6 Secrets to Authentically Marketing Your Memoir

There’s a funny thing that happens when you write your memoir. It’s not easy, but it’s so, so rewarding. Your writing time is full of words and symbols and beautiful ideas that you’re putting on the page for the people you really want to help.

Then you get to the marketing.

It’s often difficult to transition from the writing—the point that feels so authentic—into a place that feels completely foreign. You know you need to market, because you want to get that book in the hands of the readers who need it. But it can seem impossible to market in a way that feels authentic to you.

I want to share a way that you can unify your writing and your storytelling process with marketing. Today, let’s talk about the six secrets of marketing a memoir.

Marketing Secret #1: Define Your Market

When I say define your market, I mean define your actual market.

In our minds, a lot of times we think, “You know what? There is not a person who wouldn’t appreciate and learn from and enjoy this book.” That might be true, but you’re not going to be able to target everyone in the reading public.

So instead of thinking of everyone, try to think of the one, perfect reader.

Think about who you want to speak to. Are you trying to help people with your story? Maybe you’re targeting people who are going through something now that you went through years ago, you want to help them survive and thrive without having to step in all the potholes that you had to go through since you were doing it on your own.

Let’s say you’re writing what we call a mentor-style book. This is the type of book that’s written by someone who’s been in a career field for some time, they are now thinking about, how can they give back all the great advice, support and encouragement they received when they were starting out in the field? They want to pass that forward through a book.

When you think about a book like that, a book that’s meant to help, say, doctors who are starting out as hospitalists and they’re going through all the rigmarole of trying to manage their family and their life and get through the hours and hours of training and residency. You know exactly who your market is, right? Your market are people who are starting out as doctors. You might even target med students, maybe even pre-med, but you are looking for a very specific person who is going through the steps that you’re going to talk about in your book. That’s an easy example because the market is built right in, but here’s the secret.

Every book has a market built in. It all depends on your purpose.

If we were writing a book about experiences of mentoring children in our community and helping make sure they had supportive adults in their life to really help them imagine their future, we know who that is. Those are people that participate in programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters, they might be involved in Boys & Girls Club. Probably you have got some organizations in your local area that are doing that too. That’s your audience. It’s folks that are trying to get into this world that you already lived through. Think about who were you when you started this journey.

Then think about who you want to reach, who can you help. That’s your market. Now, it’s going to feel way too narrow. I know you’re going to say, “Oh my gosh, but how many people could that even be?” Here’s the secret, though. If you can reach 1,000, 1,500, 2,000 of those folks—and if you truly write the book to serve them—you’ll walk away with a lot of loyal readers. And the number one way that books are marketed today is word of mouth. If you can really reach that actual market, they’re going to tell others about that book.

You very well might hit everybody, that huge broad audience in the end, but that’s not what you’re going to do to start. To start, home in, and find that actual market. That’s tip one. By the way, that’s going to be the foundation for all of our secrets today, so keep it in mind as you read on!

Marketing Secret #2: Set Goals

The second secret to effectively marketing a memoir is to set goals. Now, what do I mean by “goals”? Often, people initially focus on sales targets. Selling a certain number of books or aiming for bestseller lists like the New York Times are valid objectives. However, when considering goals for a memoir, I encourage thinking about changing lives. When you do that, sharing your vulnerable story to make a meaningful impact becomes the focal point. Your goal should be to reach a specific audience and influence them in a certain way.

Do you want to connect with 10 book clubs whose members resonate with your narrative? That’s a great goal. Are you aiming to inspire 100, 200, 500, or even 1,000 high school students by sharing your story? That’s an amazing goal. Perhaps your aim is to ensure your friends and family can access your stories long after you’re no longer here. That’s an incredible goal. Each of these objectives will require different strategies. And by the way, none of these goals demand that you dance on TikTok.

There are all kinds of ways to reach these audiences, but without well-defined goals outlining how you want to reach people, the message you want them to know, and how your story will make their lives better and guide them toward the place they want to be, your marketing plan won’t be effective.

To successfully market your memoir, the second secret is determining the impact you want your book to have. Set your goals, write them down, and keep them close to your heart so that you aren’t overwhelmed or discouraged when you see all the other marketing advice that’s floating around there in the ether.

Marketing Secret #3: Bulk and Sponsored Sales

The third marketing secret which many authors are not aware of is bulk and sponsored sales. Often when we think of selling books, we’re thinking of our KDP or IngramSpark dashboards if you’re self-published. We might just think about the royalty check that you’re going to get after you’ve earned your advance. When you’re thinking in terms of one single sale at a time, it’s going to take you a long time to hit those goals. For some of the goals we talked about above, you’ll never even know if you hit them.

Instead of focusing on each individual purchase, consider targeting organizations that share your purpose.

Let’s say you’re writing a book about mentoring community children. Why not approach organizations involved in mentoring programs and inquire about purchasing a substantial number of books—say, 500 copies? They could offer these as gifts to mentors in training or to supporters contributing to their fundraising efforts. These books could be given out at events, conferences, or used as Christmas gifts. This approach directly places a significant number of books into the hands of your desired audience.

