8 ways for authors, creatives, side hustlers, solopreneurs, and micro-businesses to customize and optimize their marketing efforts
Having written a book, monetized your art, started a freelance side hustle, or launched your small business are all incredible achievements, and those who focus their creativity in one of these ways should make the most of that foundation. Share your content, your art, your products, and your services with the world. Integrate your enterprise and its marketing into your life, and leverage what you’ve started for maximum satisfaction, starting with the sweet gratification of proper financial reward!
I have been helping creatives and small business types make money from their work my entire 28-year career. It started with the authors I published, many of whom turned a single nonfiction book on a topic close to their heart into a cottage industry, a side gig that yielded personal and monetary returns for 3–7+ years after the book’s release.
One thing I learned years ago was that the best way to make money in publishing (or endeavor of your choice) was to customize the sales and marketing approach to fit each author, their book, their personality, their goals, their lifestyle, and their readers. What I have come to think since the 2008 recession is that this is now the only way for authors — and by extension, many other writers, creatives, and small businesses — to receive ample compensation for their endeavors.
There are eight areas I’ve identified that you as a soloist can look at when creating a personalized sales and promotion plan that works for you and your projects.
1. Your Personal Strengths StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath is my favorite resource for discovering one’s strengths, and understanding their hidden superpowers in new ways. But however they may be determined, your personal strengths make a terrific first place to start building your customized promotion and sales strategy.
Instead of worrying about what things you aren’t good at doing, focus on the few places you really shine. Great conversationalists can seek out radio and podcast interviews. Those who are disciplined should create a methodical system for pursuing their promotional leads. I’ve seen one super-entertaining author slowly turn his book presentation in libraries into a stand-up comedy act at clubs (with books for sale after the show).
2. How Others See You In How the World Sees You, author, social scientist, and advertising pro Sally Hogshead encourages you to use the “science of fascination,” to learn the ways you inherently are most valuable and interesting to others. In short, which two of the seven advantages (innovation, passion, power, prestige, trust, mystique, and alert) combine into an archetype that can guide your efforts most advantageously?
For example, innovation plus passion yields “The Rockstar” type. One soloist I know with these attributes has built a consulting company and a business book series published under his RockStar label. In hindsight, I see that the first small business I ran was a great example of “The Authentic,” a combination of trust and passion. We best marketed our regional products by riding on the appeal of our reliable authenticity.
3. Your Interests and Skills (Those You Have and Those You Want to Develop) Take inventory of your existing interests and skills, as well as those you want to explore or develop, and customize your marketing activities around these things.
If you are already a great public speaker, or if you would like to become a better public speaker, use the promotion of your art or business as an excuse to do more of it. Ditto for teaching, networking, blogging, creative sales approaches, fill-in-the-blank ability. An author I’ve published with an interest in old movies has written multiple books on narrow subjects in this area and spends weekends furthering his interest by meeting and selling books to like-minded fans at collectibles shows and conventions.
4. The Needs of Your Projects, Products, and Your Customers Spend time considering what your specific product, service, or company needs, alongside what your range of customers needs. A book that makes a breakthrough contribution to its field needs a heavy publicity campaign aimed at those who care about that field and keep up with its developments. Readers of hobby books always need more ways to pursue and enjoy their hobby. If most of your customers are retail stores, perhaps they need display stands, shelf cards, bag inserts, window signage, coupons, or social media support.
One baseball historian I know has been doing media interviews at the start of baseball season every year for over a decade; radio stations, TV shows, newspapers, and magazines all needed expert baseball commentary for their customers every March and April.
5. Your Values and Priorities/What Matters to You Figure out what matters to you and how that intersects with selling and marketing your products and services. If increasing your income is of utmost importance, then don’t pretend it’s otherwise. Keep focusing on those activities that bring you more money and don’t distract yourself with nonpaying gigs.
An author I recently worked with valued excellent work and community contribution. His priorities in retirement included refining his photography craft and supporting nonprofits whose boards he serves on. He produced beautiful hardcover photography books and donated his proceeds to these organizations that meant a lot to him.
6. Your Short and Long-Term Goals/Desired Benefits of Being in this Role What are your short and long-term goals for yourself, in general, and as a creative and/or small business owner? Use your projects to bring you closer to these things. Instead of feeling yourself slog through mundane sales tasks, experience them as inching you closer to your goals.
I’ve seen countless writers and journalists leverage their book, blog, or column — its reputation, visibility, and the new skills it brought to them into better-paying jobs. Just as many have discovered in these experiences an expanded social network and interesting new friends. Others were surprised at how diligent promotion turned them into recognized authorities on their subject in a relatively short period of time.
7. Your Connections/How Other People Can Help You Make a list of everyone you know… everyone. Get out your address book and your holiday card list. Add your email contacts, your phone contacts, and your Facebook friends. Whether you know 100 or 1,000 people, or more, you will be contacting all of them individually in a systematic way over the next month or months, be it one a day or five a day. For some, you will be asking for something specific that they can do for you: Will you show my book to that bookstore at the end of your block? May I show my artwork at your coffee shop? Are there opportunities for me to speak about my small business to your group, club, organization?
For others, you can ask more generally: May I send you an invitation to my art exhibit? Will you consider writing an Amazon/GoodReads/Library Thing review for my book? Would you mind sharing the Facebook event for an upcoming sale in my store?
Next, think of the group platforms you have, both online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn groups) and offline (clubs, etc.). As appropriate, create a multi-month campaign to ask the group or group members collectively for something (once, once a month, four times a year, whatever makes sense). Is anyone here willing to read my book and write an online review? Do you belong to any organizations that are looking for guest speakers in my area of expertise? Do my products fit with the merchandise at any stores you regularly patronize? Does anyone you know need my services at the moment?
8. Your Current Life and Schedule/Your Desired Life and Dreams Choose marketing and sales activities that work with your life and its constraints. Better yet, pick activities that both fit with your current situation and where you’d ideally like to go, whether that’s a modest or grand shift. A stay-at-home parent who does a lot of shuttling of children and feels torn by the wasted time? Commit to making sales calls from the car every time you’re waiting for the kids. Retired and increasing your travel schedule? Plan speaking events or product demonstrations at your destination in advance. Visit stores on the road to drop off sample products and ordering information.
I worked with an author who had three young triplets at home the year his book was released. He scheduled book events after work with 2–3 clubs a month for a couple of years and cherished the extra cash and every adult-filled conversation those opportunities provided.
Sound easy? It is easy in its simplicity, but it’s work. Tap into who you are and where you’re at, consider all of the above, then make your plan for action — to bring what you have to the world. When you bother only with the substance, you are optimizing your efforts and that tends to deliver not just more money, but more good things all around.