In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, we see a city-wide panic. People respond in two different ways. The townspeople panicked, but George Bailey did not. His action during a time of panic shaped the rest of his career.
Your actions during these uncertain times could do the same for you.
“For everything there is a season,” the biblical poet wrote. While so many things are on hold, this is the ideal time for authors to develop roots rather than shoots. People are panicked and running to stockpile necessities. Soon they’ll be isolated with canned food and toilet paper as their only company, and they’ll be bored out of their minds.
When they feel secure, they’ll settle down to figure out what’s next.
They can’t go to school, church, the gym, or even to work (in many cases), and at that magical moment in the not-so-distant future, they will begin to look for a good book.
You can prepare for that magic moment now by developing your platform and building your book marketing assets. Once their boredom sets in, you will be ready to step in with a solution. The characters in your book may be just the thing to get someone through this difficult time.
During this season of social distancing, here are ten ways to get closer to your readers.
#1 Read Books on Craft
When a Toyota factory is required to shut down, the company does not waste the opportunity. They are prepared with special training for the workers when a shutdown occurs. It’s their application of the Japanese Kaizen strategy of continuous improvement. They transform downtime into quality improvement time.
This unanticipated change in your schedule is the perfect occasion for you to transform downtime into quality improvement time for your writing. Authors who seize this opportunity will have an advantage over those who do not.
A great way to start improving your writing is to read a book on craft. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are some suggestions.
- On Writing: How to Write 5000 Words an Hour (Affiliate Link)
- On Marketing: Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert (Affiliate Link)
- For Novelists: How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method (Affiliate Link)
- For Nonfiction: Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Affiliate Link)
#2 Update Your Website
Chances are, it’s been a while since you have spent much time on your author website. If that’s the case, it’s probably out of date.
Many authors make the mistake of only updating website content during major redesigns. In my many years of building websites and working with authors and readers, I have discovered that readers prefer an older design with current information over outdated content in a fresh design.
To improve your website, start with these tasks.
- Visit each page and look for ways to improve it.
- Test each link throughout the page and remove or fix broken links.
- Read through your “About” page and update or upgrade your bio to include more recent accomplishments, articles, books, photos, or personal details. (I recently updated mine since I now have two children.) The following episodes may help you rework your “About” page.
- On each page, ask yourself, “How can I make this site more useful, interesting, and entertaining for my readers?”
- Take our free course on amazing author websites.
#3 Go Over Your Traffic & Sales Numbers
Many authors have Google Analytics set up, but they never check the stats. Now that you have the time, see which pages and posts are most popular. Assess which topics have the most views. If one stands out above others, write posts pertaining to your most popular topic.
Go over your sales data for books you’re selling, and look for trends. Is there a date or date range where your sales increased? What was going on at that time? Were you running ads, or was it due to a holiday or time of year?
Review your marketing dashboard. Once you start tracking data, you can use it to sell more books. If you don’t have a marketing dashboard, you will find the following episodes helpful in reading and evaluating your data.
#4 Write and Schedule Blog Posts
WordPress allows you to schedule blog posts to post in the future. If you have extra time on your hands, this is the perfect opportunity to build up a buffer of blog posts.
- Write a series of posts to be published over the summer or during a busy, stressful time on your calendar.
- Write backstory profiles for each of your characters to be published on your blog in the future.
- Prepare for the business of upcoming holidays by scheduling holiday posts in advance.
If you’re not sure how to start, How to Craft Excellent Blog Posts will be a helpful course to get you started. It’s only $30, and Novel Marketing patrons save 50%.
#5 Host a Facebook Live For Your Readers
People are longing for connection and community right now. As writers, many of us work from home, so our lives and schedules are less disrupted. But many people went from being surrounded by coworkers and customers all day long to being home alone.
The effectiveness of Facebook Live as a strategy has been declining due to algorithm tweaks that deprioritize live videos. But I suspect you will get more views and engagement during the next couple of months on your live videos than you will after this period of social distancing is over.
If you’re not sure how to host a Facebook live, we have an episode that will help.
#6 Start a Podcast
Podcasting is the hot thing in book marketing right now. 90% of Top USA Today Bestselling Authors Have a Podcast Presence either as a guest, a host, or both.
