This past weekend, I spoke at the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie, Ind. It was my seventh year speaking there, and remains one of my favorite conferences. (Read my three recaps from last year, starting with Day 1.)
Among other things, I gave a two-part session on essential tools for online marketing and promotion—and did my best to explain what it means to use Twitter, Facebook, sites, and blogs to build meaningful relationships with an audience.
One of the key takeaways: you can't decide it's time to market and promote on the day of your book's release. By that time, it's far too late. You need to establish relationships and connections the day you decide you want a career as an author.
To help break this down into a manageable process for people, I outlined four stages to marketing and promotion, especially when you're entering any online community and trying to be an authentic member:
- Sign up, observe, and educate yourself (sometimes called lurking). Many people stay at this stage for a long time, simply soaking up good information.
- Participate. Start to make yourself known. This could be as simple as making status updates, posting photos or sample writing, or creating a profile.
- Share something and grow relationships. Focus on what you give people or what you can share that's of value. As you participate and share with others in the community, and do things for each other, relationships grow and develop.
- Ask for help. This is when you might actually put your connections to work as a means of soft or hard marketing. Maybe you want to tell people to pre-order your book on Amazon on a specific day. Or you're hoping that your network will spread the word about an upcoming event you're hosting. So you ask.
People who know you and trust you will be more likely to help you. That's why it's important to establish relationships far before you market and promote a product/service. The relationships have to be meaningful before they have value in a marketing/promotion effort, particularly online.
(Because most authors don't realize the importance of marketing/promotion until it's too late, the first annual Writer's Digest Conference is focused on these types of strategies and skills.)
Other notes from the conference:
- I had a good conversation with author Kelsey Timmerman, who wrote Where Are You Wearing (Wiley). He found his agent at Midwest Writers two years ago, and is now shopping his second book. He's a great example of an author with a strong online brand, partly due to the kind assistance of his publisher. Also: Check out this YouTube video he did on book signings versus book clubs.
- Dennis Hensley gave a rousing keynote about the "re-create 8" — or eight ways to be a better creative thinker (e.g., reduce, rearrange, expand, reverse).
- Eric Butterman, an expert freelancer, gave sessions on how to earn more money writing even in a down economy. He struck me as one of the most engaging and prolific freelance writers I've met in a very long time, who really knows his stuff. (If you can manage to find a workshop or class with this guy, jump on the chance.)
- I was alerted to a poetry contest that has first prize of $500 or a colonoscopy. Go here to read more about the Bottom Line contest. Tip of the hat to Irene Fridsma, who also shared this Dave Barry column on the topic. And note that Irene's blog was set up in the past 48 hours by following my advice in the online marketing and promotion session! :-)
Many thanks to the MWW committee (I'm pictured above with members Alan, Jama, and Barb) for another lovely year. I highly recommend the event to all writers for its hands-on craft/technique sessions as well as access to literary agents.
Looking for more?
- Check out the Writer's Digest Conference.
- Our very own Chuck Sambuchino is hosting an online class on how to find an agent using online tools. Visit his blog on agents.
- One of our best books on establishing relationships to further your career is Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz. Visit Christina's site, read an excerpt (Why All Authors Need a Platform), or view the table of contents.