As writers, we use words to tell our stories, but we should not overlook the power of imagery, especially as a marketing tool.
This blog is inspired by Mridu Khullar Relph‘s August 4 blog on Buffer Social: The Science of Storytelling Through Facebook Images: 10 Actionable Strategies from Successful Brands.
Read Relph’s excellent blog to fully appreciate her insights and see her examples. I’ve pulled out her actionable strategies and listed some specific ideas how authors can apply the concepts for their own marketing campaigns.
1. Share “behind the scenes” photos
To readers, authors are celebrities. They love details about the writer’s life, so pull out your iPhone or smart phone and capture the moments leading up to special events – getting ready for an awards ceremony, setting up for a book signing, signing and mailing out swag, a cover art photo shoot.
Historical romance author Callie Hutton worked with friends and family to shoot images for her book covers.
2. Highlight your customers’ successes
What is success to a reader? Meeting their favorite author, winning a giveaway, receiving a signed copy of a book. If you broaden the concept beyond “customers,” think about others whose successes you can highlight: your critique partners, local writing chapter mates, librarians, booksellers and fellow authors.
3. Ask your customers to share their photos
People love sharing their own photos and images, so invite readers to post a picture of themselves with one of your books. Create a list of interesting photo-posting prompts like Favorite Place to Curl Up with a Good Book, Your TBR Pile, Favorite Book Cover, Pets and Books, etc.
Imagery isn’t limited to just photographs. Invite readers to caption a photo, share a book-related cartoon, recommend their favorite bibliophile product or design a teaser for your book. Boost the marketing impact by turning one of these challenges into a contest!
Contemporary military romance author Heather Ashby‘s readers had fun with this photo.
4. Have your photos reflect current trends
Play off current trends, events, seasons and/or activities for engaging photos. Look for connections between your books and/or your author brand and connect them to current events or trending topics.
Science fiction romance author C.B. Williams showcased a fan enjoying one of her stories as a summertime beach read.
5. Showcase your successes
One of the keys to successful promotion is to find creative, innovative perspectives. While many authors post photos of awards ceremonies and book signings, what about the everyday successes? Toasting “The End” of your current manuscript with a glass of wine, waving goodbye to your old job in order to write full-time, your first royalty check.
Author Heather Ashby displays a feature story that ran in a local newspaper.
6. Showcase your work/product in creative ways
Storytelling with images requires a different approach to creativity than writing. Use your imagination and artist’s eye to frame everyday moments versus posing every picture.
Paranormal romance author Celia Kyle shows off swag, after it’s been autographed.
You can also have a lot of fun experimenting with graphic design. Sometimes working with a new and different creative application can inspire your wordsmithing, as well.
C.B. Williams creates vivid promotional images with comic book flair.
7. Use hashtags
Add hashtags to photos, as well as your social media posts, to help readers find content.
Author Hope Ramsay tags her weekly photo share with hashtag #HangingOutWithHope to help readers identify with her marketing campaign.
8. Add inspirational quotes to your images
Get creative with inspirational quotes. Don’t limit yourself to well-known sayings; use quotes from your characters, reviewers, endorsers or readers to create engaging graphics.
This quote is part of an endorsement author and entrepreneur Rochelle Carter received for her book, The 7-Step Guide to Authorpreneurship.
9. Share your history and milestones
It’s fun to look at where you’ve been and where you are going. Use images to celebrate book anniversaries and promote upcoming projects. Celebrate personal and professional milestones: 10th book published, birthday, 5,000 followers on Twitter, 20 pounds lost. Each of these events is a way to connect with readers.
NYT bestselling author Roxanne St. Claire had fun celebrating her birthday with her street team.
10. Make it personal
Even if you write under a pseudonym or prefer to keep your non-writer life private, it’s still important to bring spontaneity and authenticity to your book promotion. Capture those details you are willing to share, such as pets or local landscapes. And while personalizing your content is important, connecting it back to your product and brand shows you to be a super savvy book promoter. One of my favorite examples of this is contemporary military romance author Heather Ashby, who frequently features her husband on her social media and other promotional outreach. “Captain Integrity” helped promote a contest based on a recipe in her book, UNFORGETTABLE.
Julia Kent has put a comic spin on her visual storytelling by wearing a chicken mask when posing for fan photos, an inside joke amongst readers of her Random series.
NYT/USA Today bestselling author Julia Kent has fun with her photo ops.
Here’s a tip exclusively from My Author Concierge–you’ll need some kind of image editor to create storytelling graphics. My favorite is PicMonkey.com, a free online program. (Additional features are available for a paid membership, but I’ve found their basic features to be sufficient for my needs.) It’s also a smart idea to subscribe to one of the many stock image providers so you don’t have to worry about copyright issues if using photos other than your own.
Share your examples of book promotion through storytelling. Ideas welcome!
Special thanks to Mridu Khullar Relph for granting permission to quote her article in this blog post.