid-sized publisher to look over a library mailer I’d crafted. She didn’t have much for me. “I can’t keep up with marketing,” she said.
Last story. When I was deep in my poetry phase, I subscribed to several small literary magazines. One, in particular, intrigued me. The poetry was consistently abstract (I prefer concrete). The meanings seemed hidden (or missing). The rhymes were sing-songy. I did not like the work. Yet, the publication was successful, lasting over a decade. My conclusion—readers have varied tastes, and there’s a publication for almost everyone. In marketing terms, there’s likely someone out there that needs your book. The trick is to find readers who would like to read you. At a bare minimum, you want those readers to find you should they go looking.
I’ve made things sound bleak, haven’t I? But don’t you despair. I said everything costs time and money, and nothing works, but that was an exaggeration born of personal frustration. Let me wipe the blood and tears from my keyboard, and we’ll visit an exception.
Author Central is an Amazon creation. Whatever you happen to think of the dark empire, Amazon sells books, and if you write outside of the mainstream, they’re probably your main chance. If you have a book listed on Amazon, you already have an Amazon Central page. You just have to claim it.
First step: visit https://author.amazon.com/?qid=1666825928354&sr=13-1-acs and scroll to the bottom of the page. Click “Join.” If you’re traditionally published, your publisher may have claimed your page. However, you can still access it via your login details.
Second step: Log in at the link above, and go to your page, which has an Edit Profile link. Click it. Here, you’ll have some work to do (but not much!) Add a photo. I changed my ten-year-old author photo because I’m not that young or good-looking anymore. (A quick aside. I went to a book signing in the Springs years ago. I’d hoped to recognize the author I’d come to see, but the man I was looking for was a white-haired fellow at least four decades older than the jacket photo. I promised myself never to do that—and have broken that promise at least twice.)
Next, add a biography. Here, the trick is to be quick, leaving room for website links. You can (and should) mention upcoming releases.
While researching for my own page, I read a lot of Author Central bios. Short and personal work best. (I found one biography over seven hundred words long, laced with phrases like “one of the finest writers of this or any generation”—the author’s own words. Don’t do that.)
Still editing your profile, consider some of the add-on possibilities. You can include a blog feed. (The edit page has a link on the right-hand side to detailed instructions.) If you maintain an author’s blog, this is a great way to double up your coverage. One piece of advice—if you do this, keep it updated. Nothing sadder than a blog that’s been abandoned.
You can also add photos and videos. On the same Edit Profile page, the lower right-hand corner features easy links. Consider adding book event photos, professional shots, or even a map from your fantasy novel. As for videos, this is a great place to add book trailers if you have them. (I added a trailer while working on this blog post.)
You can also request a custom author page URL. Mine is:
There are three reasons I am impressed with the Author Central setup. First, I needed help getting all my books in one place (due to multiple publishers). I sent an email and fixed the situation in a day. Terrific service.
Second, if I find a book I like by a new author, I’ll likely try the author’s other work. Author Central fits that kind of buying pattern.
Finally, unlike most marketing “opportunities,” Author Central is accessible, and it’s free. I’m closer to one hundred years old than forty, and I had no trouble setting up my page.
And free is free.