An Author's Experience of Marketing during COVID by Andrew McDowell
I don’t think anyone imagined a few months ago that the COVID19 Crisis would lead to us having to stay home, wear masks, and maintain social distancing, let alone cancel events. For writers, events have always been a key to marketing and promoting their work, and to meeting other writers. We all crave that human connection, and still do. I was looking forward to attending the Maryland Writers’ Conference this year like in years past, but of course, it had to be cancelled. So, I had to look elsewhere to promote my work.
As the saying goes, whenever a door closes, a window opens. In this case, it was social media. I’d used it to promote my work before, but I found myself discovering other ways to use it, more so because the aforementioned opportunities had been closed. Twitter in particular is where I began applying myself.
Like seasons that are good for sales (summer, winter holidays, etc.), there are hashtags that can help draw attention to work. The first was #IndieApril; there were forums asking for book and blog links, something that occurs regularly with #ShamelessSelfpromoSaturday, #ShamelessSelfpromoSunday, and #writerslift. I think I’d seen #IndieApril before, but only latched onto briefly; this year I followed it all month long.
Finding these forums and sharing links took up a lot of time; I certainly felt I was putting more energy into marketing than before. Additional opportunities opened up as well, including this guest appearance. I even appeared Live on Twitter for the first time as part of a virtual book tour set up by Our Own Write in response to writers’ conferences being shut down. Sometimes I wonder what it would’ve been like had we not been quarantined because of COVID19.
Still, sometimes it can feel like, when constantly tweeting links to your books, that it’s not really yielding sales. I admit, when I check stats, I don’t see link clicks as much as likes, retweets, and even profile clicks. But every once in a while, someone does comment expressing interest (which is an incentive to follow them back). I have made good connections, found other opportunities to market my book, and I have found a couple prospective readers. Ultimately, I think that was the benefit of the hashtags and of participating in that virtual tour: I made new, genuine connections, experienced something different, and learned new things.
The lesson, again, is that even when opportunities close, others present themselves, sometimes when least expected, and as an indie author, I must take advantage of them when they come while still taking time to judge whether they are right for me. The best thing I can do is press on, keep putting myself out there (as is the case with the hashtags), use what I learn as best I can, and hope more readers will come. It’s all about not giving up.
Andrew McDowell has been writing since he was a child. He has written and published poetry and creative nonfiction. His novel Mystical Greenwood was a finalist in the 2019 American Fiction Awards for Fantasy: Epic/High Fantasy. Andrew studied at St. Mary’s College and the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and an associate nonfiction editor for the literary magazine JMWW.