Monday, February 6, 2012

The Beginning of Marketing for Authors Who Normally Hate Marketing

Okay, so I'm going to present at LTUE this week (and if you live anywhere close to Utah, you should come!) and one of the panels I'm sitting on is a marketing panel.

So most of us are creative minded people when it comes to authoring books. Then, when your book sells, you’re suddently thrust into the position of thinking about another side of writing.

The business side. The side where you promote and talk about yourself and your books. Most authors are terrified of this. There are entire blogs dedicated to helping authors become effective marketers. (This is not one of those blogs, but I am going to share with you my experiences over the next couple of weeks.) Have you seen Shrinking Violet Promotions? If not, I highly recommend it.

So first, there are three easy steps to determining your marketing strategy.

1. Stalk. That’s right, stalk. Lurk. Hang out in the back with a black hoodie on and listen. Watch. Take notes of what you like, of what you think is fun, of what you think you might like to do.

I’ve been stalking Beth Revis for years. You should too. I adore everything Saundra Mitchell writes, including her mega-helpful marketing stuff. (<<<If you haven't seen this, you will die. D-I-E.) I also like to randomly pop in to other author’s blogs and websites and see what they look like, what content they have both dynamically and statically, what contests they run, what swag they’re giving away, etc.

I stalk. I take note of what I like and then I move to step 2.

2. Steal. I know, I know. I’m making you into a criminal! Well, marketing—which is so left-brained—is criminal to a right-brained creative artist. So trust me, you’re already knocking on that door.

Through all of your stalking, you’ll see some things you like. Steal them. That’s right. Put them on your list of things you’d like to do before your book comes out, during the release of your book, and after your book comes out.

Make a big list. You won’t do everything, because let’s face it, you’re not Oprah and you don’t have millions to spend. (Also, many of the authors I stalk get a lot of help from their publishing houses. They have reach and dollars I simply can’t match. But everything goes on the list, whether it comes from the author or the publisher.)

I use a spreadsheet (surprise, surprise, Ms. Math Minor) to keep track of the marketing ideas I like. I include a website address that will refresh my memory if I’ve forgotten exactly what the idea looked like.

Which leads us to step 3…

3. Mutate. That’s right. X-Men, baby! (Love Wolverine.) Examine your ginormous list of possibilities and mutate the bigger ones that you really love into something you can manage with both hours and dollars.

I'm constantly trying to think of something that's simply different. Blog tours are nice. Interviews, playlists, conversations with characters. They're all good.

But I'm not looking for good. I'm looking for something different. And I don't mean you need to spend lots of money on swag or giveaways. I just mean I'm always trying to think of how I can take a postcard and make it into something more than a postcard.

And so I watch and listen and take notes, and then I mutate the ideas I see out there into something I can own, something I can manage, and something I can fund.

Easy, right? Riiight.

So are you out there stalking? Do you have a spreadsheet with ideas? My philosophy? It's never too early to start! Next week I'll talk about what I think every author should do. I call it my The Basic Marketing Plan for Authors Who Have Bills To Pay Too.

43 comments:

Miranda Hardy said...

Oh, I stalk. I'm a big stalker. Lol I've learned watching others build thier platform in the hopes of replicating it for my future best sellers. It's all about community and research.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'm a big stalker. And still terrified of the marketing if I ever get there. So I'm watching you, Beth, and Shannon when she gets there in the Fall to see how it happens.

Laura Pauling said...

I love taking note and stealing what other authors do! It's the best place! I don't have a spreadsheet but I have lists with the author's name next to it!

A.E.Johnson said...

I really only stalk one author. But you'll never know it.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love the spread sheet idea! I'm going to start doing that in case I get to the point of publication. Then I won't be scrounging for ideas. :D

Leigh Ann said...

I'm not even close to needing to market anything, but I am a big advocate of stalking. It's the primary way I picked up my CPs - finding contest entries I liked and then pestering them till they let me read their MSs. :D

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I am not above stealing a great idea!

Kelly Hashway said...

These are great tips, Elana and definitely what I need to hear right now. Thanks!

Yvonne Osborne said...

Thanks Elana. I like the reminder that as right-brained people, we are already treading on criminal activity to even be talking about this subject.

Vera Soroka said...

Yes, I take note of things authors do all the time.
Have you ever seen gift cards? The gift card has the cover of the book on it. You could do quite a bit with this. You have to shop around but the cost is not that much.Just another idea to throw out.

Kimberly Sabatini said...

