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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Marketing Not for Dummies

A couple of days ago the marketing genius Seth Godin wrote a post entitled “The Professional’s Platform,” which consists of 9 ways to build a professional identity http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/06/the-professionals-platform.html

I thought I would translate them into marketing tips for writers:

1) Online forums, FB, and Twitter are great ways to meet other writers and readers. But building a place for yourself in these nearly infinite communities takes time. You are trying to create relationships with people you’ve never seen. Relationships in real life take a lot of work—this is even more true virtually. If you can’t commit to forging real connections, it is probably better not to mention your books at all. In short, people don’t like flybys.

2) If you stop striving to write the absolute best book you can, your books will start to feel stale, and fail to satisfy readers. In the end, writing a great book is the best marketing tool of all.

3) It’s tough to balance writing with marketing. Some writers feel resentful of marketing duties—shouldn’t they just be allowed to write? For better or worse, there are so many entertainment options out there, including a vast sea of books, that you have to make yourself known somehow. If marketing is always given short shrift, the last half hour in the day, you will fail to get the most out of what you do do. Even more importantly, you will fail to reap the rewards that good marketing produces—a bigger, richer world for you and your books.

4) Don’t stop at selling your book to a customer. Build a connection with that person. Find out what s/he likes to read, then recommend another author’s book. Talk to your readers about their lives. Let them know when you’re coming their way. When you meet them, talk more about them than about yourself. Along the way, you may find you’ve sold a few books.

5) Take the trouble to really learn the marketing tools you use. Don’t just hear that it’s important to tweet and throw a few out there. Don’t put up a fan page and never visit. Get to know your marketing arsenal deeply and well so you can avail yourself of all the riches it might bring.

6) Come out at times other than when you have a new book. Do events even if you don’t have a stack of books to sell. When you don’t have a new book, another writer does. Support that writer. Support the industries that support us—bookstores, libraries, and small press publishers—in whatever ways you can.

7) Memories are long on the net. People will recall who you are and how gracefully you acted—even when you’re no longer doing it that way.

8) Start blogging, participating in threads, and finding other ways to get to know the world of writers even before you know will be published. It’s never too early to create an identity for yourself. People will know you when you do get a book out there, and it’s much easier to say hello again than to cold call.

9) Find a few places that are important and rewarding to you—and stay there. The web is too massive to go everywhere. Deep sunk roots are better than many shallowly strewn spores.

The best, most natural marketing takes place when you’re not marketing at all. You’re just having fun in that most uniquely human of ways: building a web of true connections.

"Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer from New Jersey. She is the founder of the literary series Writing Matters, which draws authors and publishing professionals from both coasts to standing room only events at a local independent bookstore. In 2010 she created Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, a holiday which went viral across the web, enlisting booksellers in 30 states, two Canadian provinces, and England. Jenny is the author of the short story "The Very Old Man", an Amazon bestseller in mystery anthologies. Another short story will be published in 2012 in a book called Adirondack Mysteries II. Her novel, a literary thriller called COVER OF SNOW, is forthcoming from Ballantine."


Shirley said...

Good morning, Jenny. Thanks so much for joining us today.

You mentioned finding a few niches to market. However it's tempting not to try and get in on everything out there. Goodreads is something I've TRIED to learn. I wish they had a dummies book for that.

Are you on that one?

Susan Hollaway said...

Great post! I enjoyed it very much.

jenny milchman said...

Shirley, thank you for putting this post up so elegantly! The blog is lovely. I think your question may fall into Tip # 9 for me :) Although one of my goals is to get to know Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari, I simply haven't yet. For me part of the reason is that I really haven't had a book of my own for very long--even now I have only the one published story story (in a volume called Lunch Reads 1). So I've more gone where writers go as opposed to readers. But I think a GOODREADS FOR DUMMIES would be a terrific idea--I'd buy it!

And hi, Susan! Thank you for reading:)

Beth said...

Some good tips. Thank you. I agree about not giving marketing the short shrift. Many writers do not want to market themselves, are too bashful to put themselves out there or simply don't know how to go about it.

I like what you said about making connections and supporting other writers.

Beth said...

And I have a question about your short story, "The Very Old Man." How did this become a bestseller on Amazon? Did your story become a bestseller or the anthology itself?

Sleuths' Ink is considering having a mystery anthology and we'd appreciate any advice on marketing it. Thanks.

Wanda Fittro said...

Thanks for the info. It seems so daunting sometimes. Writing AND marketing while doing all the other things life requires.

Nancy Dailey said...

I enjoyed your post and how you adapted what you'd read for marketing, or shall I say getting ourselves "out there." I do find that a bit overwhelming and as a result I don't get much of it done. Any ideas for overcoming that?

