Writers, Do This and Be Amazed At the Success of Your Marketing Efforts

Marketing. Ugh


I am one of the worst marketers in the world.  There's something about shouting my name out from the rooftops that makes me cringe.  And I know that I am not alone in this.  But last week I had an experience that gave me some new perspective on the topic.  And from that I learned something that I hope to figure out how to apply going forward.

I've heard that one way to succeed is to quit worrying about promoting yourself and put others first. But how, exactly, are you supposed to do this? Beats me.  Don't have a clue.   In the past, I'd read this sage wisdom, nod my head, think for a minute how this might work, come up blank, and quit thinking about it.  Then go back to my usual marketing ploys.  In other words, doing nothing.

Maybe a Different Way?

But here's what happened last week that put this into perspective and showed me how it might work:

TS at Another Read Through

#1 I had a reading at a local bookstore that I like a lot.  I like the owner a lot, too.  She supports local authors like crazy and is doing her best to create a nice community around her store.  More than anything, I really wanted to introduce people to her store.  

#2 I was reading with my Twitter friend Kayla Dawn Thomas, who was coming down from Washington.  She didn't know many people in the area, and this was her first reading.  So I wanted to make sure she had an audience, too.

Are you sensing a theme here? I had two people I wanted to make happy.  And because of that, I pulled out the stops, sending out emails and promoting on Twitter like crazy.  In the emails, I wrote about how great the bookstore was, and asked people to stop in some time even if they couldn't make it to the reading.  

In other words, I had a mission larger than myself.  

And the Winner Is…


The ultimate result was a reading that about 25 people attended, which is not bad at all for a Thursday night in summer.  And I've cemented a wonderful relationship with Elisa, the bookstore owner.  She's offered to do my launch for The Bonne Chance, about which I am very excited, and Debbie and I will likely do our workshops there in the future.  (Local writers–we are planning one in October about all aspects of publishing, including how to get an agent, book contracts, and indie publishing.)

The thing is, I felt so much more comfortable doing the marketing when I was talking about the bookstore and Kayla.  How to expand this into larger marketing efforts?  I don't have a clue.  But recently on the Women's Fiction Writer's Association mailing, there was a link to Kristin Lamb's blog, which I hadn't read for awhile.  In wandering through its pages, I found the link to her most recent book, Rise of the Machine, Human Authors in a Digital World, which I gather from the reviews has a somewhat similar theme.  (From a review: "Well, here's the big deal.  It's not about promoting yourself.  It's about caring for your neighbor.")

So, I'm onto something here, even if I am late to the party.  And I'm going to figure out how it works.

Do you have ideas about how to put this in motion?  Ideas about marketing in general? Please do share in the comments.  This is a topic all writers need to know more about, I'd wager! Your ideas may help someone else–which is the whole point.

Photos are by xenia and brsky and Another Read Through.

Writing Mindset: Art or Business?

Keyboard_controls_writing_238875_lHere's how an author's career used to look: said author would get her first book accepted by a big New York publisher, and said publisher would tell said author not to worry about a thing, marketing-wise.   The happy author would be given a schedule for a tour and appearances and told to focus on what she does best–writing the next book.

Here's how an author's career looks now: said author's book may or may not be published by a big New York publisher.  More likely, his book was put out by a small press, or maybe he published it himself.   And said author knows that his publishers will do little, if anything, to market her work. He'll be calling bookstores, arranging guest posts, tracking down book reviewers himself.  Writing the next book?  That's something that will have to wait.

My first example is, clearly, art.

The second, business.

Two aspects of a writing career that exist side by side.  And more and more these days, we hear how authors need to master both. Gone are the days when we writers could lavish all our time on the first aspect.   This tends to upset us.  We mutter dark invectives about having to focus on the business side of our careers.  We begrudge time spent away from our writing.  

And yeah, I get it.  Every once in awhile I like to fantasize about having nothing to do but work on my novels.  And then I realize I'd hate that.  I like being on social media. (At least most sites.  You can take Facebook and shove it as far as I'm concerned.) I love working with my clients. (Please don't tell them, but I learn as much from them as they learn from me.)  I don't love cold-calling bookstores or seeking out reviewers, but hey, if it keeps me from working a real job, I'll deal.

And that's just it.  In this brave new world of publishing that shifts daily, we really do have to master both the art and business sides of writing.  I wish I had better news for you, but there it is.  I may not have the news you want to hear, but I do have suggestions for how to make it as painless as possible. Here goes:

1. Always put your writing first.  It's the basis of everything and if you're not doing it, you ultimately will not have a career because you won't have anything to market.  So do the work, then worry about putting it out in the world.  I mean this in a couple of ways:

a. Write your book before you worry about contacting an agent.

b. Put your writing before your marketing efforts on a daily basis. (For me, this means writing first thing in the morning.  Then I feel good about what I've accomplished all day long and that gives me energy to do the crap I hate.)