Bulk and sponsored sales provide an effective avenue to align your goals. By collaborating with organizations that share your mission, you tap into their community presence, connections (including their marketing avenues like email lists), and their established trust. Approach them with a partnership mindset, offering value in return. This is not necessarily a sales call, it’s a collaboration, so think about how you can help each other. That’s a great way to get your book out into the world, and it feels to me very authentic. Its purpose-driven, it’s audience-driven.

Marketing Secret #4: Find a Bookstore Partner

Number four, building on the previous point, involves establishing a partnership with a bookstore. This can be particularly effective if the bookstore shares your mission or has a strong connection to your local community. Consider approaching them to become a pre-order partner.

Also contact the bookstore to see if you set up a special display and a book signing event. Start this process well in advance, as smaller bookstores tend to plan their shelves six months to a year ahead, while larger ones like Barnes & Noble might plan even further, up to 18 months.

Smaller stores are often excited to have authors reach out to them. It gives them energy and helps them have a competitive edge in this world where Amazon is really the go-to place that people buy books. Bookstores have had to shift their model to get people in their doors for events.

If you can organize an event aligned with both your values and theirs, it’s a win-win situation. This partnership creates a genuine connection for your readers, boosts foot traffic for the bookstore, and presents your book to your target audience.

It’s important to initiate this pre-order partnership early in your book’s launch timeline and be prepared to share your manuscript with them for their consideration. Most bookstores will want to review the book before committing to stocking it. While it requires some planning, the outcomes are undoubtedly worth it.

Marketing Secret #5: Build a Launch Team

Number five is to build a launch team. A launch team is essentially a group of your closest supporters who are genuinely invested in your success and were probably going to buy your book anyway. Think of those who encouraged you to write your memoir in the first place and those you trust to provide constructive feedback.

Start by making a list of these individuals – people who care about you and your book’s message. A few months before your book’s release, reach out to them and emphasize their importance in the book’s success. Share your vision and goals for the book, focusing on the impact it can make rather than just financial gains. Get them involved.

Listen, maybe they want to help you make a ton of money, but it’s so much more powerful if you can say, “I want you to be an integral part of the success of my book, which I am hoping is going to change the lives of so many children.” Who could say no to that? That’s such a great opportunity.

Your launch team will serve as enthusiastic promoters. They’ll talk about your book, share your posts, and potentially connect you with podcast hosts or other media outlets. Their primary tasks include buying your book, rating, and reviewing it on platforms like Amazon. During the first month of your book’s release, Amazon’s algorithm offers a boost, and the number of purchases and positive reviews directly impacts this boost. The aim is to convince Amazon that your book is worth promoting because it’s generating sales.

Amazon doesn’t care about helping the children, they care about money. So, you must demonstrate that your book is going to bring them money by selling. Ask all your launch team members to buy that book ideally on the first or second day it’s launched (if not during pre-order). Then ask them to go to Amazon and leave a review.

Having genuine positive reviews bolsters your credibility, aiding in future marketing endeavors like bulk sales, sponsored sales, and speaking engagements. Rallying your supportive friends for this role can be encouraging and less intimidating than seeking external endorsements. Assembling a launch team can be a pivotal component of your marketing strategy.

Marketing Secret #6: Authentic Marketing

Finally, another values-based strategy is to collaborate with others who share your values. There’s two pieces of this puzzle. First, identify individuals who hold sway in the public eye and share your values. These could be podcasters, successful bloggers, social media influencers, community leaders, pastors, teachers, doctors, or even local politicians. These people have the potential to amplify your message to a broader audience that resonates with your values and the purpose of your book.

Once you’ve identified potential collaborators, think about how to collaborate in ways that align with your strengths and preferences. If you enjoy writing, consider offering a guest post on their platform. Because of the shared values, the topic will also be related to your memoir, with a mention of your book that leads readers to your Amazon page for orders. On the other hand, if public speaking is more your style, explore opportunities for guest speaking engagements, panels, or even delivering a sermon in a church if your book aligns with their values.

The key is to invite people into a collaboration that will allow you to reach their audience with your message. And since we know that your values are aligned, their audience is going to appreciate what you have to say.

These six secrets of memoir marketing aim to guide you toward an authentic and values-driven approach. Marketing your memoir doesn’t require pushy or offensive self-promotion; it’s about connecting with your target audience in meaningful ways that genuinely resonate with them. By following these marketing secrets, you can promote your memoir and stay true to your voice and message.

If you need help with your book’s marketing strategy, we’re happy to do that for free. Visit https://dasauthorservices.com/contact and fill out the application.

Happy writing!

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Amanda Edgar

Dr. Amanda Nell Edgar is an award-winning author, ghostwriter, and book coach and the founder of Page & Podium Press. Co-author of the forthcoming Summer of 2020: George Floyd and the Resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Amanda has authored two nationally award-winning books and ghostwritten many more.

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