Grat post! Gonna stalk, steal and mutate it! :o)

Angela Brown said...

I haven't started a spreadsheet of marketing ideas, though that, in itself, is a great idea. I've stalked a few people, like Beth Revis, as well. I've participated in and seen some great book launches by indie authors that thoroughly impressed me.

Lots of ideas to "acquire" and mutate.

Christina Lee said...

This great, E! Can't wait to see what you have for next week!

Rosalyn said...

This is really helpful--thanks! I've been trying to decide if I want to go to LTUE (my parents live in Provo) . . . maybe this is the nudge I need!

Talli Roland said...

I'm a big mutator! I love taking ideas I've seen and morphing them to suit my own purposes. *mwah ha ha*

Slamdunk said...

Love your approach with this Elana--I think Beth is great as well.

Mutating is essential. Finding a way to reach an audience without being lost in the masses of everyone marketing the same manner, requires a creative and organized approach.

Marta Szemik said...

Yes, I stalk a lot, then pick and choose and research. I like the spreadsheet idea. Thank you!

beth said...

How *do* you take a postcard and make it into something more than a postcard?

Also: IRONY. I stalk you, too!

Alice said...

Some excellent ideas! Thanks. I'll be at LTUE and will definitely be attending your marketing class.

Matthew MacNish said...

Zenn's short story is free? Click.

Laurel Garver said...

I love what you say about making a postcard be more than a postcard--taking a standard idea and putting your own spin, preferably what the marketing people call "value added".

K.T. Hanna said...

I've definitely made it to the stalking phase :D
Need to get to work on the others

Sarah Allen said...

Definitely a pro on the stalking thing. The spreadsheet idea is a really, really good one, I'll have to steal it ;)

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Brilliant post, Elana! And you're right--it's never too ear;y to start collecting ideas. :)

Margo Rowder said...

This is great, Elana! As someone who's been in marketing and advertising for 12 years, I feel confident in saying you have quite the head for it. :) Keep it up!

Nicole Zoltack said...

I definitely stalk. And oak everything in like a sponge. :)

Martha Ramirez said...

Very nice, tips. Elana. And thanks for the link!

Sara B. Larson said...

These are great ideas (albeit of criminal nature, ha ha). Can't wait to hear more at LTUE! :D

Patti said...

You're right. It's never too early to start. I'm going to create my spreadsheet now.

Carolyn V said...

I have notes on what NOT to do. hee hee hee. Now I have to get some things on what to do. ;)

Southpaw said...

Great list. I do have a list - but I tend to lose it and have to start over. That's not so good.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

Stalk, steal and mutate! Love it! That does make it seem less harrowing.

Unfortunately, my lack of tech know-how is an even scarier barrier than the monetary factor.

Jo Schaffer said...

You had me at WOLVERINE. But seriously... I have to start thinking about this stuff now. Just signed with an agent today. Whoah.

Leslie Rose said...

Spreadsheet AND Wolverine. Best post ever.

Peggy Eddleman said...

I love you, Elana.

Ishta Mercurio said...

See? THIS is why you rock so hard.

Your tip number three is a great one. I'm already a stalker and a stealer (aren't all writers these things?), but the key is in the twist. Good tip.

J.R. Johansson said...

So...will it be odd if I'm taking notes while on the panel with you at the conference?

Because seriously. Genius. :)

Ainsley Shay said...

great post! stalking, stealing, and mutating sounds like you're on your way to your next series!

great tips - thanks

Julie Daines said...

Thanks for this concise and highly useful post. You can be sure I'm doing all those things starting riiiiight now!

Heather said...

So many great ideas and links to click on! How do you know exactly what I need, when I need it? Oh yeah, mind control. ;)

Jenna Blake Morris said...

Thanks for passing this along! I've bookmarked it for (way) future reference.

And you mentioned X-Men! Bonus points. I like Wolverine pretty well, but my loyalty's gone to Rogue ever since I watched my first episode of the 90s cartoon. (;

Theresa Milstein said...

Stalk, steal, and mutate.

This sounds very, very dangerous.

I have not set up spreadsheets or given this much thought. When I had a short story anthology to promote, I did a mini blog tour to get a sense of what it would be like to do a big one. It didn't seem like the time to get all fancy. It's probably not a good idea to start taking notes until I have an agent and/or book contract.

Janet Johnson said...

I've made mental notes, but you are so right about writing things down. Perhaps my fear is that I'll be counting my chickens before they hatch if I write marketing ideas down, but still . . . Great post!