2. Realize that business is not a dirty word.  When we whisper the "b" word as if it were tainted, we do ourselves and our work a disservice.  Remember, people exist in the world who actually think business–and the dreaded "m" word (marketing)–are fun. You and I may not fall into that category, but realize that business can be every bit as creative as putting words together on the page.

3. Know that the situation is not going to change soon.  Don't waste your energy wishing you didn't have to master social media, or figuring out techie tools, or mastering marketing.  Don't spend time longing for the old days, described above.  Because they aren't coming back.  As I used to tell my kids when they complained about doing something, "With all the energy you've wasted kvetching about it, you could have been done by now."

4.  Get help.  Everyone can benefit from coaching, whether its for your writing or your marketing efforts.  If you're struggling, get help!  There are tons of wonderful teachers out there who can help you master the skills you don't yet have.

5. Do it with everything you've got.  You throw yourself at the page every day, right?  You express your deepest feelings and fears and truths, right?  Use the same mindset for the business side of things. Throw yourself at it, and give it everything you've got.  Approach it with the reverence you give your writing and you will do just fine.  More than that, you'll do great.

How do you reconcile the business and art side of your career?

(By the way, I have an email conversation with J.D. Frost to thank for the topic of this article. Thanks, J.D.!)

What to Do About Marketing (Or, Feeling at Home in Two Worlds)

Mirror_clean_sunny_261591_lI'm in Louisville this week at the Spalding MFA residency and one of the things I've heard over and over again is writers bemoaning the fact they don't have enough time to write.  We've got jobs, and families, and bills to pay and carpools to drive and a million other things to do.

And added on top of all that is marketing.

I've been thinking about marketing a lot lately, because, for one thing, I had a novel come out in February and I had to learn how to market it.  And, for another, because this week I've been immersed in the world of literature and writing, without any much talk about marketing.

Let me be clear: the point of this residency is to immerse writers in the world of writing and literature, not to discuss the finer points of marketing.  But, still, it makes me feel a bit schizophrenic.  Because often it seems like literature and marketing never meet.  A huge part of what I love about my life falls into the writing and literature category.  Yet part of what I hold dear about my writing life could be said to involve marketing.  For instance, blogging.  And writing a newsletter.

At heart, these two activities have as their purpose communication, which is what writing is all about.  And yet it seems that too often, never the writing and marketing twains shall meet.  The writers don't trust the marketers (the word itself makes us nervous) and the marketers think the writers are naive. But, for the most part, the contemporary writer must take part in some marketing or her words will never reach their desired purpose.

What's a writer to do?

I don't pretend to have the answer, because I've got feet in both worlds and often it seems I can't get my body fully into either one of them.  But I do have some thoughts.  (I know, big surprise.)  Here goes:

Be Yourself.  Yeah, I'm laughing, too.  Because everybody everywhere says this and nobody really knows what it means.  Too many of us, myself included, wander through the world convinced that we're not enough–not smart enough, thin enough, talented enough, enough enough.  And being yourself is hard when you're feeling like you're not enough.  It's much easier to be like someone else.  And yet, do we really want to read the same thoughts from every blogger?  The same story from every novelist?  I think not. 

We writers are constantly looking for our voice, and no big surprise, the place it comes from is within–when we're ourselves.  So quit worrying about what the world thinks of you so much and start observing the world around you instead.  It'll make you a better writer, and a better marketer.

Embrace the Story.  I just read this quote somewhere this morning: "the world needs stories now more than ever."  We always need stories, because they are how we make sense of the world, whether those stories are delivered to us via a novel, a film, or a blog or newsletter.  But when we perceive the world a random, scary place (tornadoes, meteorites, or bombings, anyone?) we have even more of a need to process.  Hence, we need more stories. 

So keep writing that novel or short story or memoir.  Keep getting up early or staying up late or staying inside on sunny summer Saturdays and get those words on the page.  Because, here's the deal: you're not going to have anything to market otherwise.  Put the writing and story-making first, and everything else tends to fall into place.  (This is a truism that I seem to need to learn over and over again.)

Admire Complexity.  This is the part where I tell you that it's all about balance.  Except I'm not going to, because I'm not sure balance really is possible.  For me its more about wildly veering between poles and enjoying wherever I find myself.  At the moment, I'm totally engrossed in the world of literary writing.  A few months ago, I was all about the marketing as I worked on finding reviews, interviews, guest posts and readings for my book.  Totally different, both vital.  When I get home next week, I'm going to have to put my head down and do nothing but work on deadlines for ghostwriting projects.  There's no way I can balance all these threads at once–but what I can do is attend to each of them in turn.  Does that make sense?  It's not always easy, but most of the time it's pretty damn fun.

That's it.  That's all I've got on how to feel at home in two worlds.   Do you have anything to add?  How do you reconcile marketing with your creative work?  Please comment.

Photo of the mirror by thera.