This is the third and final instalment in my article, ‘My Previous Life as a Marketer’.
As I mentioned at the end of the last instalment, I’ve often felt lost in the wilderness. I’ve been downhearted many times on my journey to become an author and also struggled to see where I should be heading.
In particular, I’ve always been down on myself for studying marketing, spending over ten years working in that same field, and listening to people who told me when I saw sixteen that it was too hard to become an author and that I’d never make it.
I’ve even felt angry at myself because I saw those years as a waste.
But the longer I work in this industry the more I see how much my corporate experience helps me as an author.
In the past two decades, so much has changed about how authors approach their careers and their writing. Being an author is, and always will be, about writing amazing, entertaining and engaging stories. That must always lie at the heart of the matter.
But being an author has also become much, much more.
We must know how to use computer software, not just an old clunky typewriter.
We must know how to lay out documents, our manuscripts, in a professional and polished way. And we must know how to construct the words in those manuscripts in an alluring way, sometimes a special way, formatted to certain guidelines (I’m particularly thinking of picture books here).
We need to know how to write great opening hooks (headlines), blurbs (advertising copy), bios (sell your benefits!), that ‘story-behind-the-story’ where many of us gild the lily or wax lyrical about how the muse came and sat on our shoulder and dictated this marvellous novel that you simply knew everyone would want to read…
We’ve all heard that one before.
Is that not marketing? Yes! Of course it is. Well-rehearsed, well thought out, well-scripted marketing. We are authors after all, we can write anything to our advantage. And today, marketing is increasingly about story. And as authors, we’re in the perfect position to craft our own irresistible stories…
We must know how to set up websites, social media pages, how to take studio quality photos and upload them onto various mediums. We need to come to terms with creating book trailers (filmic advertisements).
Many top authors and illustrators know how to work an audience, they know how to speak and present themselves publicly. Some are more natural than others, but some have had to overcome incredible shyness or even terror at the thought of public speaking. They have been coached on how to conduct themselves in interviews, how to engage audiences, how to speak to children and adults. How and where they should look when they’re interviewed on TV. These things don’t just happen, you have to be taught.
Great authors don’t necessarily fall into being great presenters. I would say that most great authors have the wrong personality type to be a public presenter, and yet… they must learn to do it.
So much about being an author is marketing. And not even after you’re published. You need to market yourself before your first book comes out. In this, I mean you need to build a firm Author Platform for yourself. Publishers and others in the industry really do notice and they really do care.
As the cost of advertising and production rise and book sales come under competitive pressure from technology-based games, publishers want new ways to cut through and have their message heard. That’s why more and more of them rely on authors to help sell their books.
It’s a natural progression, especially when you think that every social media channel you set up (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube) becomes your own broadcasting channel. We’re in the perfect position to create and roll out our very own content with messages that we can control ourselves. All we need are eager people to listen to us!
We’ve moved beyond the simply 4Ps of Marketing mentioned in Newsletter 6. We are well and truly into the era of Relationship Marketing and perhaps moving beyond it to Experiences Marketing.
This makes it absolutely crucial to learn how to talk about yourself and your book in a positive way. How to make small talk, how to develop good listening skills, clear speaking skills and how to connect with readers, authors and publishers across all ages and backgrounds.
Diplomacy and alacrity are necessary attributes for any author. They also came in very handy at meetings, conferences and industry parties during my life as a marketer.
So many people are simply flummoxed about how to use Microsoft Word, one of our most basic instruments as an author. We need to practice our skills with Word and conquer it if we can.
In the corporate world I created countless clean and perfect documents that contained all sorts of elements that would then be submitted to companies. Not just to secure a small book advance, but to secure my company millions of dollars’ worth of business. My job literally depended on my Word Documents being impeccable.
Millions of dollars.
Perhaps it was the terror of having so much riding on me during those years that now gives me an eye for detail. Courage under fire, perhaps? Either way, marketing taught me how to type, design and layout a decent document. I have marketing to thank for that.
In the corporate world, I also saw how businesses worked, how customer service worked (or didn’t) and how to develop a steely confidence even when I was shaking in my shoes. This last skill has become particularly useful in front of screaming preschool audiences!
Even if you forget the marketing side of being an author, where you have to present a public persona and a public image, you will need to get your head around the business side of being an author.
This was another thing that I was entirely naïve about before I first dipped my toe into the world of writing. Little did I realise that when I received my first book contract that I was in fact becoming a small business owner too.
Every business lesson I’d been taught while working in the corporate world now holds me in good stead for what I need to do in the writing world. It was all invaluable training.
It might not have been my heart’s true desire, but it led me here and now keeps me here, helping me to grow and develop as an author.
So now I think I can finally get off my own case and stop giving myself a hard time for ‘wasting’ my earlier years.
It is what it is.
I’m here now and I’ve come prepared!
Perhaps you feel this way too.
So, from all this, what’s my advice for aspiring and emerging authors and illustrators? Bullet point list below, which I hope gives you some inspiration.
See you next week…