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book marketing during a pandemic

Overwhelmed by Book Marketing During a Pandemic? Use These Tips to Connect with Your Target Audience During Uncertain Times

Book marketing during a pandemic can be challenging for memoirists. Guest poster Kathleen Pooler shares tips on connecting with your audience during these uncertain times we are going through.

When Chris Baty at the Writer’s Digest conference in 2012, said, “Have faith. There’s someone out there who has waited her entire life for your story,” I felt as if he was speaking straight to my heart. After many hard-earned years of discovering my voice and story, I was unsettled with my marketing. This is similar to how many authors are feeling about marketing today. 

Book signings are rare now in 2020. These days, people risk health and safety going out in public so they are opting in for Facebook live and Zoom events. And while we all wish for the way things were, as content marketers we need to face the fact that we’ve been enduring a paradigm shift. Most likely, authors can’t market the traditional way by appearing in bookstores and so authors are attempting to continue writing and making sales in an entirely new environment. These six tried and true marketing tips will help you get clarity about your target audience so you can connect with them better—especially now. Here are six tips for book marketing during a pandemic:

1. Visualize your book buyers

Any kind of writing is an opportunity to visualize your specific audience.  Who are you writing for and why? Writing two memoirs was an opportunity to market to two targeted groups:

Book/memoir audience

I visualized my target audience as someone who had regretted choices and wanted to understand the role of self-sabotage. This person was overwhelmed with life’s challenges and needed hope to deal with an abusive relationship or struggles parenting an addicted child.

Memoir support audience 

This group specifically needed the emotional support writing their memoirs. I started a memoir writing blog over at a Memoir Writer’s Journey to connect with those targeted people online, who would also be my potential buyers of my memoirs. 

The audience I was writing for required clarity so I could hone in on the writing. Visualize as much as you can — from the demographics to the emotional state of mind. Write these characteristics on a post-it note and refer to them often so you can remember who you are writing for. Having this information at hand, jumpstarted my marketing strategy and the way I’d showed up to connect with my potential buyers online.

2. Use your content personality to your advantage

Getting your “book baby” into the hands of your buyers requires a well-thought out marketing plan—a roadmap to ensure success. 

Not everyone for example, is suited to post on Instagram multiple times a day. Some writers have a “shy” outer voice while others prefer to express their creativity by blogging. I aimed for building community building. 

Another strategy was to reach out to outlets including memoir writing sites. For example, I conducted a virtual blog tour which helped build a safe and supportive group of writers who still connect with me to this day, through my blog. 

3. Be fueled by your WHY

Marketing is tedious and time-consuming. When you’re clear on your reason for writing, you’ll be in a better position to connect with your targeted audience. Our best marketing tool is our product – our books.

Questions memoirists can ask to get clear on their why 

  • Am I writing to leave a legacy for my family? 
  • Am I writing for mainstream publication? 
  • Am I just journaling for the pleasure of getting my emotions down on paper for myself?

An example of a WHY for my second memoir, Just The Way He Walked: A Mother’s Story Of Healing and Hope

  • To share the hope that recovery is possible when you have an addicted child
  • To share lessons learned about my own enabling behaviors

4. Listen to your target readers’ pain points

After blogging about the themes in my books and receiving emails from my readers about their personal struggles, I knew I was on to something. I wanted to connect with my target audience intentionally. Listening to my target readers’ pain points was a way in the door. 

First I had to discover where they hung out – on social media and LinkedIn discussion groups, and various memoir writing communities like the National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMW) or The Memoir Network. Then I wrote blog content topics they needed help with such as how to muster the courage to leave an abusive relationship and how to not enable an addicted child. 

5. Make your marketing magical

Magical marketing is copy that resonates with your target audience. For example, when I promoted my first memoir on emotional abuse, I often wrote about my flaws and vulnerabilities. Ultimately, this helped them not feel alone which also gave them the opportunity to see themselves in my story. What a powerful experience! 

They resonated deeply to the idea of holding onto hope to save themselves from an abusive relationship. Articulating your target audience’s pain points, creates a deeper connection. One way to get clarity is by answering these pre-marketing questions:

1) What is your target audience’s name?

2) What motivates him/her?

3) What is stopping him/her from accomplishing his/her goals, attitudes and behaviors in relation to what s/he wants? 

4) What keeps him/her up at night? 

Here’s an example of a persona I was trying to capture online through my blog, A Memoir Writer’s Journey

Molly Memoirist is a middle-aged woman who has always had a dream to write.  She is full of stories but doesn’t know where to begin. She has a loud inner critic that she doesn’t know how to silence. She just needs a friend to show her the ropes. She’s had a painful past that she doesn’t talk about. She’s plowing through the pain of dealing with an addicted child.

Once I was able to visualize Molly, I shared steps on my blog and social media about how to get started and tips on dealing with the inner critic. I shared my own story to give her permission to feel hope.

If you can specifically articulate the needs of your target audience, you’ll be ahead of the game.  I have learned that it doesn’t work to say that your blog or your book will appeal to everyone. In the case of my memoir, I needed to find specific groups of people struggling with parenting an addicted child.

6. Saturate your local market: your community

Instead of running down strangers, get known as a local author in your community which carries different definitions. For a new author, local could mean your hometown. For a mid-range author, that could mean a specific region. Whatever kind of local author you are, saturate your community and there are many ways to do this online. 

Here are a few ways I saturated my local community as part of the marketing.  

Coworkers – For example, a coworker had read my first memoir and recommended it to her mother. After finishing the book, she wanted to tell her supervisor at the counseling center where she worked and invited me to a staff meeting to discuss domestic violence.

Local press releases/local outlets  – This staff meeting on domestic violence got broadcasted to several different counseling sites, which led to a press release that got coverage in a local paper. A reporter then called to interview me about my book which resulted in a full-page spread in the Sunday edition. Finally, a nursing colleague caught sight of the article and invited me to speak at an annual nursing meeting. Talk about multiple marketing outcomes from just one staff meeting! 

The old world of marketing will not be coming back. Authors like myself will be in this online mode indefinitely. Connecting with your potential buyers will always be an inside job, but how you present yourself as an author in these uncertain times requires out of the box thinking. 

Who are you writing for and where are you finding your target audience? What are you learning about their needs and pain points? 

Book marketing during a pandemic can be less challenging following these tips. Share your tips in the comments below.

Here is a gift glimpse into Kathy’s memoir:

In order to move forwardI had to own my story which included my part in his addiction. I had to be willing to face the ugly parts of my truth and keep digging deeper by taking the reader along with me as I processed–and tried to make sense of– the challenges.

Those cringeable moments when I stood by wringing my hands rather than taking action:

Why didn’t I act sooner? Why couldn’t I control my son? Why did I keep hoping it would get better when all evidence pointed to it not?

Like this scene from Just the Way He Walked:

One day, I met Brian in front of the Amana stove as he staggered into the kitchen. I looked into his eyes and knew he was far away where I couldn’t reach him. He was slipping away right in front of me. I grieved the loss of that sensitive, caring little guy who stood up for his friends who were bullied; the one who held so much promise for making a positive difference in the world.

“Where are you Brian and how can I get you back?” I cried, terrified and helpless as I grabbed his slumped shoulders and shook him. He looked beyond me, hollowed-eyed, and didn’t answer, then turned away and went to his bedroom. 

I leaned on the stove and sobbed as he lumbered up the stairs.

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