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Content Marketing: Turning a One-Night Stand into a Relationship

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by Meghan Harvey, Executive Director of Independent Publishing, Girl Friday Productions —

Meghan Harvey

How to use your book’s content as a blueprint for marketing.

When you publish a book and do the hard work to get readers to find it, do you want your relationship with that reader to end at the last leaf? Or would you like your reader to tell their friends about you, amplify your social media posts to their followers, buy your next book, and pay for the services your core business offers? Content marketing is how you turn a one-night stand with your reader into a relationship.

Let me get this out of the way first: I think “content marketing” is a bad term. Because when it’s done well, the content produced by content marketing feels to the receiver like they are not being marketed to. Instead, it’s truly stuff of value. Our feeds and inboxes are full-overflowing-with content from people we choose to have relationships with, brands we want to hear from, and, too often, brands we don’t. The party (in everyone’s feeds and inboxes) is glutted, and it’s pointless to simply show up. Valuable content looks vastly different depending on your audience, so your content strategy needs to be insightful to be effective. But if you offer value to your readers (in their inboxes, in their social feeds) on a consistent and ongoing basis, they will continue to remember and listen to you. I hereby rename content marketing as “Consistent Contribution to the Conversation.”

You will thank yourself every day for devising a comprehensive content plan.

You’re a thought leader, a consultant, a CEO, a hardworking director hoping to strike out on your own soon-whoever you are, creating bite-sized content to reconnect with your fans on a day-to-day basis probably isn’t your most-pressing matter, and the thought of having to do it is overwhelming. There’s only one way to tackle it: Carve out a day or so and write yourself a content plan. Content planning means creating a solid chunk of prewritten content-I recommend a minimum of one month’s worth. (How frequently do you want to do this? Create that much.) When I say create, I don’t mean ideate; I mean write it and find or shoot images to go with it. It takes some time to build out your plan, but for the rest of the 29 days of the month, you’ll be so happy that you don’t have to think about it (except to fill in some timely reactive content), yet your followers are hearing from you on a consistent basis.

Your book is the perfect blueprint for your content plan.

“Sit down and write a month’s worth of valuable content” is where most people stop listening to me. Wait-you already did the really hard work: you wrote a book. A book you slaved over! A book that was carefully structured and outlined, a book that was edited in numerous passes, a book that was designed professionally. I am not talking about promoting your book, though there is room for that in your content plan (less than 20 percent outright promotion is a good rule of thumb). I’m talking about taking all of that valuable information and expertise from your book and chopping it up into little pieces, and feeding it to your readers online in bite sizes over time. Pull quotes. Graphics. Surprising statistics from your research. Endorsements from your book’s cover. Topic sentences. Links to articles that informed your work. Whole sections. Once you realize that you can piecemeal your book’s content into your social posts or email newsletter, your content plan will almost write itself. In writing this book, you and your editors have already vetted the content with a fine-tooth comb that asks, “Is this valuable to my reading audience?” No need to bang your head against a blank page again to write a brand-new content plan.

Isn’t this effectively giving away my book, so no one will buy it?

A lot of authors have a fair amount of anxiety about this. My opinion-and I’m not alone here among marketers-is that being generous with your content and ideas is one of the very best ways for a debut author in any genre to gain readership and traction. Not unlike the samples counter at the grocery store, startup marketing-especially for an unknown brand or author-involves giving away your goods for free. By doing this, you lower the bar to discovery and usher many more people through the door. As the demand for your work goes up, you can give away less of the cheese. Also: We’re an impatient culture that expects to be able to get information when we want it and consume as much as we want. The immediacy of being able to download the full book is valuable and something people are willing to pay for. So, if you’re using Twitter to tease pieces of your book’s content, it’s very unlikely that your readers will simply wait around to “read” your book over months as it comes out of your Twitter feed. Their interest will be piqued by the valuable stuff you’re saying, and they’ll think, This person is smart-I’m going to read their book. One-Click to Purchase.

Your book helps you build a content marketing plan, your content marketing helps build your brand, and your brand helps sell more books.

The strength of your author brand relies on your ability to show up consistently, with value, and with an on-brand message. An on-brand message is one that fits your public persona and continuously reinforces for your followers who you are. Finding your readers and marketing to them is not about “being yourself” in all your myriad facets online; it’s about presenting the version of yourself that your readers want. It’s an authentic self, for sure, but it’s also a carefully curated self. To use an example that many people will recognize: Jane Friedman is known far and wide as a book-publishing consultant, straddling both indie and traditional worlds with her well-informed, impartial, and honest eye. Nearly every single bit of her content supports that position. If you create your content plan in this on-brand way-and using your book as a blueprint is an excellent way to begin doing so-then your content will reinforce and strengthen your author brand by delivering the same ideas, messages, and themes consistently over time. Your brand lift will reinforce and strengthen your book sales. And when you’re ready to release your second book, your growing platform will help you reach even more readers.

Meghan Harvey is the executive director of independent publishing at Girl Friday Productions. Connect with her on twitter @meggsaladpdx.

Want to learn more marketing tips and tricks? Check out our IBPA Independent article, Collective Engagement: Authors and Publishers Marketing Together

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