By Cheri Lasota
Marketing is a life-long learning process. The moment you think you’ve got it, another technology comes along to trip you up. Yet knowledge sources abound. Some of the best advice you’ll ever receive is from mentors in your field. Seek out person-to-person meetings with published authors, writers groups, editors, and agents. Each source can give you a well-rounded perspective on the publishing business.
In addition, the Internet has instant and (usually) free information to cull from. Many published authors frequent writers forums and are willing to share their experiences and give advice on what types of marketing have worked for them. You can also post excerpts of your work in progress for feedback from forum members. Marketing books are plentiful. Two writer-oriented books I recommend are Levinson, Frishman and Larsen’s Guerilla Marketing for Writers and Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Frugal Book Promoter.
Agent and editor blogs are also especially helpful, as they often answer direct questions from writers and give tips on how to hone your query. I highly recommend agent blogs by Nathan Bransford (nathanbransford.blogspot.com) and Bookends LLC (bookendslitagency.blogspot.com) as well as the now-retired but beloved Miss Snark (misssnark.blogspot.com/)—don’t worry, her archives are available.
MARKETING YOUR NEW BOOK
If you are newly published and struggling to get your book out there, debut author, Judith Lindbergh, has some advice for you:
One of the most daunting realizations an author makes is that, even with a big publisher behind your book, you’re still going to have to do a lot of marketing yourself. That was the case with my literary historical novel, The Thrall’s Tale [www.judithlindbergh.com], about three women in Viking Age Greenland.
I had a lot of support from my publisher, Viking Penguin, and was even sent on an official author tour. But for any debut novelist, growing an audience isn’t easy. And with the obscurity of my subject, even my hard-working publicists didn’t know how to find my book’s readers as well as I did. So I got up my gumption and took my book’s fate into my own hands.
The tactic I found extremely helpful was spending a couple of hours each day culling the Web and other resources for contacts—people, organizations, Web sites, blogs—searching for anyone that might be interested in a specific aspect of my novel. I went well beyond reading groups and librarians, though they were certainly on my list. I also tapped cultural organizations, local and regional community centers, women’s organizations, historical groups, culture-specific news outlets, and many, many others.
Once I had my contacts, I didn’t just send out spam. I carefully personalized an E-mail message for each organization, making the contact aware of why my novel might appeal to them, and offering a free reader’s copy. Then I suggested they contact me to arrange a reading, workshop, interview, or simply mention my novel on their Web site or in their publication. The effort, though time-consuming, generated dozens of additional opportunities to reach readers. I’m still enjoying the fruits of my labor with a trip to Canada this fall to speak for two important Icelandic-Canadian cultural organizations.
MARKETING YOUR BUSINESS
Some of you are writers and editors who need more ideas on how to advertise your services. Jennifer Omner, a Portland, Oregon book designer, recommends e-newsletters (and I must admit, so do I!):
I’ve operated my own business [www.ALLPublications.com] since 1994 and during that time I’ve tried many different marketing activities including direct mail, print newsletters, telemarketing, and trade shows. The most successful activity has been an electronic newsletter that I send out twice a month with brief marketing and book tips. My clients and prospects tell me that they appreciate the brief, helpful information.
The e-newsletter allows me to easily stay in front of clients and they contact me more often. It’s also a great way for me to follow up with people I meet at organizations and trade shows. I initially thought, Who needs more e-mail? If you’re thinking that too, I recommend trying an e-newsletter for your business. You’ll likely be impressed with the results!
SELLING YOUR ARTICLES
Susan Lick has published fiction and nonfiction as well as written countless articles for magazines and newspapers. She has a few insider tips for those aspiring to write for magazines and newspapers.
I don’t remember any big light bulb going off. These are just things you learn along the way. There really aren’t any big secrets to marketing. You figure out what the editor needs and provide it. In order to do that, you must read what they have previously published, as well as the guidelines and market listings.
For periodicals, look for the editorial calendar, which lays out what they plan to cover during the next year. These calendars are published for advertisers, but the persistent writer can find them and write to fit. If you can’t get the calendar, look at a year’s worth of issues. Many magazines cover the same things in the same month every year. For example, you know the May issue of Writer’s Digest will have the top 100 Web sites for writers.
For me, probably the smartest thing is to find a publication I really want my work to appear in and develop stories that will be right for it, rather than writing something first, then going in search of a likely market. I don’t always do that. It kind of limits the muse, but the odds go up considerably when you write with a specific market in mind.
Catalog your marketing skills and explore ways to exploit those strengths in your writing or editing endeavors. If you are techno-savvy learn ways to use the Internet to further your career. Are you a social butterfly? Focus on phone and in-person meetings to increase your client base. Do you have a knack for marketing? Use that skill to spread the news about your services, articles, or books.
Spend time on marketing every week so you’ll never stop learning.