Agency Lessons: Client marketing

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.


Today's post comes from the mail bag. Don't forget, if you have questions for me, you can submit them here.
Q: "What kind of marketing do you have your authors focus on?"

This question actually has two answers and it depends on where my clients are in their publishing journey. Before I get into it though, I just want to point out that not every agent is going to be engaged in marketing for their clients. Of course, every agent wants to help their authors sell more books (that's how we make our money as well), but not every agent has the time or ability to be hands on when it comes to marketing their clients' books. So keep in mind that your mileage may vary when working with your own agent.

Okay, now let's break this on down:

New Authors
This can include debut authors or anyone still working to build up their readership. For example, I would lump myself into this category, even though my second book just came out. With these authors, I think the focus should be on discoverability.

This can come in a lot of different forms, but the focused outcome is getting your book in front of as many eyes as possible. When you're new, the biggest struggle is letting people know your book even exists.
As a new author, your goal should be introducing your book to as many potential readers as you can. There are a couple great ways to do this. Blog/Review tours is always my first suggestion. Bloggers love finding new authors, and if you take the time to find reviewers who you think will genuinely like your book, most of them are more than happy to help out. Giveaways can be great, but are hard for a new author. If you can, try finding a more established author in your genre and asking them to do a joint giveaway. That way, you can get your book in front of an audience that has already identified themselves as potential readers of your book. Check out this post for my thoughts on what to use for your giveaway.

There are tons of other ways to spread the word about your book such as a Goodreads contest or a Thunderclap, but the effectiveness of these tactics varies greatly. The undisputed best way to find new readers is through word-of-mouth. Too bad that's one of the few things we can't order on the internet. To get this going, I suggest asking the people you already know. Yes, you can over-promote and drive your friends batty. But in my experience, my real-world friends were more than happy to help me spread the word about my book. I asked them to share my Facebook posts, tell their friends, suggest my book to readers and (gasp) buy my book. This sort of generosity probably has a shelf life (your friends are not interested in turning into a walking billboard for your books), but in those early days of being an author, this can be a huge help.

Established Authors

Once you've got a few books under your belt and an established readership, the focus changes as bit. Not that you can ever stop working on discoverability, but now you have existing readers to work with. Out in the non-book world, it is widely agreed that it is much cheaper to keep an existing customer than to bring in a new one. Now, imagine that money is time (which it is) and it makes sense that you need to show the love to your tried and true fans. It's time for engagement.

Once again, this comes in several forms, but you can look at several authors who are doing this well to get an idea. In the YA world, I don't think anyone does this better than Jennifer L. Armentrout. Here's what I've seen that she does really well.
1. She understands her audience. Her blog posts are absolutely littered with Supernatural GIFs and her Facebook posts this year  include lots of shots of "Four on a shelf". Neither of those have anything to do with her books, but she enjoys them and so does her audience. So no surprise, there is tons of interaction going on.
2. She gives constantly. Jennifer's biggest series is the Lux series, which she finished writing several years ago. But even though she's writing new projects right now, she recognizes that her fans aren't done with those characters yet. So she regularly writes little scenes of them and gives them to her fans completely free. Jennifer also randomly gives away books and gift cards to her readers without making them jump through hoops (a regular entry method is commenting on a post).

3. She listens. Jennifer recently re-released the first three books of her series told from her male MCs POV, because her fans asked her to. And even though she could have charged big bucks, she made them super affordable so her fans could all read it.

The key takeaway her is to figure out what it is that your fans want (go ahead and ask them) and then do your best to give it to them. This isn't rocket science.

Marketing can be a big, scary word for a lot of authors, but it doesn't have to be. At the end of the day, you have what readers want (hint: it's books). So go out and give it to them.