Writing a memoir is hard work, and so is getting it published. Many authors think this is where the hard work ends, but then discover that the hard work has only just begun. The reality is that just because a book is available on Amazon, it is unlikely to find readers without putting book marketing efforts in place. This is true whether you write memoir or any other genre of book.
The challenge is largely due to competition. There are millions of books on Amazon competing for the attention of readers. As authors, regardless of how our where our books are published, it is up to us to locate those readers and convince them to read our work.
While the process of marketing your memoir can sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be! In fact, you might actually have a little fun along the way. The fun comes from reaping the rewards of your efforts. The right marketing strategies will increase readership and possibly lead to engaging directly with your audience—and connecting with readers can be quite rewarding.
The following steps will help you get underway with marketing plans for your memoir so you can reach more readers and ultimately sell more books.
- Get Crystal Clear About Your Target Readers
One of the most important ways to grow readership for your memoir is to get clear about who those readers are. It is essential to identify one or more target audiences based on themes from your book, and then focus your marketing efforts to those potential readers.
For example, Linda Franklin’s memoir I’ll Always Carry You details the pain of adoption loss and then the joys of reuniting with her son decades later. Franklin’s ideal reader community is comprised of people who have given up children for adoption, adoptive children (adults), those in the adoption profession, and anyone interested in adoption. Being clear about this allows her to also be clear about her marketing efforts and where she spends her time.
If you worry that focusing on a narrowly defined niche audience could leave out others who may be interested in the book, you should know the opposite is more likely. When you cast a wide net and aim to reach a broad spectrum of readers, it is more challenging to compete for their attention because there are so many other books vying for their attention.
The (sad) reality is the average person reads just four to twelve books per year, yet there are millions of titles to choose from. As writers, it is up to us to convince readers that our books will be worth their investment in time.
Defining a niche makes it far easier to entice prospective readers because you can be certain a theme from your book will resonate with them.
Here are some examples:
|Theme of Memoir||Target Audience(s)|
|Getting through your divorce with young children||Women going through divorce, divorced women, divorced women with kids|
|How your life was impacted by Rheumatoid Arthritis||Men and women living with RA|
|Growing up on a farm and having a special relationship with a horse||Horse lovers, farm owners, people who live in farming communities|
|Learning to live with a learning disability||People with the same disability or similar learning challenges, parents of kids with a learning disability|
See how this works? What themes are present in your memoir? How can you identify readers who will connect with your story?
- Make Your Marketing Messaging Connect with Readers
Once you know who your ideal readers are, all your marketing efforts should focus on connecting with that audience. This means that your marketing collateral should clearly appeal to the niche readers you have identified. You might use phrases like:
- “For anyone who has lost a loved one…”
- “If you or someone you love has battled XYZ illness…”
- “Whether you’re going through a divorce or you’ve already come out on the other side of your divorce…”
Make sure to get specific in any marketing messaging including the following:
- Book jacket/sales copy
- Author bio
- Social media bio
- Social media content
- Your author website
- Connect with Your Reader Community
Now that you’re clear about who your readers are, the next step is to find out where they spend their time. What trade associations, online groups, and in-person groups do they belong to?
You might be surprised to discover that associations and nonprofits exist for just about everything. There are large associations like The American Heart Association and Rotary Club. And there are thousands of smaller, niche associations like these:
- Retired Teachers Association (usually by state)
- Hot Young Widows Club
- Single Mom Strong
- American Pet Association
- Ford Mustang Club of America
Once you identify groups, you can get involved. Here are some ways to participate:
- Join the group and get active as a member.
- Volunteer to serve on the leadership team or board.
- Contribute articles to the blog or newsletter.
- Speaker at chapter events or conferences.
You can also find online groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo and other sources where your target audience spends time. Join these groups and become an active participant, even if your book isn’t published yet. In fact, ESPECIALLY if your book isn’t published yet. You want to become an active participant so that you can find opportunities to promote the book.
For example, let’s say your book is about your journey as a parent of an autistic child. Surely there are many online forums where fellow parents congregate. When you join and become an active member, it can create opportunities to promote your book. You could ask the group admin if you can:
- Invite members to be beta readers.
- Ask members to contribute stories to your book, blog or podcast.
- Host a book give-away for the group and select a few lucky winners.
If you’re really ambitious, you can start your own group on Facebook or another platform. As group administrator, you will receive lots of exposure with everyone who joins your group.
- Speak to Your Community
Now that you have identified where you community spends time, look for speaking opportunities within any organizations they belong to. Most association host some form of chapter meeting several times per year, and large organizations have chapters across the country where you can offer to speak. Many also host annual conferences, webinars, podcasts, and other events. Get involved and get known within your target audience community!
There are also organizations that welcome speakers on a wide variety of topics. Service groups like Rotary and Kiwanis are a good place to start. Many religious organizations welcome guest speakers. The Unity Churches, which are nondenominational Christian congregations, are often author/speaker-friendly. You can also pursue speaking opportunities at Chambers of Commerce, libraries, and through the Parks and Recreation department. Opportunities are everywhere! And with Covid impacting our lives, many of these opportunities are now available online.
- Be a Podcast Guest
Podcasting has exploded in recent years, and many of these talk-based shows need guests. To locate programs that reach your audience, go to iTunes or Stitcher.com and search for keywords related to your subject matter to find shows that cover your topics. You can also search for competing author names to find out where they have given interviews.
After you build a list of programs, locate the website for each and look for guest submission guidelines. Make sure your pitch focuses on the value you bring to the audience, not your book. You never want to sound like a salesperson.
- Utilize Amazon Ads
I have become a big fan of Amazon ads because I’ve seen the power of effective ads and how they can convert to book sales. Mark Paul has had tremendous success with Amazon ads for his memoir The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told. His book chronicles a time the 1980s when he placed a long-shot bet on a filly to win the Kentucky Derby—and then had to go collect his 7-figure prize from the Mexican drug cartel! Needless to say, it’s a fun read.
Mark doesn’t have a platform or any kind of large following on social media, so he decided to invest heavily in learning how to make ads work for his book. The result: Almost 30k copies sold in the first 12 months! Incidentally, Mark focused his marketing efforts on gamblers, horse lovers, and those interested in white collar crime. He was crystal clear about his target readers and that helped him keep his marketing efforts focused.
In order to use Amazon’s advertising platform, you will need to have a book published through their KDP platform. Ads are pay-per-click based, which means you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. If Amazon ads haven’t worked for you, get some training on how to better utilize them because they can absolutely be effective, especially for memoirs with a clearly defined target audience.
I hope you have found some fresh ideas and inspiration here to help you reach more readers for your own memoir. And if you like this blog post, you may want to join us for our next class: Memoir Writing Essentials with Linda Joy Myers. We hope to see you there!