Tannara is a fantasy author who has just started selling her short stories. Her latest one, "Autumn Road to Yessar" appears in The Great Tome of Fantastic and Wondrous Places by Bards and Sages Publishing. You can visit her at tannarayoung.com.
Hurray – you've sold a short story! Now you want to get the word out there. Sure it's just a short story, but if you're like me, you want to get better at marketing so that when you publish a novel, you already have some of the skills to jump into the big time marketing.
In my post Marketing 101, I mentioned starting out overwhelmed by all the advice in articles, books, and blogs. Despite that overwhelm, it is really nice that people are willing and eager to share their expertise and ideas. I am still developing my expertise, but I am happy to share my ideas for version 1.0 of my Marketing Strategy.
Here is the bare bones of my 16 Weeks Marketing Strategy. This strategy should be started 12 weeks before your story comes out: Week 12 is the Official Launch Week
Week 1 – Assess Where You Are
Think about what you already have going and if you want to add any other platforms:
- Are you current on your social media sites?
- Do you want to open any other social media accounts?
- Do you have a web page or blog? There are great free options such as Blogger and Google Sites if you don't want to pay for a service.
- Is all your contact information current?
- Do you have an author biography?
- How about a list of published works – with links if they are published online?
Week 2 – Build your Base
Brainstorm a few ways you can increase your reach
- Maybe a new social media account where your readers hang out?
- How about commenting on blogs with relevant topics?
- If you are in an anthology, reach out to your fellow authors and consider how you can support each other – for example, guest blogging like this post.
- Think about your audience for this particular story: maybe it's suitable for young adults as well as your regular adult readers. Maybe it would appeal to boat enthusiasts, or it's about delicious food. There might be readers out there who wouldn't normally find your story, but who might be interested if you reach out to them.
Week 3 –A Picture's Worth a Paragraph
Pictures draw people in, yet for short stories authors seldom bother to create postcards, bookmarks or online graphics to generate interest. If art and graphics are not in your skill set, maybe you can find a friend who will help out for a trade: you could polish the written part of their online gallery, or wash their car, or make them a home cooked meal…
Images to gather:
- Image of the book cover, or if it's an online publication, the logo or an images associated with the publisher.
- A photo or drawing representing your short story within the larger publication.
- Author Photo – if you don't want your head-shot out there, think of other creative images to use: an silhouette of you against the sea, your hands writing in a notebook, your favorite plush wombat.
- Any other logos, such as the publisher, or venues where the story will be available (Amazon, Smashwords, your local bookstore, etc.)
Week 4 – But Words are What We Work With
Is it enough to say "My short story 'The Bells of New York' is now available at in XYZ magazine?" I know I am more likely to read something that has a little blurb about its contents.
Text to prepare:
- A logline for your story
- A logline for the publication
- Sample posts and tweets about it for social media
- Quotes from reviews
- An excerpt from the story
Week 5 – Images and Words Together and Planning Tactics
Now put your images and words together to make interesting blog posts, a poster you can put up in your local coffee shop, or a postcard you can send online.
Make a list of tactics you are going to do for your marketing plan – such as:
- Post to social media
- Hang posters
- Go on a Blog Tour
- Ask for Reviews
- Host a Launch Party
Week 6 – How will you Celebrate?
I am a big fan of Launch Parties. They are both a tool for promoting interest in your work, and a way to celebrate a success. They are not for everybody – maybe you hate parties or are too busy. But consider doing a little something to send your work into the world.
Launch Party Planning
- Where and when: the idea is to be public – but you can also do it with just friends and family. Think of a venue or a theme that fits your story. If it's set in the roaring 20's, invite your friends to a speakeasy party. If it takes place by on a boat – hold it at the beach or a lakeside park. If you want to do it in a business, be sure to discuss it with them. Or hold it online.
- What and who: Typically book launches include a short reading by the author, a time for Q and A and some sort of refreshments. If you're in a coffee shop or pub the refreshments might take care of themselves, but otherwise think about your story again. If it's a carnival themed story, have little boxes of Caramel Corn, etc. Invite your friends and family – or make it a Facebook Event, or post a notice in your local paper's event calendar.
- If you are not up to hosting a launch party – or it seems like too much for the scope of the story you published – at least find a friend, pour a glass of something and toast the launch of a few of your words into the world!
Week 7 – Official Announcement
Now that you have some marketing materials made up and hopefully know about when your story will be out:
- Craft an official announcement to post on your blog, website, and social media sites. Make it pretty with your images, make it intriguing with your log-lines and be sure to add any links to pre-release pages.
- Update your email signature to note that the publication is coming
Week 8 – Prepping the Plan
Create a marketing calendar for all your tactics – ex:
- Are you going to put up posters? When?
- Are you going to ask for reviews? When?
- Is there a deadline for submitting an announcement to a newsletter or local paper?
Week 9 – Spend Something to Get Something
Create a marketing budget for yourself
- Will you have anything printed?
- Will you spend anything on a launch party?
- Are there any other tactic you might be spending something on?
Week 10 - And go!
Start following your list of tactics:
- Contact reviewers
- Exchange guest blogs
- Plan your party
- Print posters
- Keep up with your regular posts and social media activity
Week 11 - Gain Momentum
Follow your Marketing Calendar
- Keep up with any deadlines
- Prewrite reviews and blog posts to save yourself time later
- Invite guests to your Launch Party
- Offer advanced reading copies if appropriate
Week 12 - Publishing Week
It's out! It's there for you readers to enjoy!
- Post the news
- Host a Lunch Party
- Update your email signature, list of works published, biography, etc.
- Ask your readers for reviews
- Follow your Marketing Calendar
Week 13 – Keep it Fresh
- Post reviews you've gotten
- Post any news from the launch week
- Post pictures from your launch party
- Keep up with anything on your Marketing Calendar
- Is it in hard copy? Ask your fans to post pictures of them reading it.
- If there are other stories appearing in that issue or publication, post reviews of them.
Week 14 – Acknowledgments
Take a moment to thank those who helped you – reviewers, friends, the coffee shop that hosted your launch party.
Week 15 – Wrapping Up
Finish any last items on your marketing calendar.
Week 16 – Reflections
Think about what you did for this story.
- What worked?
- What didn't work?
- What brainstorms did you have?
- What would you have done differently?
There are many other tactics that can be used for marketing your writing: book signings, book tours, attend a convention, participate in local arts events like First Friday, or Open Studios. Most of these are more likely to be worth your time and effort when you have a novel to promote or the anthology is all your own work. However, there's nothing wrong with keeping a list of marketing ideas and adapting them to anything you publish from a short story to an epic series.
And hopefully like me, each time you do it, you will get a little better at marketing your work.