1. Post regularly on social media, including Goodreads. Before I became a published author, I was a social media Neanderthal, so this has been a sharp learning curve for me. I’m far more comfortable talking with people in person than posting to the vast population of nameless faces hiding behind their computers. Without loving the idea of joining the world of social media, I’m not sure why I thought anyone would care when I did sign up. Most people already have their legions of followers, and are more interested in being heard about, than in hearing from others, particularly those who don’t have an existing profile. So I’ve quickly learnt that social media is a slow burn way to build your profile as an author unless you already have millions of followers. I’ve also learnt that the key is to post regularly on social media, so I’ve committed to posting most week days. The truth is I’m not sure if it’s working that well from a profile building perspective yet, but ask me in a couple of years.
Profile building effectiveness: 3/10, profile building timeframe: 2-3 years+
2. Connect with bookshop owners. The first time I wandered into a bookshop to discuss the idea of the shop distributing Secrets of a River Swimmer, my heart was racing. Where do you start? How do you pitch your novel in a matter of minutes in a way which doesn’t come across as a salesy pitch? Then, I quickly discovered that most bookshop owners love meeting authors who are brave enough to show their faces for the simple reason most authors prefer creating characters on their laptops as opposed to talking with real people. This was a pleasant surprise to me, and chatting with bookshop owners has become genuine fun in recent months. A number of these bookshop owners have been greatly supportive of my novel, and have even arranged book launch events for me which is almost unheard of for a first-time author. I’ve made a friend or two from these experiences, and my bookshop sales have greatly benefited. So this is a strategy I’d strongly recommend. Just remember to be interested in the bookshop owners, and to ask them lots of questions.
Profile building effectiveness: 8/10, profile building timeframe: 2-3 months+
3. Talk about your book. Now this one seems obvious but it’s harder to do than I imagined! My personality has always been humble and I’ve rarely talked myself up in the past, so learning how to mention my book in passing conversation has taken effort. What I’ve discovered is that it’s best to remain true to yourself when you’re doing this. In my case, that means remaining authentically humble rather than pushing my book on others. It also means picking your audience. For example, women are generally more interested in books than men. But the good news is the more you talk about your book, the more your author profile and book sales benefit. It’s worth getting better at.
Profile building effectiveness: 6/10, profile building timeframe: forever.
4. Be a guest speaker at writer’s conferences. I have to admit I thought this one would be easier to execute on than it has been. A few writer friends recommended some high profile writers conferences, and I sent across my details in case they were interested in my attendance. However, so far, this has been an unproductive strategy as most writer’s conferences only invite already high profile writers to present. Of course, this defeats the purpose most of them say they are focused upon of introducing readers to both old and new writing talent, but that’s just the way it is. I get the impression conferences may be a next step once an author already has a solid profile.
Profile building effectiveness: 1/10, profile building timeframe: 2+ books in the market.
5. Leverage connections. This is another challenging one for me as I dislike the idea of using anyone. However, I’ve discovered that this indeed is a helpful strategy when your interests are aligned with another party. For example, I contacted the Arts Department at the university I attended to let them know about my book’s recent publication, and they asked if I’d be interested in an author interview which would be emailed out to their vast community. It was aligned with their interests because they wanted to showcase published authors who attended their university. I agreed to the interview, and it turned out to be a great profile building move. My best advice here is to remain open-minded and to think about what you can do for others, rather than the other way around.
Profile building effectiveness: 7/10, profile building timeframe: 2-3 months+.
So those are my top profile building strategies thus far, not that I’m an expert in profile building. I’ve been learning on the run, and there’s a lot more to be learnt as I compete in an enormous book market which continues to be dominated by a few well-known names. I often remind myself that Stephen King went through all these lessons when he was starting out. It’s the price of competing for your spot on a rather full bookshelf.