“You can buy attention (advertising). You can beg for attention from the media (PR). You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales). Or you can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free.”
David Meerman Scott, The New Rules of Marketing and PR
Content marketing is creating and sharing online material like articles, audio, video and images that don't explicitly market products but instead attract attention to your website or profile. Some of the people who check out that content may sign up to join your email list or follow you, and may eventually buy your books or products.
It is an attraction form of marketing.
Content marketing for authors can also include flash fiction or short stories posted for free on your site or published in magazines that attract readers to you. It can also be chapters on Wattpad or other story-sharing sites, or a novella a month published on the book retailers. So your books themselves can be content marketing. Good news for writers!
What is the point of content marketing?
You may have noticed that the Internet is full of free information, inspiration and entertainment. That's what people generally go looking for when they search online. There are millions of sites that will give them what they want, and your book can be lost in the myriad of options.
Content marketing is one way to stand out in a crowded market.
Each piece of content you put out there is another way for people to find you. It's another breadcrumb that might lead someone to your book. By spreading your content across different media, you will be able to target a variety of audiences.
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. Thousands of books sink to the bottom of the sales charts every week because nobody knows they are there. How can you ensure your book isn't one of them?
Content marketing vs. social media
With content marketing, you create something original. This can be flash fiction or a short story, a blog post, video, podcast, or an ebook giveaway. You own it, and you host it somewhere that you can control.
This content lasts a long time and continues to be relevant. It can be found in search engines, and people may consume it or link back to it years later. For example, people who discover my podcast on iTunes often go back and listen to years of backlist interviews, because the content is evergreen.
Social media is mostly ephemeral content, designed to catch attention at the point when someone is present at that moment. Posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and other social media only appear briefly on timelines and then sink in the mass of other things going on. Anything on social media is immediate and fades fast.
You don't own the platform, so posts on social media can disappear at any point. This is the main reason why you should never build your entire platform on someone else's online real estate because when the rules change, your business will be impacted.
Some people put everything into Myspace back in the day, and then it sank with the rise of Facebook. Now people are doing the same with Facebook or Instagram.
So, use the social media tools, but build the base of your platform on your own hosted site and use social media to drive traffic to your list. Here's my tutorial on how to build your own author website in 30 mins.
Social media often includes links to content but is also about sharing other people's content, as well as discussions, comments and more interactive relationships.
You can use both in conjunction, but it is critical to build good quality, long-lasting, original content if you want to become known online. The rules are the same whether you're an author or someone with another type of online business.
So, what types of content can you produce?
Here are just a few examples but there is no limit to what you can produce.
(1) Text article or blog post
Blogging or writing articles helps to build your brand and attract an audience. You can also write guest posts on other blogs within your niche and aim to write for bigger sites with a wider audience. But blogging is a different type of writing to fiction or even non-fiction books, and not all blogging is content marketing. Compare these examples.
(A) You set up a personal blog for the purpose of sharing holiday photos. This is blogging but not content marketing. Or you talk about your writing life but never think about what your audience might be interested in.
(B) You write useful articles in a specific niche to attract a target market who might be interested your books, products or services. You are most definitely content marketing, as well as blogging. This site is content marketing for my own books and courses.
Google owns YouTube, and video search is growing as streaming internet speeds improve, and people have shifted to online video for longer-form content. It's not just 30-second videos of LOLcats anymore! You can do interviews, talking head opinion pieces, funny skits, vlog chat shows, book trailers, on-location research videos and many more options. Check out my YouTube channel here.
Podcasting has taken off in recent years due to the ease of downloading and listening on mobile devices. Podcasts are audio shows that people can subscribe to for free, distributed over the Internet through services like iTunes.
When people listen to your voice for thirty minutes to an hour every week, when they hear you laugh and talk about your books and writing life, they feel like they know you. Building trust and rapport is key to content marketing, and both audio and video are brilliant ways to do this.
Check out The Creative Penn podcast here – inspiration and information every Monday!
(4) White paper, ebook, free report
My Author 2.0 Blueprint contains ideas that you can use to write, publish, sell and promote your book right away. It's free, and people sign up for it every day because it provides useful information.
Fiction authors often use short stories or novellas, or even full books for giveaways, as I do at www.jfpenn.com/free
(5) Teleseminar or webinar
You can do live events easily now using services like Zoom or Google Hangouts. When people listen to your expertise, ask questions and engage with you, it can result in immediate opportunities because you have a connection. Many Internet marketers now use this type of content to generate leads and product sales. Some even do online conferences with multiple speakers.
Hugh Macleod from GapingVoid.com is known for his cartoons on the back of business cards which led to a multi-book deal on top of a successful Internet business. I highly recommend his book on creativity, Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity. Hugh sends out illustrations to his list every week, which can be shared on social media, but he also has merchandize like T-shirts, books and prints, so his free content sells his business.
Images have also become hugely important in social media channels like Instagram and even text-based social media is now image-heavy.
You can also re-purpose your content, combining these options to reach a wider audience.
So you can write a text article, then talk about it in a video or a podcast, include it in your email newsletter or create an infographic from it as well as sharing it on social media sites.
An example content marketing production schedule
I'm not someone who enjoys the hard sell, from either end of the experience, so I've embraced content marketing wholeheartedly because it enables me to attract people by being useful, inspirational or entertaining. This is my content production schedule which I have kept up since late 2008.
Every day, I post useful links to other sites and some of my own on Twitter @thecreativepenn as well as respond to @ comments and replies. I post one thing on my author Facebook pages and these days, I often post a picture on Instagram. There are a lot of social media scheduling tools, like BufferApp and MeetEdgar, so you don't have to be online every day. Most of my social media is scheduled in advance across multiple time zones.
Every 2-3 days, I post an article, video or audio podcast on The Creative Penn. I mostly batch the creation and have at least a week’s worth prepared in advance. When I first started, I posted more often because I was trying to raise my ranking with Google, but these days, the schedule has slowed as the site is more well-known.
Every week, I post a video on YouTube and schedule an audio podcast with an interesting guest, plus add a transcript and show notes on the blog. The Creative Penn podcast has over 500 episodes and counting.
Every month, I appear on several podcasts as a guest, as well as doing a live event or webinar. I also post interesting articles at my fiction site, JFPenn.com, at least once a month.
Every year, I write and publish several books, across fiction and non-fiction and use some of the chapters as content marketing on the site.
It might look like a lot of work, but if you love what you're doing, you'll never run out of ideas!
This is an excerpt from How to Market a Book, Third Edition, available in ebook, print, and audiobook formats.