February 7, 2017
Note From Rochelle
I’m delighted to bring you my interview with Fauzia Burke, the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm that works primarily with authors. She’s helped many authors reach their readers and has written a book about how you can do it, too: Online Marketing for Busy Authors. Read on to learn her excellent tips for marketing your book. And stop by the blog to learn how you can win a copy of her book.
Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
Writers@Work: An Interview with Fauzia Burke, author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors
by Rochelle Melander
You have a long history in publishing and book marketing, first working for traditional publishers and now in your own firm. Can you talk about how the role of the author in marketing of books has changed in the past 20 years?
Yes, I’ve always worked in book publishing. I was working in the marketing departments of John Wiley and Henry Holt before starting my own firm. I was always passionate about marketing and publicity, but when I saw the web for the first time, I felt it would change everything. That’s when I decided to leave a publishing job I loved, to start FSB Associates, and figure out how to promote books and authors online.
The landscape has completely changed for authors. The web and social media has provided a way for us to connect and collaborate like never before.
There’s really never been a better time to be an author. Now, for the first time in the history of publishing, authors have direct access to their readers. While there is more competition in the marketplace today, there are also more opportunities for authors than ever before. The new accessibility of social media and mailing lists allow authors to reach their audience directly. Today authors can form a long-term strategy for building and growing their individual brands online by defining their unique niche. (While marketing offline still has its value, an author will likely spend more of his or her time building a brand and community online.)
Another thing that has shifted with our digital world is that there are more demands on our time and no one has any time to waste, so books that provide content of high value are more important than ever. In fact, that’s why I wrote Online Marketing for Busy Authors I found I was answering the same questions for authors over and over again, so I wanted to put all my advice in one place and make it available so I could help more authors to build their platforms and enjoy the process of book marketing.
How can authors build their brand and their platform before they sell a book? And is that wise?
I encourage authors to build a brand by creating a conversation with their readers as soon as they have an idea for a book. Effective marketing is a marathon and not a sprint.
Authors need to think about who their readers are by identifying the values and interests that shape their brand. Authors can ask themselves: What’s my reason for writing this book? And then find an audience with like-minded interests. Authors can reach out to where their audience is online and listen to their community because successful branding is a two-way street.
Take time to consider what social media platforms make sense for your brand. Just because a social media platform exists or there’s an app for it, doesn’t mean you have to use it. Decide what sites and tools you will use to find and communicate with your audience. To avoid overwhelm, start with a professional website and one or two social media platforms. Experiment. You don’t have to do everything all at once.
It’s also helpful for authors to identify their goals early on so they can develop the most effective strategy for how to spend time online. Your goals as an author determine your focus and what you should do online.
As an example, I wrote Online Marketing For Busy Authors so I can help more authors be proactive about promoting their books. Reminding myself of why I wrote my book—to help authors—drives everything I do online and in my business.
The sooner an author can start the better. Cultivating a brand and a community takes time.
I feel like author blogs are often written for other authors. What advice would you give to an author about starting a blog for readers?
Every author has a niche audience. It’s a common mistake to think your book or blog is for everyone. When you think “everyone” is your audience, it makes branding a lot more difficult because you haven’t defined your reader. Who you are talking to or writing for? What are the traits and attributes of your ideal reader? Authors have a better chance of writing content that resonates with readers by defining their audience(s) first. Here are two questions authors can ask themselves to define their audience before they write a blog.
- Who is my blog for? Answer this question on paper and a picture of your audience will begin to emerge. Once you can describe your audience, you will have a better understanding of where you can find them online.
- Who do I want to help? Think of the problems you want to help solve for your audience and share your knowledge. Create connections through online conversation. Offer value with solutions, ideas, resources or expertise.
- Write what you enjoy. I think a lot of authors write blogs that talk about writing because it seems like the thing to do (almost like a homework assignment), but often the blogs you enjoy writing are more effective. For example, write about doing the research for your novel, or talk about traveling, or an epiphany or about your family or your traditions or your pet peeves or how or why you choose the names of your characters.
One of the problems I see is how writers can seem very obnoxious when they’re selling their own work. How does an author promote without being promotional?
An effective way for authors to promote without being promotional is to have a goal to help your readers rather than a goal to sell books. Of course, we all want to sell books, I get that, but social media is not a sales channel.
To build a successful platform or brand online, we all need to be unique and real. That’s the only way we can truly make connections that move people to buy and read our books. Plus, it’s the only way to break through the noise. Share your stories and your experiences, because not everyone can do that.
We are more likely to form lasting relationships when we, as authors, are passionate about our topics and we could talk or write about them all day. When authors aim to educate, inform or inspire, it’s far less likely that they will sound like a promotional bullhorn.
Many writers are fearful of hiring a publicity firm—worrying that it will be too expensive and not do enough for their work. What advice do you have for writers when it comes to hiring help?
Book publicity can be expensive and with no guaranteed results it can feel like a shot in the dark. Authors can mitigate the risk by doing research and asking for referrals from other authors, agents and publishers.
Also before you begin your search, think about your PR goals. What is it that you want? Do you want to be on TV? Do you want reviews in newspapers? Or, do you want to build exposure online? Whom do you want to reach? Do you know your target demographic? How long do you want to work with a PR agency? Do you want to work with a PR agency for a one-time book or project or for multiple projects longer term? Once you identify your goals, you’ll be able to find an agency that can help you achieve them.
Once you are prepared, interview the agencies so you can find the best fit for you and your book.
Any final tips?
You don’t have to do everything. Pick the social networks that you enjoy and focus on building a following there.
Your mailing list is more important than social media.
Don’t get stuck on the number of followers you have on different social media platforms. Engagement on your social media feeds is more important.
I want every author to know that they can market their books in a smart and strategic way regardless of their budget. My book, Online Marketing For Busy Authors walks authors through the process step-by-step.
Fauzia Burke is the founder and president of FSB Associates, an online publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. She’s the author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Berrett-Koehler Publishers). Fauzia has promoted the books of authors such as Alan Alda, Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra, Melissa Francis, S. C. Gwynne, Mika Brzezinski, Charles Spencer and many more. A nationally recognized speaker and online branding expert, she has contributed to Fast Company, Huffington Post, Maria Shriver, MindBodyGreen and more. For online marketing, book publishing and social media advice, follow Fauzia on Twitter (@FauziaBurke) and Facebook (Fauzia S. Burke). For more information on the book, please visit: www.FauziaBurke.com
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at https://www.writenowcoach.com.