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Do You Need to Hire a Marketing Person?
An interview with Andrea DeWerd from the future of agency
Today we’re talking to publishing veteran, client, friend, and soon to be debut novelist Andrea DeWerd about what an outside, not-from-the-publishing-house marketing firm can and can’t do for your book. Do you need one? How do you know if you need one? Let’s find out more!
Kate: What do you do for your clients at the future of agency?
Andrea: My team acts as an extension of authors’ in-house publishing teams. We’ve all heard how overloaded the publishing industry. Authors feel like they’re not getting enough attention from the in-house marketing and publicity teams, or don’t want to bother them, or feel frustrated when it’s taking a long time to get answers. My team is here for that.
Specifically, both authors and publishing teams hire us directly to manage book launch campaigns. We do influencer and Bookstagram campaigns, digital asset and design creation, SEO and search strategy, bulk buy coordination/manage virtual events in exchange for bulk buys, and we guide authors on their own platform strategy. That looks a little different for everyone. For some authors, it’s LinkedIn or Instagram focused; for some, it’s rebuilding their website and newsletter in between book launches; for some, it’s full social media management (us posting for them).
I like to say, “we do a little bit of everything.” In the first year of the future of agency, I’ve had a policy of saying yes to everything that an author or publishing team needs. Need us to help you get blurbs? We can do that. Do you need media training? Yes, we can do that. You don’t want to write your own newsletter? Sure, we got you.
From there, I find the best person on my team or in my network to do the thing. There are a ton of very talented, smart publishing ex-pats right now who are looking for work that keeps them in the orbit of books. My clients and authors get to benefit from that talent and deep expertise.
K: Writers ask me all the time "should I hire an outside marketing team" and I know there is no one-size-fits-all answer. What are some of the signs that might indicate to a writer they should look for outside help?
A: The authors that need the most help are usually the very busy ones. We love working with authors that have day jobs, or run other businesses. They often are very business/marketing-savvy, but don’t have the time to give their book launch the proper focus. They might have ideas, but no time to execute them.
Here are some of the clients that we work best with:
Business owners/entrepreneurs/influencers, who may have an amazing platform or business, but are launching their first book: we’re here with guidance for keeping the book at the center of everything you do, and making sure your launch is optimized to drive book sales.
Indie authors who are GREAT marketers but feel like they have tried everything. They come to us for the “what’s next” factor.
Publishing teams who are frankly under-resourced and overworked
Debut authors who are feeling completely overwhelmed or don’t even know where to start.
Brand authors who have published a few books and are looking to refresh, or who are shifting to a new genre/category and want to make sure their audience comes along with them.
K: What do writers think you do that you do not do?
A: Publicity! The #1 thing I tell potential clients is that we don’t pitch to traditional media (interviews, reviews, online/print coverage, radio, podcasts, TV). That is not the current expertise of our team.
There’s a lot of confusion about the division between marketing and publicity. Think of it this way: Publicity is usually pitching an intermediary that will speak to readers/book buyers on the author’s behalf (journalists, TV outlets, etc.). Marketing is generally speaking direct to readers/book buyers (author website/newsletter, social media, people at organizations who would do a bulk buy directly). (There is a gray area with influencers—my team handles influencer marketing, technically an intermediary, but some teams put influencer outreach under publicity 🤷♀️).
That said, because authors don’t always know the difference between publicity and marketing, I’m thinking about bringing a publicist on to my team and housing all book promotion under the same strategy. Especially as an outside agency, it would make sense for authors to hire one unified team to support them. That’s on our roadmap for 2024!
K: What's the one thing a writer can do themselves to help promote their book?
A: My answer on this has changed over the last year! Now, I would say that search-optimizing your author platforms, book product pages, and your website are top of my list, because those are things that are in your control. We spend so much time pitching influencers, book clubs, and organizations, and there’s no guarantee that any of them will come through and promote the book.
But YOU are fully in control of your search, and folks are searching Google every day for “what should I read.” You can capture a portion of that traffic by optimizing your platforms and book descriptions with the keywords and phrases that are being searched. It takes a bit of research and elbow grease to learn and apply SEO, but if you’re going to do one thing this year, this is my recommendation.
Specifically, here are a few ways to get started:
Use the free Amazon Keyword generator tool at ahrefs.com—start by searching for your genre, topic, themes, and comp books to see what related keywords are recommended. Know that not every keyword will be relevant, but this will give you ideas of what else to include.
Rewrite your online book description with as many of those related keywords as possible in the first paragraph (the keynote) of the description. Amazon prioritizes the first 30 words of your book description, so make sure the most important, relevant keywords are in those first 30 words. If you control your own Amazon listing, update this yourself in KDP. If your publisher controls the listing, talk to them about updating yours with keyword-optimized description.
Claim all of your profiles—a lot of folks forget about Bookbub and the Google Knowledge Panel. This is low-hanging fruit for making sure you have taken advantage of every possible place where YOU can control your own online presence:
K: What's a book marketing assumption or myth that you would like to banish from this earth?
A: That book marketing is just social media, and that you have to have a social media platform to sell your book!
We’ve had a number of clients come to us thinking that they wanted social media management specifically, and they are surprised when we talk about all the other things we can do for their book (book club marketing, grassroots outreach to specific communities, cross-promotion with brands or organizations). Nothing works in a vacuum, and just social media isn’t a viable marketing strategy.
It is an uphill battle to start social media profiles from scratch and build a meaningful platform in advance of publication. Unless an author’s goal is to become a social media influencer or content creator in their own right, social media is not going to be the big needlemover for their book. It is good to claim your profiles and control what people find when they look for you (think search optimization), but it’s not going to be a sales-driver in and of itself for most authors.
Our golden rule of social media is, “pick one and do it well.” You don’t need to be on every platform, especially if you don’t intend to be actively posting on every platform. Pick your favorite (or the least objectionable) option, and go from there. For most debut authors, you will build a following after your book comes out. People will read the book, then want to learn more about you, and follow you to be informed of your next projects.
Andrea is giving a webinar on author platforms and search optimization on Oct. 14. Click here to register for Navigating Author Platforms: A Beginner's Guide to Social Media and Search Optimization for Writers for $37 (normally $69).