Content Marketing for Authors

How Does It Work?

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What is "content marketing" and why is it useful for authors?

According to The Content Marketing Institute, "Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."

How Does Content Marketing Work for Authors?

Whether entertaining (like romance novels) or useful (like cookbooks or finance books), authors spend their lives producing… content.

The idea of content marketing is to share some content free of charge on author platforms that you "own" in order to build an audience and give prospective readers an idea of what / who they're getting when they buy your book/s.

What Do You Mean by "Own"?

Owned media platforms are those over which authors have complete control. Content marketing is best done on these platforms because you can then "own" your subscribers and followers for communications. "Owned" media includes:

I Do Lots of That Anyway – Does That Mean I'm a Content Marketing Author?

Yes, sort of. But to be an efficiently effective content marketing author, you really need to have a least some strategy and tactics in place, so that your efforts all serve your audience building goals.

What Are Some Examples of Successful Author Content Marketing?

An example of a content marketing star is John Green, who built an audience of readers for his young adult books (like The Fault in Our Stars) with a video blog done with his brother, Hank Green.

Using online video, the Vlog Brothers very intelligently, very thoughtfully discuss subjects of interest to young adults and new adults as well as jokes, etc. John also—periodically—talks about the books he is working on. Green didn't necessarily set out to be a "content marketer," but begun in 2007 the vlog gave rise to their Nerdfighter subculture and numerous bestsellers and movie deals.

Another example is the 2015 book marketing campaign for Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, a book about advice for creative people. Though a bestselling author (Eat, Pray, Love) there was no guarantee that the memoirist/novelist would make the transition to self-help writer. But her publishing team launched a series of pre-publication podcasts—which included well-known special guests—and a robust social media campaign to build Gilbert's followers. The content strategy dovetailed with "earned" media platforms - content-heavy guest spots on other popular self-help gurus' online "shows" to make their audiences aware of her content and of Gilbert's new book.

What Else Do I Need to Know Before I Dive Into Content Marketing?

  • The best content marketing stays true to you as an author. For content marketing to be effective, it should grow naturally out of your book, and your philosophies and your message. Whether the content you share is a natural outgrowth of your personality (like the Vlog Brothers) or crafted strategically for effect (like the campaign for Big Magic)—you want to stay true to yourself and authentic.

  • Content marketing is not about the hard sell. Content marketing is about enticing audiences (including prospective buyers) with a bit of your content, a bit of yourself. It is not about bombardment with sales messages, which only serve to turn off audiences.

  • Sure, you can let the audience know you have books available at the bottom of your newsletter—and certainly give them the "insider" first look at new books and book jackets, as members of your loyal audience—but promoting your own work should only be a small portion of your content output, reserved for special announcements, book launches, public appearances, etc.
  • Content marketing is not a quick fix. Content marketers are rewarded over time as their audiences build. Hey, John Green and his brother started their vlog in 2007 – it took time to build. But...

As your readers/viewers become engaged and loyal over time, a portion of them will decide to plunk down money when they determine the content is likely to appeal to them.