On July 7, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won its fourth World Cup title, beating the Netherlands 2-0 in Sunday’s final match-up of the 2019 series. For these amazing women, the win was the culmination of thousands of hours of grueling training, disciplined sacrifice, true grit, and intense focus. It takes a total commitment of mind, body and spirit to become a world champion.
What fascinates me about elite athletes is the amount of time they spend perfecting their skills in the off-season—when the cameras are off and there’s no cheering crowd, when the tournament is still years away, and when they’re tired, and everyone else is on vacation.
Truth is, champions are made in the off-season.
Champions keep working toward their goals year round. They are all in—total commitment. There is no off-season for a champion.
It’s the same in any profession. In the world of classical music the winners of international competitions are those who have put in something like 25,000 hours of dedicated, solitary practice—that’s three hours of practice every day for more than 20 years!
Book publishing is no exception to the off-season rule. If you want to rise to the top of this highly competitive field, you have to commit to continuous learning and improvement every day, even in the off-season. That’s how you gain an advantage. That’s how you hone your writing craft, gather the necessary business expertise, build a powerful author brand and publish outstanding books in your genre.
For the business-of-publishing-side of your off-season workout, consider blocking off a few hours each week for marketing. I hear your collective groan. Ugh! Marketing! I know. But that’s what the off season is all about—doing the hard stuff. Just like a world-class athlete, you’ve got to do the work and put in the hours to get stronger in this area.
Here’s a way to break down each hour of your marketing workout and make easier to face. Chunk each hour you work on marketing into 20-minute focus areas:
Research and Create Content. Research reader interests and demographics, influencers, new promotional tools and outlets, etc. Understand which social channels are important to your audience, so you can focus your time and energy on a few social and marketing channels. Study the hashtags (topics or genres with the “#” in front of them—#thriller or #mustread). Make a list of topics that might be of interest to your readers. You shouldn’t always be writing about your book. You should be writing to engage and delight your readers.
Once you know what to write and for whom you’re writing, it’s much easier to sit down and bang out some blogs or create some visual posts. One helpful approach is to create “content buckets” for your posts, so you know what type of post you’re going to do each day of the week. You can tie these buckets to popular hashtags like #MondayBlogs #BookBubble #WednesdayWisdom or #ThrowbackThursday or #FridayReads. If you decide to post five days a week, your content buckets might be as follows:
Monday: Post your blog (#MondayBlogs)—Blogs do not have to be long. 250 words can suffice
Tuesday: Post a book bubble (#bookbubble)—These take minutes to create and share and Bublish will put your newest bubbles in front of 800,000 readers each week.
Wednesday: Post an inspirational quote atop a beautiful photo (#WednesdayWisdom, #WritingLife)—Use Canva to create, size and share beautiful posts quickly.
Thursday: Post an image and a short post of something from the past (or your past) that relates to the subject of your book (#ThrowbackThursday)
Friday: Post a photo of your favorite reading nook or you reading a new book (#FridayReads). Again, Canva is a great tool for sizing and captioning those photos.
Schedule and Post. The next 20-minutes of your marketing workout can focus on the execution phase. Create a content calendar with your content buckets as well as any special holidays, events or milestones. Map out what content you’re going to share—what, when, and where. Plan months in advance, so you can relax and not find yourself constantly scrambling to create your next post. Use scheduling tools (sometimes built right into the social platform—as it is on Facebook) to schedule your posts in advance. If you prefer to post right after you create the content, that’s fine, too. Try to post natively to each of the platforms then. It will take a few minutes longer, but has benefits.
Engage with Your Followers. Take 20-minutes of each hour you commit to your marketing workout to actively engage with your followers. Like, comment and share their posts. Ask them questions. Celebrate their successes. Support their marketing efforts. Cheer them up when they’re down. Social media isn’t about marketing at your audience, it’s about sharing with them. If social media feels awkward to you, then this is the time to get out of your comfort zone and simply interact with people on social media. It will get easier over time, if you make this a habit.
Marketing, too, will get easier, if you make it a habit. Use the off season as your training time. Do the work now and you’ll reap the benefits for a very long time. As Queen says, “We are the champions…of the world!”
Kathy Meis is the founder of Bublish, the world’s first complete publishing platform with integrated marketing, branding and discoverability features. Authors can write, publish, promote, sell and track their work all from one, powerful dashboard. Kathy has spent the last 30 years working with content and building editorial brands for such iconic companies as Forbes, Inc and CBS. She helps authors around the world to successfully publish and market high quality books and build powerful author brands that break through the noise in today’s crowded book marketplace. She speaks and writes frequently on the topics of book marketing, author branding and discoverability.