StephanieJ said...

Thank you Jenny for blogging for us. Great suggestions. How do you divide up your time between marketing and writing? Daily? During a week? Thanks for taking the time to share your thought and experience.

Happy writing! Stephanie

S.K. Jarkins

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Very good advice for all of us, Jenny! Thanks for offering these valuable ideas.

Shirley said...

Jenny, you mentioned something about twitter I found interesting. I have an account, but don't post a lot. UNLESS I have something to say.

I get so tired of seeing the same person post constantly about NOTHING. I know it gets their name out there, but I've deleted a few of those "friends". Very annoying.

jenny milchman said...

Hi everyone, thank you for these great, thought-provoking comments! I wish we could all sit down together, with a pot of coffee (bottle of wine? :) and discuss. I'm going to take them one at a time...

Beth, my short story is in a collection of two shorts. The publisher envisions having several volumes (there are already 3) where two stories are paired, just enough to "gobble down over lunch". I guess it is that first volume that technically hit bestsellerdom in one specific category. Truthfully I'm not sure how to interpret Amazon bestsellerdom, at least in niche categories. How many copies are really selling? However, I have had some good reviews and responses to it, so that is heartening. A better model than me for doing well in anthologies is one out now called SHAKEN, edited by suspense novelist Tim Hallinan (the Poke Rafferty series set in Thailand) with 20 stories written by a stellar cast of authors. That one is at the top of the anthology category (higher/lower than mine got) and even rated well amongst ALL books. How did they do it? Well, partly the collected talent. And partly, the proceeds raissed go to benefit earthquake survivors in Japan. My takeaway from that is to a) feature great authors and b) if you can tie in to a good cause, you'll do some good *and* probably attract readers. It could even be a cause that benefits Sleuths' Ink maybe--a scholarship to a conference? A giveaway of books to hospitals? Randy Susan Meyers (THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS) gave 100% of the proceeds at her book's launch to a domestic violence shelter, I think it was. I think that stuff like this can really help a writer's career even while she's helping others. It's not a calculated thing--more like karma :) Happy to talk more via email, or FB, or on my blog!

jenny milchman said...

Wanda, I agree. It can be very daunting!

jenny milchman said...

Nancy, the only way I manage is by telling myself that any little bit I do is better than nothing. So for example, I have had some good reviews on my short story (my only piece of work that's out there now) but I think more would be better. So I set myself the task to contact one book blog or reviewer per day. That takes maybe ten minutes to research and write the email--very doable. Breaking it down into small tasks can help.

The other way is really what's supposed to be the crux of this post, namely--don't. Don't market (this was roughly the title of another post I wrote on the Murder Must Advertise blog--it's a great forum for mystery/suspense/thriller authors). Just make friends. Be a good friend to others, build a world of writers and readers, and "marketing" will take care of itself.

That could translate into joining a community like Authonomy, frequenting the Amazon boards, SheWrites is a new one I am itching to check out, etc. Or it could mean building a FB presence--commenting on others' status even over updating your own, so you really do get to know people. It could mean starting a virtual book group. Anything you'll enjoy doing anyway will make marketing most natural and easy.

Good luck, and happy to talk more!

jenny milchman said...

Hi Stephanie! I wish I had enough of a routine to give a good answer to this :) The truth is I'm in a bit of a state of flux. My debut novel just sold--after 11 years of writing books, having them submitted, getting close. (There are details about how it finally happened on my blog--please just email if anyone wants a link). My novel won't be out for a while so my plan is to start the next one in September once my youngest starts full-day school. At that point I suspect I will write for 2-4 hours in the morning, then spend another three in the afternoon on things like catching up with emails, hanging out in the forums I frequent, planning events, etc.

Right now it's much more catch as catch can with my youngest at home and no new book propelling me.

But man, if anyone does have the perfect answer to this, I want to hear it! I suspect there isn't one--what works one year may change the next, or even more frequently than that.

How do you allocate time?

jenny milchman said...

Hi Jacquie, how nice to see you here!

Shirley, I have to admit to being a Twitter dunce. I just haven't gotten the hang of it yet. I hope I do someday. For now I try to check in and read links I get that seem interesting, and I'll tweet every post that goes up on my blog where an author is featured--because I want those writers to get as much exposure as possible. If something really huge happened to me I might tweet it, but I don't think I even tweeted that my novel sold.

The bulk of my time goes to trying to keep up with others' news. I know this isn't marketing--which brings me back to it's more about making friends & connections.

I've read rules of thumb like, respond to five things about others for every one you post about yourself. I think whatever your ratio is, the truth that's it's getting at is that we all tend to tune out the Paul Revere cry: My book is coming, my book is coming!

Thanks so much again for hosting me.