OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Authors and writers are being told that they need a blog, but often aren't told the reason why. “To build an audience” is the oft-quoted catchphrase. Well, it's bigger than that.
What is Content Marketing?
You may have noticed that the internet is full of free information and entertainment. That's what people generally go looking for. There are millions of sites that will give them what they want. Your book can be lost in the myriad of options.
In order to stand out, you need to have an online presence with quality content that people want to consume either for information or entertainment. Each piece of content you put out there is another way for people to find you. By spreading your content across different media, you will be able to target a variety of audiences.
If people find you and want to stay on your site, if they are happy to give you their email, this means you have permission to talk to them. That is the goal of content marketing. Basically you provide good quality, useful or entertaining content which brings people to your site. They begin to know you, like you and trust you and then when you have a book launch, they might consider buying your book instead of a different one because you've been so useful to them or even just because they've heard of you. Thousands of books every week sink to the bottom of the sales charts because nobody knows they are there. How can you ensure your book isn't one of them?
What Types Of Content Can You Produce?
“Pieces of content”can refer to almost anything. Here are just a few examples but there really is no limit to what you can produce and disseminate. It's also important to remember you can re-purpose your content. So a text article can be written, then you can talk about it in a video or a podcast, include it in your email newsletter or create a slide-show from it as well as sharing it on social media sites.
(1) Text based article. This is where writers have an advantage because we're so used to the written word so crafting articles should be easy. But we also have a disadvantage because we spend so long agonizing over the words and it takes forever to actually publish an article! Blogging is also a different type of writing to fiction or even non-fiction books. Of course, you should post on your own blog first which is why publishers like authors to blog as it builds your brand and personal audience. But a writer's collective blog can also be good. I really like Murderati which includes Tess Gerritsen and other crime writers. You can also write guest posts on other blogs within your niche and also aim for bigger blogs with a wider audience.
(2) Video. Video search is growing and Google owns YouTube so search will only improve. Here's 7 reasons authors should be doing video. Your video can be the equivalent of a text article, for example, What To Do When You Think Your Writing Is Terrible. You can also do video interviews, for example, my interview with children's author Simon Cheshire. These types of videos can be done weekly with not too much effort as they are easy to create after you've done a few. You can also create a book trailer for your work, but this is more a one-off project. Here's mine for Pentecost.
(3) Audio podcast. iTunes is the most popular audio broadcasting service and there are thousands of quality free podcasts that people can subscribe to. They can then listen in the car or at the gym or doing chores (as I do!). When people listen to your voice for 30 minutes per week, when they hear you laugh and you talk about your books and writing life, they feel like they know you. Building trust and rapport is key to content marketing. Here's how to create your own podcast.
(4) White paper, ebook, free report. My Author 2.0 Blueprint is one of these resources. It contains ideas you can use to write, publish, sell and promote your book on the internet. The sign up box is top right and people join every day because it's useful information. Once you are signed up, you also get a series of emails with more in-depth info and links on each of the topics providing more value. This is called an auto-responder series or some sites call it an e-course. I also made 3 chapters of Pentecost available here and on Scribd as a download. You could do the same with your writing or create a new useful resource for people that gives your author brand credibility.
(5) Live event or webinar. This is more participation content and you might also produce slides and materials for the participants. When people listen to you and perhaps even ask questions and engage with you, it can result in many opportunities because they remember you. I have a speaking engagement coming up that I was asked to do by a lady who came to one of my seminars 18 months ago, but she remembered me. Many speakers now put their slides up on Slideshare or video the event to share on YouTube.
(6) Social networking. Mini content links on Twitter and Facebook are ephemeral but are still great ways to add content to people's lives and build your own following. I've been tweeting useful links on twitter for two years now and consider it my favorite networking site. In a strange way, sharing content from other people's sites seems to boost my own credibility even though I always attribute it to others. Providing links to other sites is also a great way to get to know other bloggers which can help when you want to guest post. This is not so much the creation of content but it is critical for the sharing of content.
(7) Photos/images. Hugh Macleod is well-known for his cartoons which have led to a book deal. I've recently started buying jewelry from people around the world based on photos I've found on Flickr and I post my photos there as Creative Commons so everyone can use them. Within our niche of writers, Debbie Ridpath Ohi @inkyelbows is known for her funny writing related cartoons which she posts on her blog but she's also a writer/illustrator so clearly it helps her to get paying work.
There are stacks more ideas for content marketing here including direct mail and paper-based options. I just prefer the online content marketing because the reach is so global.
An Example Content Production Schedule
Since I discovered the concept of content marketing a few years ago, I've embraced it wholeheartedly and I follow other bloggers who use it to great success. This is my own content production schedule which I have kept up for the last 2 years.
- Every day: Post at least 8 useful links to other sites + my own on Twitter @thecreativepenn as well as respond to @ comments and replies. Comment on The Creative Penn Facebook page.
- Every 2 days: Post on The Creative Penn blog either an article, or video or audio podcast. I mostly batch the creation and have at least a week in advance prepared. I post often because I'm trying to raise my rankings with Google, Alexa and other internet page ranks that mean I receive more search traffic.
- Every week: Audio podcast with an interesting guest. Here's the backlist – I'm currently at 85 interviews
- Every week: 2 x videos. One for The Creative Penn and one for MysteryThriller.tv , my new book review blog for mystery & thriller lovers. These go on YouTube first and are then embedded into the blog posts as well as shared on Twitter and Facebook.
- Every month: 1 live speaking event or webinar which I create materials for and share them with participants
- Every month: or at least 12x per year. Guest post or interview on a different blog.
- Every year: Write and publish a book. I've actually written 4 books in 3.5 years and aim to try and speed this up with fiction.
For more in-depth reading, check out this series on Content Marketing from Copyblogger, one of my must-read blogs.
How can you use content marketing for building your author brand or marketing your book?