On Your Marketing, Get Set, Go!

One of the most common questions posed to newbie authors -like myself- by writers on their journey to becoming published authors is: when/where/how to get started in marketing? The most common answer? Ugh! I hate marketing. Wrong. Answer.

This is one of those cases where there’s a right and wrong answer. How will readers know of your shining achievement if you don’t do everything in your power, short of streaking cross country wearing nothing but a towel featuring your book cover, to promote your wonderful piece of art? We must connect with readers. We must. And believe me, it’s worth it.

Readers are truly lovely people (as our writers and librarians and book store owners). I brim with joy when I discover a book that is a dream to read. A page turner. A front burner. Better than…well, you fill in the blank. You know what I do when I find such a book? Recommend it to others.

For those of us fortunate enough to have a publisher, and even more fortunate enough to have a publisher with a publicist or marketing department, we still have to self-promote. Who better for that task? I am commited to being my own best publicist because I’ve drained my life blood onto those pages, wrung hands over character development, and performed CPR on scenes more times than I care to mention. And for what? So readers may be entertained by my illusion of reality within those pages.

So, how to market?

The easy, but potentially time draining, marketing path is through social media.
Think Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, and Pinterest, for starters. And new ones are always popping up. My focus is on FB and Twitter, but I do believe in Goodreads (especially book giveaways, as that hopefully gives a book the attention it deserves). I’m about to create a presence on Instagram (by “about” I mean, I’ve been planning this for two months now and will break down and do it any moment, when I least expect it).

Let’s start with Facebook: I created my presence about five months prior to the book launch date. To have an author page, I needed to create a profile first, which I did (this is a FB requirement), and gathered friends from people I knew, from my Sisters in Crime local and national groups, from book signings, author panels, and random run-ins with newly discovered pals in the grocery store and similar places. In other words, from everywhere. Then I asked these same friends to “like” my author page from my profile, so I wouldn’t be lonely out there. It worked. FB permits promotions of pages to encourage more of a page following. That costs money, but it does provide a boost in popularity as well. I’ve heard of authors who have regular, ongoing promotions (and deep pockets).

I really like Twitter, especially the part of tweeting in 140 characters or less. I’m all about short and sweet, and things I can do without huge effort. As far as book promo, I’ve been known to tweet parts from a great book review of my novel directly from Amazon, just because I can. But I spend most of my twitter time using hashtags (# = a hastag), and quoting great quotes or tweeting about the #writinglife. I don’t know if my activity is selling my book, but it certainly increases my connections in the Twitter world.

I hung back on Goodreads in the beginning (mainly because of my ignorance and lack of time), but once I jumped on that band wagon, it worked. I did a giveaway or two, and got the Goodreads community interested in reading my book. Imagine the possibilities if I’d the time to join the discussions (it’s on my “to do” list)!

Next time – Book Promotion Part 2.

Nancy Drew and Me

Can we go back in time? We sure can. Many everyday occurrences transport us through time. The scent of a flower. A song. A pina colada. And a book, of course. Yesterday, I was nine-years-old again, thanks to reading The Secret of the Old Clock, the first in the Nancy Drew mystery series. I rediscovered what I’d found so endearing and appealing about Nancy.

Nancy’s birth in 1930 introduced a new type of female protagonist in the mystery genre. Independent, intelligent, and brave. She scaled walls, fixed boat engines, and sabotaged getaway planes. Never timid or a damsel in distress, Nancy didn’t sit on the sidelines while the action took place. She took action. She accomplished things, which my younger (and slightly older) self found highly appealing. She didn’t just go to summer camp with her friends to hang out and hike or picnic. She went because a piece of a puzzle she was working on could be found in a nearby cabin. While her pals threw horseshoes and played games, Nancy took a motorboat out, by herself, to investigate criminal activity. When the motor conked out on her, she tinkered with it until it worked again.

Persistence was her middle name. Nancy embodied strength, will power, integrity, and courage as well. Nothing fazed her. Oh sure, she shed a few tears when the bad guys locked her in the closet of the abandoned cabin, but she immediately stopped and assessed the situation. Not one to waste time, she took control by fashioning a tool to escape. Nothing and no one could hold Nancy down.

She was the original calm, cool and collected heroine who was perfectly at home acting alone to take down the bad guys. In fact, her well known lawyer father often turned to her for help instead of the reverse. She showed all us young readers what we were capable of doing.

In children’s (and most adult) books pre-Nancy Drew, males led the way, while the females swooned and fretted in the background. As defined by Mark Twain: “Heroine: girl in a book who is saved from drowning by a hero and marries him next week…” A hero, he said, is a person who does impossible things… Nancy defied the female stereotype of her time, turning the old model on her head and creating a refreshing new version. She accomplished all this while acting courteously, thoughtfully, and dressed to the nines. For me, now and then, she was the ultimate role model.

Conquering Stage Fright

If you’re like many writers, and many people in general, the thought of public speaking gives you the jitters, the hives, and/or a sudden urge to run for cover. I’ve experienced my share of severe heart thumping, not to mention having my throat constrict to the point where I couldn’t down a mint if I tried.

It’s no fun to be tossed into an emotional battlefield of fear, nerves, dread, and anxiety because of stage fright. It dims the chance to live life fully in a happy, positive state, as we should. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

At my first author panel, a former co-worker asked how I could possibly summon the courage to speak in public, since I was a trifle shy by nature. The answer was simple: I forgot my shyness whenever I had the opportunity to talk about a topic that stirred up my passions. Namely, my passion for reading and writing. Passion ignites enthusiasm and excitement, both of which provide padding around the heart that crowds out distressing heart thumping or a bad case of nerves.

It’s all in how you approach challenges according to Carlos Ghosn, the head of Nissan who says: Your audience will forget 90% of what you say within 24 hours. What stays with them is your attitude, your emotion, the feelings you convey. I can confirm that it’s not only that your audience that will forget what you say; there’s a good chance you will too. But you’ll remember how you felt which will enable you to carry that wonderful feeling wherever you go.

To be sure you’re left feeling nothing less than terrific, the objective should be to replace negative emotions with the positive ones. How? Take a moment to pause and define your emotions. If you’re feeling down, change direction. Literally. Take a walk, bake a cake, pet your favorite animal (or human) friend. Any of these or similar actions should coax positive feelings or emotions to the surface. Spend time fanning the positives, giving them all your attention. Keep at it until the negatives feelings are forgotten and fade away. I think this quote sums it up nicely:

The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid. — Lady Bird Johnson