What is content marketing for writers?
According to content marketing guru and strategist Neil Patel,
“Content marketing is a long-term strategy that focuses on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high-quality content that is very relevant to them on a consistent basis.”
Content, therefore, is not a series of random videos or musings on your website. It’s a commitment you make to yourself AND your readers. It’s part of a long-term strategy of connecting with your readers in a way that educates, entertains, and/or inspires them over and over again.
Why should you consider content marketing?
I’m sure that commitment sounds a bit daunting, but there must be a payoff, right? And, there is. By consistently sharing valuable content, you develop credibility and trust with your readers. They know when they show up, they’ll get something that solves their problem, even if that problem is boredom.
It’s not a quick fix. It will take time to build up a following and charm Google and other search engine algorithms. But over time, readers will recognize you as someone they can return to again and again for exactly what they need when they need it.
Neil Patel is a great example. As a long-time business owner, I’ve been researching and practicing different marketing techniques. Neil has produced copious amounts of information on all things related to content marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) strategy over the years. He doesn’t just write a lot of content, he writes a lot of great content. I know I’m going to get just what I need from him. He doesn’t disappoint.
Why does he do it? He sells products related to SEO among other things, and I trust that if I’m in the market for something related to SEO, he’ll be the guy I turn to.
As it relates to books, Joanna Penn, a longtime favorite of mine, has been podcasting for years. I know that without fail, she’ll have a new episode of The Creative Penn on Monday mornings. She talks about writing, the publishing industry, marketing, and futuristic ideas. I’ve purchased her books because 1. I want to support her for all of the valuable insights she’s provided over the years and 2. because I trust her to come through with the same quality in her books.
The bottom line is trust.
Different kinds of content marketing
When we talk about content marketing, what does it really mean? It can mean a lot of things but we’ll discuss blogging, podcasting, and video creation.
Blogging may be the most natural way for writers to express themselves. Blog posts typically range from 500 to 2000 words, but can be longer or shorter, depending on your goals. If you’re publishing a how-to post, you’ll find benefit from long-form content to maximize SEO and be found by the search engines.
Conversely, you can also publish quick bursts of inspiration for your readers. These may not gain a lot of search engine traffic, but they may endear you with your readers nonetheless.
You can post blogs on your website, on a blogging platform like WordPress.com or Blogger, or on established social platforms like LinkedIn or Medium. I recommend using a blog on your website if you choose to blog. Unless you are using your blog simply to express your thoughts or opinions with no sales motive, owning your blog content puts you in control of it now and in the future.
Content on blogs varies with the topics. If you wrote or are writing a how-to book or words of inspiration, your content may be straightforward. Increase your reader’s knowledge of a topic or topics or help them understand themselves or the world better. You are building trust as a credible source of help on topics important to the reader.
For fiction writers, your blog content can vary greatly. You can share deleted scenes, character backstories, one-off short stories related to your series, your writing journey, research or interesting facts about the setting, time period, social environment in your book, and more. Read blogs written by fellow fiction authors in your genre for inspiration.
Find more information on blogging here.
Podcasting is an increasingly popular way to create and share content. Podcasts are the audio sisters of blogging. Its origins date back to 2004 and have grown steadily in number of listeners and podcasts themselves. Podcasts allow creators to share content as they would in a blog but with more flexibility and creative possibilities.
Creators may use interviews with authors, topic experts, or otherwise interesting people to entertain and inform their listeners. Not only can the content be more diverse, but you also have a direct feed into your listeners’ ears. They hear your tone and sense your personality to build a more personal connection that can turn casual listeners into fans. Of course, not all podcasts use interviews to fuel their content. Storytelling, personal updates, publishing trends, or banter with a co-host all round out an entertaining and informative podcast.
Podcasting platforms are plentiful. You can listen to or list your podcasts on Apple Podcasts, and Spotify, the two most popular sites according to Chartable, as well as iHeartRadio, Stitcher, and Overcast, among others.
While the upsides are plentiful, podcasts take time and effort to create, produce, and promote. You can outsource many of the tasks associated with podcasting, like creating the transcription or promoting it on social media, by using a virtual assistant. There are also costs for setup and hosting that can range in price from under $100 to $10,000. Sponsors and/or patrons can help offset those costs. For these drawbacks, some authors choose instead to be podcast guests to increase exposure and influence.
Authors using podcasts to promote their work include the Sell More Books Show by Bryan Cohen and H. Claire Taylor, The Self-Publishing Show by Mark Dawson, and The Indy Author with Matty Dalrymple, among many others.
It’s well known that video is a powerful way to present your content. From short one-minute tips to one-hour interviews or how-to videos, readers can see and hear you in action. Videos can vary from quiet talking points to elaborate productions.
This opens the world of creative freedom but can also be overwhelming. It’s important, like the other content delivery choices, to create something that you can create over and over on a consistent basis. The continual emergence of new video editors makes your job easier and more entertaining for your viewers.
YouTube, as the second-largest search engine in the US, presents one of the best reasons to create video. What does that mean for you? You show up where your readers hang out. Once they find you, you’ll give them lots more content to consume by creating playlists of similar content. The savvy video content creator will encourage viewers to subscribe to their channel along with encouraging likes and comments. It’s those video views, along with likes and comments, that signal to YouTube algorithms that you are the one to watch.
Perhaps the best reason to begin with a video-first strategy is so you can pull out the audio for a podcast and the transcript for a blog post. You appear where your readers are and in a format they like to consume. It’s a triple win for your efforts.
Other ways to use your content
Beyond blogs, podcasts, and videos, your content benefits you in other ways. Use the content to write books—my favorite—create courses, host evergreen (always available) or live webinars, workshops, and book discussion material. Not all content you create will be suitable in all instances. But by considering other uses, you may create specific content that fits multiple platforms. While you want to keep your content current and high quality, reusing your content can net you double or triple your efforts.
Should you employ content creation in your book marketing plans?
It depends. It depends on the goals for your book and your writing or other career. If you are a fiction writer who is writing one or two books, the long-term commitment of creating content may not be worth the payoff. Your time may be better spent on email marketing, social media, or being a guest on someone else’s platform.
If, on the other hand, you are in it for the long haul, find joy in creating more of what you love in a shorter format or different format than books, or have a business built around your nonfiction book, then this may be a valuable tool for your book marketing toolbox.
Your success will be determined by your persistence and consistency over the long term. Start with a goal and a plan to reach your readers, listeners, and viewers and turn them into loyal fans who will buy your books.