A writer writes. A writer must write. It sounds simple and imperative. But no writer out there says it is simple. The act of writing is daunting, solitary, and often lonely. There’s almost certainly a quote Charles Bukowski, Virginia Woolf, Maria Vargas Llosa, or John Green or whoever saying exactly that.
For modern writers, seeing a blank page and a blinking cursor (unless you still write by hand or on a typewriter) is as intimidating as stitching plot holes or conversing with an otherwise unfriendly character, or finding the right words that perfectly capture the wiring of your own mind.
To a romantic, writing is the sole duty of the writer. That should be it.
Reaching out and finding the readers is someone else’s job. And don’t get us wrong, that’s true for writers like Neil Gaiman or JK Rowling who have their own literary agents or publicity team. But for most—especially for new, self-published authors—finding a readership can seem as daunting as writing itself.
There are a million answers and a million nuanced and eloquent ways to answer the question, "Why do you write?" But the simplest and the most imperative is—you write to be read.
The good news is that for any modern, struggling author, finding a readership isn’t as hard as it used to be. We live in a digital world where reaching out and finding your audience is as easy as scrolling your FB feed.
Okay—that’s kind of an exaggeration. But look at the numbers. In recent years, there has been a rise of self-publishing authors breaking out into the industry and getting scores of readers. Because why not? It takes years to be a part of established traditional publishing houses. And we haven’t delved into the bureaucracy and politics involved in that industry. So doing it on your own has some healthy benefits. And since you are already a writer and SEO’s bone is writing or content creation, you’ve already solved about half of your problem.
But first things first: you have to put your romantic notion of writing and intellectual ego aside and learn. Learn how the Internet works.
In the 21st century, it is not about you, the writer, finding the readers; rather, it is the other way around. There are a number of ways readers can find writers on the internet, from Facebook groups to email marketing to social media engagement. But the main goal is to get your book and your name ranking high up on those search engines.
There are so many SEO practices in 2017 and the coming years that you can employ in marketing your own book.
The monster of search engine optimization—or landing your work or business on Google’s search result’s first page (SERPs)—can be your pet as long as you know how to tame it.
Don’t take this for granted, because landing one’s work on search engine’s first page is the ultimate dream of any business-minded writer (aka humans wanting to be read and earn at the same time).
1. Understand your book’s metadata
It sounds lofty. But we all understand what data is, which leaves us with the prefix "meta." Meta—the Greek of beyond or higher level—is the hardcore information that we have encountered and taken for granted.
While the metadata is the bone of the entire book (book title, book subtitle [if it has one]), author, book description, publisher, ISBN, book category, publication date), for this article we are going to focus on your book category, book title, and book description. We are going to tackle the visual aesthetics of your book in a separate post.
Depending on your contract with your publishing company, you have to provide most of the necessary metadata of your book. Once your book is published, its metadata will then be distributed to different bookselling databases. If you are an independent author, you can personally include them in marketplaces such as Amazon, iBooks, or Google Play.
Let’s put it this way: potential readers go to a bookstore and see the data (your book) themselves. Bookstores shelve books according to their genre. Finding the book online works the same way. The only difference is that Google becomes the middleman between your reader and your book. And the bridge is your metadata where Google guides your potential reader through. So know your BISAC codes (the subject codes for book categories). For example, FIC005000 FICTION / Erotica / General/ or SEL014000 SELF-HELP / Eating Disorders & Body Image. These book categories are neat ways of putting all books in order or genre just like shelving them in bookstores. It helps in making your book more searchable, or "crawlable" in SEO lingo.
Now let’s move on to your book title. Fiction doesn’t normally have subtitles. Creative nonfiction and self-help books do. Think of your readers and the current book market in titling your book. A great example in mind is the success of The Girl on the Train. It is nothing close to the thrill and suspense of Gone Girl or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The word "girl" becomes a mind association of other bestselling books that bear the same word. If you want to be successful, ride the wagon. Not with the content, but with your book title.
