Book marketing is not usually something authors approach with passion. They want to focus on their purpose, which to them is their content. Yet authors with the strongest marketing plans know that marketing can actually elevate their purpose, not water it down. Marketing does not have to feel forced or artificial. To approach your marketing with clarity and intention is to rise to new creative and artistic heights, even if those lofty ideals were not where you started.
In 2010, Lisa Harris left her high-pressure job in corporate America. She had small children, and with the demands of home and work, she needed to hit the reset button. The first six months of her leave felt like a return to her personal freedom, but soon all the time to her thoughts began to feel stifling. She found herself in a place of darkness and many unresolved feelings came to the surface. She wasn’t sure how to define herself. She knew she had to make a move, but she wasn’t sure what that move would be.
Like many lost, creative people, Lisa began to write. She wrote poems to express how she really felt, and to discover the pieces of herself she had pushed aside. From that dark place, she emerged stronger, and after eighteen months, she returned to a job that gave her a better sense of work/life balance. She also returned to herself with passion, and she knew that she was ready to share her poetry with the world to help women feel less alone. It became her purpose.
Lisa’s book, Unveiled Beauty: Handwritten Stories From A Poetic Heart, is a collection of poems and fashion photography featuring every day women, not professional models. The women represent all of us; they are our mothers, sisters, daughters and best friends. The poems encompass the journey of women and the photography enhances the written work in another artistic form. It is a book of self-discovery, healing, and confidence, and it launched Lisa down a path she never could have imagined when she was busy climbing the corporate jungle gym.
When her book came out, book events were the most natural place for Lisa to share her poetry. There, she was able to meet more women who identified with the themes in Unveiled Beauty. They too had felt lost, they too had felt scared, and they too were searching for their way back to themselves. During the time when Lisa felt like she needed to focus on her book the most, these women made her think about her larger purpose. Deep down, she wanted to help women find strength and hope in their own stories. She wanted to give their stories a voice. Once she recognized that her book was only a part of her mission in the world, everything unfolded.
Lisa launched her first Unveiled Beauty event in 2017. These women’s empowerment and storytelling events allow women to be candid about their personal experiences in a safe, judgment-free space. Women take the stage, hold the space, and share some of their most vulnerable stories in community with other women. She approached one venue per year to host the events and started pitching sponsorship opportunities. In the beginning, it wasn’t easy—the first event hosted twenty-five people. But by 2019, her average event size grew to over a hundred. These events became more than spaces to share her book, they became spaces to help others and live out her purpose.
Of course, book marketing and event marketing would be nothing without the support of digital marketing strategies. Lisa began building her social media presence two years prior to her book launch. When her book came out, she doubled down on her efforts to grow her social media following and build an email list. Even at the time of her launch, she regretted not starting an email list sooner. “My advice to authors is to continue with your day job and save up,” Lisa shared, “Budget for marketing. Work with a branding professional to create a unifying message and look for your brand. People buy an idea, not a book.”
Lisa’s shift in focus from her book to the ideas that mattered to her was key to her success. “When authors look at their book, they’re concerned about their messaging and all the logical semantics of that message. Realize that your book came from your heart. It came from who you are. When you share that, people become attached to you, and then that will sell your book organically. People want to know people,” she says. She began to focus on bringing her personality to her events, her book, and her brand. She expanded her events from storytelling events to fashion shows. She went on to create Unveiled YOU!, a 12-week women’s empowerment program that helps women expand beyond their comfort zones and reclaim personal power through storytelling and vulnerability. (To enroll, please email Lisa at email@example.com.) This program includes a photoshoot experience, writing workshops, public speaking component, and the opportunity to share stories at the Unveiled Beauty events. Her book inspired these new ventures and allowed her to creatively explore her passions.
Your book marketing can be a journey that takes you places you never thought possible. It can also be a hard place that forces you to rise to the challenge and grow. Before you quit your day job, you will need to invest time, energy, and money into your marketing strategy. “It may be a year or two before you start to make money,” Lisa says. “The first year after your book launches is about getting the word out there. At first, you will need to think of events as marketing expenses. Your business will grow really fast after that.” It takes creativity and perseverance to get through that initial period of time where you’re building your network and refining your business model. For Lisa, there were three things that brought her to a place where she could focus on her brand as a career.
The first was branding. Lisa made sure that she had the time and the budget to craft a unified message that would attract the audience that would get the most out of her book. The second strategy that helped was her work with brand ambassadors. “Find five people who have different networks from you, but who are inspired by your content,” Lisa advises. A brand ambassador can connect you to new opportunities and can connect new audiences to you. The third thing that revolutionized Lisa’s marketing was a shift in her mindset. “Think about your book beyond being a product. People get sick of you selling them stuff. They need an idea. They need a bigger message.”
Marketing an idea, not a book, really pays off. In the time since Lisa’s book has been out, she’s hosted more than 2,000 people at her events, and engaged 8,000-10,000 people on social media through her personal accounts, business accounts, and her brand ambassadors. It’s been work, but it’s also felt purposeful, authentic, and honest. In November, Lisa produced her twentieth event, and she can’t wait to see where she’ll go from there.