However, there are still many genres that do not have a podcast presence. If you were to start a podcast about your microgenre, you might be the first one. If you are unpublished, this could be a prime opportunity to connect with readers and listeners before anyone else in your genre.
Starting a podcast is a lot of work, but it’s the perfect kind of work to do while holed up in your house. I’ll be using my social distancing time to record a new episode called, How to Start a Podcast. Look for that episode soon.
In the meantime, you can listen to How to Get Booked for Guest Podcast Interviews Overview.
#7 Attend Some Author Webinars
Pretty much all the upcoming writers events have been canceled, and more cancelations are coming. To help, I plan to host a series of free training webinars on the same topics covered at a conference. If you want to be notified about the upcoming webinars, sign up for our email newsletter on AuthorMedia.com.
Many authors and conference hosts are already familiar with online teaching platforms. So keep your eyes open for webinars and live workshops from your favorite writing teachers.
For starters, be sure and check out my free course on creating an amazing author website.
#8 Ask Your Readers If They Need Help
As an author, you hold a position of influence, especially in the eyes of your readers. Ask your community where they need help. Be calm and helpful in these uncertain times.
Some of your readers may need encouragement. Some may need prayer. Some may need tangible help. You could leverage the power of your community to meet genuine needs.
#9 Craft an Onboarding Sequence
An onboarding sequence is a series of emails that “drip” out to new subscribers over the course of a few weeks. These emails introduce new subscribers to you and your writing. Once subscribers are up to speed, they will receive your regular email newsletter.
Most authors know they need to write an onboarding sequence for their email list, but most of them have not gotten around to it yet. This is your chance! It only takes a couple of hours, and once you’re done, you’re done!
If you are with an email provider that makes this difficult (like MailChimp), now is an excellent time to switch to MailerLite (Affiliate Link) or ConvertKit (Affiliate Link). MailerLite and ConvertKit are powerful tools to help you give readers only the content they want. It’s possible to sort your readers by their preferences and keep track of how they came to you.
MailerLite is cheaper while ConvertKit is both easier to use and more powerful.
#10 Take Online Courses
Now is the time to finish those online courses you’ve purchased or purchase the courses you’ve wanted to take. Online courses can change your life, but only if you actually do the work and finish them. Signing up is not enough. You can learn almost anything in an online course.
Many organizations are offering free or discounted online courses right now. Our course on creating an amazing author website is free!
Bonus: Write Another Book
A recommended period of isolation is your perfect excuse to hunker down and write your next book. Social obligations are non-existent. You’re expected to stay home. But when you emerge from this period of no-expectations with a new book, your readers will take to the streets and cheer.
If you feel lonely and want to connect with writers who are serious about their craft, consider joining Author Media Mastermind Groups. You’ll receive personalized, face-to-face training and encouragement from the safety of your home. If you have ever wanted to pick my brain in person, this is your chance! Once you join a mastermind group, you gain access to the exclusive Mastermind Slack Channel and the monthly mastermind video hangout.
Alysia of Athens is sold into slavery during the turbulent reign of Tiberius Caesar. When she runs away, she finds herself in the battle-torn land of Palestine, where her life is forever changed.
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When my son Tommy was born at the end of December, our pediatrician encouraged us to practice social distancing for the first two months since it was flu season. We made it to church one time (one time!) between the end of that social distancing period and when we had to retreat from in-person gatherings due to COVID-19.
We are experienced social-distancers. One way I have remained connected to colleagues and peers has been through online mastermind calls. Though they take place online, screen share functions make them feel like I’m face-to-face with people.
We also started FaceTiming grandparents more often.
I’ve worked from home for quite a while. I know my productivity increases when I’m dressed as though I’m going to work. We try to keep the house and workspace clean. Not only does it increase my productivity, but it also supports my mental health.
During uncertain times, we must focus on what we do have rather than what we don’t. We have more time with those we live with. We have relaxed schedules. Suddenly, your travel time to a weekend speaking engagement has shrunk to a one-hour Zoom call. Enjoying the outdoors with your family, or alone, is not only acceptable, but it’s also good for your health!
We will get through this together, and someday we will have amazing stories to tell our kids.