On to the book description.
2. Know your book’s meaty keywords
It is easy to get carried away with describing your book.
"It’s about a lanky teenager, let’s name him Oscar, who can time-travel to his parents’ younger years. He ffinds out their dark pasts. His dad was a con-artist. His mom a struggling scriptwriter who did everything to make herself successful in her chosen field. Traveling to their pasts makes him realize he is not a product of love, but a circumstance of happenstance."
You would be lucky if you piqued your inquirer’s interest with your storytelling. Google, on the other hand, would simply walk away halfway through your second sentence. You see, Google, busy god as it is, does not have all the time to listen—or "crawl" to use its own version of the English language—through all these descriptions and storytelling. Rather, it looks for certain keywords. So what is your book about, BISAC or book category-wise? Is it fantasy? Self-help? Romance? Science fiction? Since BISAC allows up to three categories, always employ and distribute these relevant, meaty keywords in your book description.
You can always do some research if you’re having a hard time pinning your work into the right categories. Look up other writers’ keywords too. It can give you an idea of the popular genres in the marketplace nowadays.
3. Create your own author website
To have a consistent and relevant presence online can be turned into a powerful marketing tool. One sure way of doing this is to run and maintain your own author website. Write regularly and lengthily, and don’t forget to pay attention to the structure of your content. Blogging can be, at times, cathartic, especially when you don’t pay heed to the SEO side of your article.
But in this context, you write to drive traffic to your blog, which will then convert to readers of your book. So include the keywords that you’re targeting in your article. Be consistent.
If your book is about personal finance, come up with at least two articles a week related to your genre. Write informative and in-depth articles about it.
Or if your book is suspense thriller, fiction, and drama, do not forget to include these keywords and their latent semantic indexing in your content.
4. Build your author website’s backlinks
You’re confident that you have awesome content on your blog. To elevate their authority, you can ask others to backlink to you. You can reach out to the people in similar industry, shoot them an email, introduce yourself, and tell them about the article you wrote.
Usually there is a certain email pattern on this one:
I’ve been following your blog for a while now and just read your latest post on the best SEO practices for authors. I’m creating a similar content that tackles the different marketing strategies that authors can use to boost their book sales.
Would love to be linked in your post. And in return, I can link up your article to mine.
Of course, not everyone is going to hit the reply button. But there is always that someone who is going to be interested in your content. Because a permanent do-follow link is a gem. So give it a try.
5. Guest-blog on other reputed websites
Guest-blogging is a consistent marketing and white-hat SEO strategy. There are many websites that accept contributions and pitches. Huffington Post, for example. Although Huffington Post is notorious for not paying unsolicited contributions, some writers take advantage—rightfully so—of its wide reach. A mention and link to your book on your bionote can translate to more sales of your book.
Know your target audience and the websites they frequent. For example, Thought Catalog is one of the millennials’ go-to reads. You can adapt the tone and style of Thought Catalog to have a hold of its readers. If your book is about personal finance, google the trendiest and the widely read blogs on this niche. Guess where you can find them. Yes, on Google’s first page.
Not to mention, guest-blogging is also a great way to grow quality inbound links to your own website.
6. Connect with other authors online
Writing is a solitary act, but there are cliques who don’t mind sharing ideas on the craft and things that worked for them over drinks. Reach out to them. There is a huge marketplace of self-published authors online. One way to connect with them while promoting your own book is to write a round-up article on their books. You can do it by genre. "Suspense thriller books from up-and-coming writers to read before the year ends." "Self-help books to make your day more positive and rich." "Learn from the experts, five books to read on personal finance." This is one way you gain a readership; by piquing the interest of people who read the same kind of stuff you write.
Shoot these authors an email saying that you included them in your article, and they’re most likely going to share the content across social media. It is a win-win situation. You’re promoting their work while promoting yours.
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