One of the biggest misconceptions I once had as an author was that most of my book promotion would be handled by someone else.
What I’ve learned over the years is that some part of the task of marketing my work will fall on me, regardless of where I am in my career. This has been especially true during the Covid pandemic when we’ve all had to pivot to the virtual space. How do we promote interest in our books now? How do we continue to create community with our readers long distance? And how can we do it without feeling like we’ve become sales people?
My assistant, Kerri Poore, and I have been giving this a lot of thought. We’ve been working together since 2019, when she helped oversee the redesign of this website. And this summer, we decided together to take a closer look at social media connections, specifically at Instagram.
Working in the do-it-yourself design site Canva, Kerri has designed a few fun items that support my new IGTV series, One-Minute Writing Tips, that many of you have been enjoying. (Check it out for your own practice or your students’ work.) She also created little homemade micro ads for Merci Suárez Can’t Dance. None of this is Madison-Avenue ready, but I think that’s the point. We wanted to create good looking materials that really do come from us and that don’t feel overly processed.
So what have we learned? Here are five things we thought we should share for those of you on this journey, too.
- It’s intuitive, but it takes a lot longer than you think. Canva offers lots of free templates, and most of the design changes will be drop and drag, but it has its quirks. In other words, that first ad, postcard, or Instagram tile might take you a few hours of frustration if you’re new to this. Schedule some time and some deep breaths.
- Get a tutor. Don’t know how to do it? There’s a tutorial for anything you’d like to know, from basic to advanced. How to create an Instagram story? The ins and outs of IGTV? The best time to post? You name it, somebody’s talking on it. So, get friendly with YouTube and bookmark what you find for future reference.
- Use your existing assets. These could be the precise color scheme used on your website, your logo, your official author photo or special fonts. All of those things work together to create a metaphorical “look” for you. You can find most of these in Canva for free.
- Think about your budget. You can do a lot with the free stuff, but you’ll inevitably find that one thing you need that costs more money. So be honest with yourself about how much you’ll use this tool, and maybe spring for a subscription, too. While there’s always a fee these days, a robust design tool can make creating that much easier. Once you learn some of the basics, it can be a great avenue for quickly creating assets to share on your favorite social media channels.
- Most of all, have fun (when you’re not tearing your hair out.) Kerri and I both admit that Canva can be oddly addictive. And we’ve had our share of mishaps, mostly of the Meg-vaporized-something variety. But we’re still up for the job. This might be a very different style of creating for you, but dive in and be willing to make mistakes. You can always preview your creations with friends, your publisher’s team, and colleagues for feedback.
So, do efforts like this move books? Do they create readers who seek you out? No one in publicity can ever tell you that for sure – and neither can I.
But while I’ll not ever be in the Kardashian zone, I know I’m putting time into the things that legitimately matter to me. That seems worth the trouble.
If you’ve got some hard-earned wisdom to share, please feel free to add it here for our community.
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