Part 1: 10 Things Non-Fiction Authors Can Do to Connect with Their Audience Before The Book Comes Out (Tips 1 to 5)

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I was speaking with my one of my earliest social media strategy clients the other day. Her name is Melinda Emerson; she is a successful author and speaker, and along with her busy speaking and business consulting schedule, she recently landed a spot blogging for the New York Times We were talking about the goals she had sketched out for herself in those early days before her bestselling book “Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months” came out. The social media strategy I laid out for her, which started with creating her nickname SmallBizLady, turned into a success we could not have imagined. You can do the same…if you learn the skills you need, hone your online message and “work it like a job.” Here are the first 5 of  ten things non-fiction book authors can do before your book comes out.

1) Begin to Build an Online Platform, Before the Book Comes Out

The tips and steps below are some of the basic planks in that platform. Melinda had her book all ready to come out when it was postponed by one year Initially, She was not happy about the delay. No author wants to wait longer to have their book finally published, but as her online social media strategist, I was very happy. I remember her reaction to my statement, “Melinda, you might not feel it right now, but this is the best thing that could happen to you.” She was not amused. I replied something along the lines of, “Right now, no one really knows who you are, so why are they going to buy your book over someone else’s?” Let’s get you out there online and start working this social media stuff to get people to know who you are and what you bring to the table. (This also works if you are preparing for your second book to come out as well).

2) Know What Goals you are Trying to Reach

Melinda wanted to sell out her 1st printing of her book within the first year, which we did due to our early planning. First, we positioned her with a mission to “End Small Business Failure.” Then she started providing good, quality information to small business owners on Twitter. Over time, we expanded to Facebook, LinkedIn & a blog. We worked to build a platform that helped her get more speaking gigs, secure business coaching clients, and land in major media publications. Two years later she even landed a spot writing for a major publication; which eventually led to her New York Times opportunity.

3) Set Up Short-term Goals

If your main or only goal is to make money writing non-fiction books – that is probably a fantasy. Get clear about what you want your book to do for you. It is harder to do than you think to sell books, and to make money at it. But if your goal of publishing a non-fiction book is to sell books, and then leverage the authority to land media appearances, attract customers to your business, land paid speaking gigs, get paid writing or blogging opportunities, and to help people while you are doing it- those are doable goals. So sit down and scope out your short and longer term goals – both realistic and…let yourself dream a little. I think she had writing for a big publication in her sites even in the early days.

4) Identify Who Your Ideal Audience Is

Too many people start out in social media without a plan or a strategy. Planning starts with who is most likely to buy your book, your services, bring you in on a speaking gig, or whatever goals your outlined above. There may be a primary ideal client, then a secondary group. Another of my clients is a succession planner – he basically helps people sell their businesses. He kept using jargon terms in his blog posts and enewsletter, which his fortune 500 clients would understand. I asked one day how many of his clients are mom and pop, family-owned businesses. He said 25% or so. I asked, “They don’t call it succession planning – they want to know “how to sell my business.”” He agreed, so we worked an occasional post or article targeted to this clientele and his sales increased. Put yourself in the mindset of your readers.

5a) Determine Where They Hang Out Online (and Craft Your Branding to Catch Their Eye)

We started Melinda on Twitter first. I knew that it was filled with small business owners of all types – right in Melinda’s sweet spot. And we are both glad we did, as her branding came out of that first time we went on Twitter. She said, “Cathy, what am I going to do? There are already two Melinda Emerson usernames out on Twitter.” I replied, don’t worry, we’ll find a username that tells them what you do.” We did a little brainstorming, and I said, “How about @SmallBizLady?” Melinda said, “I like it!.” She has said it was one of the best branding decision’s she made. It’s easy to remember, it says what she does and it has a ring to it. A few months later, I suggested starting a Twitter chat called #SmallBizChat (it’s kind of like an online talk show, but using tweets). The rest as they say is history. That chat helped position her as an expert, and gave her access to having other big names and authors on her chat. Melinda also moved on to use LinkedIn and Facebook. but we started with Twitter, because I identified that for her, it would be the easiest way to get her message to reach a broad segment of her audience the fastest.

5b) Don’t Forget to Network Offline, in Person (IRL – in real life – as they say) as Well

Attend conferences and mixers that your ideal customers or readers attend. Try and land speaking gigs  as well. You can also attend and speak at conferences in your industry, this will help build your credibility with your peers. However, attending or speaking where your audience or clients are is key. Do both. Add your Twitter username to your name tag. Make it easy for people to connect with you…wherever they feel most comfortable. Once you have your book, negotiate to see if you can do back of the room sales.

Stay tuned, part two coming in a few days with tips number 6 to 10.

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