Organizing a Writers Workshop: Marketing (Part 2)

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Today's guest post is by NO RULES regular Susan Cushman, director of the 2011 Memphis Creative Nonfiction Workshop.

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Last month, I wrote about how to plan the budget, faculty, venue, housing, meals, and social events for a writing workshop—specifically for the 2011 Memphis Creative Nonfiction Workshop. Today’s post is about what comes next: scheduling, marketing and promotion.

SCHEDULE
Setting the schedule is a bit like putting together a puzzle—you have to find just the right shape and space for each piece, and the picture isn’t complete until all the pieces are included.

Deciding how much time is needed for each event—craft talks, manuscript critique sessions, panels, meals—is something you learn from experience. And it’s helpful to always remember that things take longer than you think they will.

But arranging the lunches on site (in a room next to the workshop room) saves valuable minutes, and overlapping where you can (pulling participants out of the workshop for 10-15 minutes each for their pitch session with a literary agent) also gives you the most value for the allotted time.

In the end, our schedule ended up with 10 hours of manuscript critique sessions, 7 hours of craft talks/presentations, 1½ hours of panel discussion, and up to 5 hours of pitch sessions, depending upon how many people sign up for those.

You can see the complete schedule here.

MARKETING & PROMOTION
With a large conference, you can count on some extra money for advertising, but with a small workshop the budget is tight. If you spend more than you take in, you put yourself at personal risk.

After considering the options available for paid advertising, I chose to only place one ad, in an online creative nonfiction newsletter that reaches 9,000 active subscribers each month and has an average click-through rate of 28%. The ad cost $75 and will run in May, four months before the workshop.

The rest of the promotion only cost some time and thoughtful "product placement."

Social Networks. Blogs, Facebook and Twitter are great places to promote events. I have a personal blog, and I post monthly here at No Rules and also at the Southern Authors’ blog, A Good Blog is Hard to Find.

You can create an event page on Facebook, and link back and forth between all of these avenues each time you post more information. Keep your readers interested by posting new information at least once a week on the workshop site. This can be in the form of promoting faculty readings at bookstores, linking to interesting posts about various aspects of creative nonfiction (or whatever your workshop’s genre) to start a discussion, and even citing good resources for emerging writers to tap into before the workshop.

Learn more about online writing classes.

And don’t forget the oldest social network—e-mail. If you have access to e-mail lists from neighboring workshops and conferences, send out a group e-mail announcing the workshop to those participants.

Local Media. Press releases are free. So are event listings in community and arts calendars in many city and neighborhood newspapers. Send this information out as many months in advance as the papers will allow, and then follow up with a reminder—just a couple of sentences—a month before the workshop.

How far should you reach? Since this is a small workshop and not a conference, I’m limiting my reach to Memphis, and about 5 surrounding states.

Bookstores and Coffee Shops. Create posters and fliers and take them (or mail them if you can’t get to all of them) to area bookstores and coffee shops, where lots of emerging writers hang out. If you can coordinate your effort with an event—like a book signing by one of your faculty members—all the better.

When I learned that one of our speakers was coming to a bookstore in Memphis in March, I called and asked if I could hand out fliers for the workshop at his signing. Look for ways like this to connect the dots in your marketing and promotional efforts.

A note about libraries: our public library won’t allow notifications to be posted unless the event is free, which is too bad, since I’m not going to make any money off the event. Be sure and check to see if you might be allowed to post information in the libraries near you.

So there you have it. I’m having a great time planning this workshop. If
you’d like to organize a writing workshop in your area and have any
questions, feel free to contact me. I’d love to
hear from you.

And, if you have organized a writing workshop and have
more tips and suggestions to share, please leave a comment. Check back in September or October to find out how successful the
workshop was!

--

You can read Susan's blog here, and follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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