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Content Marketing

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Content Marketing

February 2014

by Joanna Penn

This image from Joanna Penn’s site is captioned “Making videos at the British Museum, London — just part of the job.”

Content marketing is using content that you create to attract people so that they will become part of your sales process.

For example, you can write useful articles in your specific niche to attract people in a target market who might be interested your books and in any related products and/or services you offer.

You may have noticed that the Internet is full of free information 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 make it stand out in a crowd.

I am not someone who enjoys the hard sell, from either end of the experience, so since I discovered content marketing a few years ago, I’ve embraced it wholeheartedly. It requires an online presence with quality content that people want to consume either for information or for entertainment, and it requires spreading that content across different media to reach a variety of audiences.

If people find your content and, through it, get to your site and want to stay there and are happy to give you their email addresses, then you have permission to talk to them, and eventually they may buy your book instead of a different one because you’ve been so useful to them or even just because they’ve heard of you.

That is what I see as the goal of content marketing.

I have noticed some confusion about using content marketing vs. using social media.

Using content marketing means creating something original—for example, flash fiction, a short story, a blog post, a video, a podcast, or an e-book giveaway. You own the content, and you host it someplace that you can control. It brings people to that place, where they can find out more about you. And it lasts a long time, continuing to be relevant. Because it is discoverable via search engines, people may consume it or link back to it for years.

Using social media means posting ephemeral content, designed to catch attention right here, right now. Your social media posts can and should include links to your own content but also involve sharing other people’s content, discussions, comments, and more interactive relationships.

Because you don’t own the platform, your social media content can disappear at any point. In the past, some people put everything into MySpace, and then it sank. Now some people are putting everything on Facebook, Pinterest, or Google Plus. Definitely use the tools, but build your content marketing base on your own hosted site and use social media as an add-on.

What You Could Create

Thousands of books every week sink to the bottom of the sales charts because nobody knows that they are there. What types of content should you produce to ensure that your book isn’t one of them?

Here are just a few examples, but there is no limit to what you can produce and disseminate.

●  Text article/ blog post. This is where writers have an advantage. We’re so used to writing that crafting articles should be easy. But we also have a disadvantage because we spend so long agonizing over the words.

Blogging calls for a different type of writing than fiction or even nonfiction books. Of course, you should post on your own blog first, where you are building your brand and personal audience. Also write guest posts on other blogs within your niche and aim for relevant bigger blogs with a wider audience.

●  Video. Video searches are increasingly popular, and since Google owns YouTube, the search process should only improve over time. As bandwidth continues to improve and people increasingly use online video sites for longer-form content, 30 seconds of LOLcats are just part of a mix that includes interviews, talking-head opinion pieces, skits, vlog chat shows, book trailers, on-location research videos, and many more options.

Building trust and rapport is key to content marketing, and video provides a brilliant way to do this.

●  Audio. The same is true for audio, especially now that downloading and listening to podcasts on smartphones is so easy. Basically, podcasts are radio shows, distributed over the Internet, through services such as iTunes, that people can subscribe to for free. When people listen to your voice for 30-plus minutes per week, when they hear you laugh and hear you talk about your books and their backstories, they feel they know you.

●  White papers, e-books, free reports. One example of a free report is my “Author 2.0 Blueprint,” which contains advice on writing, publishing, selling, and promoting books on the Internet quickly, for free. People sign up for it every day because it provides useful information.

Fiction authors often use short stories as giveaways. Nonfiction authors often use quizzes and top-10 lists. But again, the possibilities are endless.

●  Teleseminars and Webinars. It’s quite easy to do live events now, using paid services such as GoToWebinar or free options such as Google Hangouts. When people are exposed to your expertise, ask questions, and engage with you, connections are formed.

Many Internet marketers now use teleseminars and Webinars to generate leads and product sales. Some even do online conferences with multiple speakers, which can be fantastic.

●  Photos and other images. Hugh Macleod, the author of Ignore Everybody, is well known for his cartoons on the back of his business cards, which led to a multibook deal on top of a successful Internet business. Every week, he sends illustrations to his list, which can be shared on social media and emailed, and he offers merchandise including T-shirts, books, and prints, so his content sells his business. I highly recommend his book.

Recently, I’ve started buying jewelry from people around the world based on photos I’ve found on Flickr, and I post my photos of places I travel to or interesting things there under Creative Commons license so everyone can use them.

And There’s More

I favor content marketing online because the reach is so global, but I urge you to visit copyblogger.com/content-marketing to explore stacks of other content marketing possibilities, including paper-based options such as direct mail.

Also, I urge you to remember you can repurpose your content. For instance, you can write a text article, and then you can talk about it in a video or a podcast, include it in your email newsletter, create a slideshow from it, and share it on social media sites. (For more on repurposing, see “Five Ways to Repurpose Your Book Content for More Exposure and More Sales” in this issue.)


Joanna Penn is the author of How to Market a Book, an Amazon #1 bestseller, and the source of this article. She is also the author of Career Change and the bestselling ARKANE thrillers under J.F.Penn (JFPenn.com). Her site for writers, TheCreativePenn.com, was voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for writers for three years running. It offers articles, audio, and video on writing, publishing, and book marketing. Connect on Twitter: @thecreativepenn.

Tackling the Timing

For obvious reasons, it’s good to create a content production schedule for yourself. What follows is the schedule I created for my own content production, which I have used for nearly five years.

Every day

● Post 6–10 useful links, or more, to other sites and one to my own on Twitter @thecreativepenn.

● Respond to @ comments and replies.

● Post one thing on The Creative Penn Facebook page and also on Google Plus. (I schedule a lot of this, using tools such as Bufferapp or Hootsuite).

Every 3 days

Post an article, video, or audio podcast on The Creative Penn blog. I usually batch the creation and prepare at least a week’s worth in advance. At first, I posted more often than every 3 days because I was trying to raise my rankings with Google, Alexa, and so on. As I move into my sixth year of blogging, I will be posting content less regularly.

Every two weeks

● Post an audio podcast with an interesting guest (my backlist now includes more than 160 interviews).

● Post a video or two. I usually do my podcast interviews on video Skype and post them on YouTube before using them as audio and blog posts. I also post some talking-head videos and on-location pieces.

Every few months

● Do at least one live speaking event or Webinar.

● Contribute a guest post or an interview to a different blog/podcast.

Every year

Write and publish at least one book. At this point, I am trying to up my game and produce several books a year.

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