Over last few weeks I shared my experiences and some of my learning outcomes from over a decade in corporate marketing.
If you’d like to read these articles, you can find them at the Greenleaf Press Blog, The Writerly Life, at www.greenleafpress.net.
When I first started out, the 4Ps of marketing were all the rage.
Product. Place. Price. Promotion.
There have been other theories introduced in past years and some talk about moving from only 4 Ps to another P, that of relationship marketing.
Relationship marketing is all about developing relationships, obviously, with your prospects and customers. It’s about networking face to face, sure, that one’s always been important, but thanks to technology, the internet and social media, you can now network from the comfort of your own home across several different platforms – with people all across the world.
This type of marketing is critical as an author. Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay and it’s now a key part of a savvy author’s marketing tool kit.
Recently we’ve also seen the advent of a 6th P: experiential, or engagement, marketing where advertisers promote a product or brand by immersing prospects/customers in the experience. I don’t have time or space in this short newsletter to fully go into these concepts, but you can find out more about them with a quick google search.
What I want to talk about is the idea of marketing yourself as an author BEFORE you’re published.
It’s all about building an Author Platform.
Because of this, it’s also about COMMITTING to becoming an author and BELIEVING in yourself becoming an author.
When I think of building an Author Platform, it may be worthwhile to consider 5 other Ps. They are:
How you look, how you speak, how you present yourself – how others seeing you in public – this is your image. It’s incredibly important. Your personal presentation is your public persona. People judge our books by their covers. Why wouldn’t they do the same to us?
The projection of image is not just in our own physical presentation but also our promotional headshots, website images, Facebook and other social media platforms. All of these media ‘channels’ need to look good and present a consistent image.
Perhaps consider linking your image/persona/presentation with a certain item, animal, colour, character or concept from your books. In this way, you’re creating strong BRANDING and making yourself memorable, hopefully in a good way, to your audience.
I’ve often dressed in a unicorn onesie because I write a Unicorn Riders series. Chris Collin, who writes and self-publishes picture books about ‘funky’ chickens often wears a shirt with a funky chicken character on it. We remember him for that.
When you’re a children’s author, you can get away with unicorn and chicken dress up because kids love it! And it’s fun…
Just because authors and illustrators are creative, doesn’t mean that they have to be flaky, disorganised, forgetful or unprofessional. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive.
Professionalism includes things like meeting publisher deadlines, to submitting to proposals to festivals on time and adhering to the guidelines given, replying to emails in a timely manner, being punctual for meetings and treating your readers, bookers (teachers, librarians, etc) and others with courtesy and consideration at all times. It really helps you to stand out if you can have high professional standards and approach your author ‘business’ in this way.
Oh, there will be politics in many situations in life. The children’s writing and publishing industry is no exception, despite its friendly and welcoming nature. At all times try to be as diplomatic as possible. It is a small industry and news travel fast through it.
Probably my best advice here would be to steer clear of it. Treat everyone equally. And be kind to all.
People often say to me that writing is a very solitary occupation. In many ways that’s true. We spend countless hours working at our desks, perfecting words for our beloved stories.
But computers and the internet have brought the world so much closer and made social interaction much more accessible for even the most solitary author. Even in our lonely garrets we can reach out and communicate with others. There really is no excuse for not developing relationships and working on your ‘relationship’ marketing.
The people who will become important to you are your readers, and you must always treat them with respect and care. It’s crucial that you show them that they’re valued.
The other people who are crucial in your writing career are your author and illustrator colleagues. Besides your family, if you have one, your author/illustrator friends will be your greatest support and the only ones who truly understand what you’re going through.
If you’re a beginning author, either aspiring or emerging, don’t ever think that just because someone has been published two, five, fifty, one hundred times… that they don’t still feel the same trepidation as you do at completing and submitting a manuscript. That they don’t still wait for that hard-won acceptance. Just like you are. That they don’t still dread editing (I know I do!)… or that they don’t feel jitters before stepping out to perform to a crowd.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming an author, it’s that we’re all the same underneath.
And don’t forget, publishers and editors are people too. Just like us, they have likes and dislikes, families, hobbies, interests. It’s a good idea to develop positive relationships with publishing people too.
If you don’t know how to network, chat, make small talk, make someone feel included in a conversation and know how to listen, TRULY listen, then now’s the time to start practising before you hit the big time!
As an author you will be put in so many situations where you have to meet and talk to people for the first time. Whether it’s at school visits, library talks or workshops, or at industry functions. You will talk to a lot of people, see many new faces and have to learn many new names.
Make it your business to get these things right.
Learning a few pleasantries to break the ice and to be willing to listen, not just TALK about yourself, is a skill that we all need to work on.
Having said that, make sure you don’t let your ‘light hide under a bushel either’. Be proud of who you are, perhaps even practice your own personal by-line for delivery at industry functions.
Attend Toastmasters meetings to learn the art of public speaking and networking if you need to. Conquer those nerves! I attended Toastmasters to improve my confidence – and I know others who have also done this – because it truly helps.
And there’s no way I’d ever say that I’m perfect and have never stepped a wrong foot with any of this. In fact, I have made mistakes. I’ve done or said the wrong thing at times through nervousness, brashness or naivety.
But I have always managed to pick myself up and keep going, and keep trying.
I’ve embarrassed myself in front of famous, multi-published authors, being barely able to speak without stumbling over my words and sounding like a complete idiot sycophant.
I’ve blurted things out without thinking instead of biting my tongue.
I’ve been lost at how to handle criticism or negative feedback and unable to hide the storm of anger and shock that swept across my face.
We all wear our heart on our sleeves sometimes.
I’ve been crushed and hurt at things people have said and responded unkindly in turn.
No one is perfect, least of all me.
But the important thing is that we try.
One of my favourite quotes sits beside my desk, and has done for about ten years now, ever since I started this crazy publication journey. It is
If you have made mistakes… there is always another chance for you… you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.
Mary Pickford, American actress.
Don’t you just love that?
I hope that if you can take on board some of the advice I’ve shared here that your failures may be less conspicuous than mine. I know that writing out this advice has helped me to realise that I have – and still need to – continue learning every day.
If you’re in the mood to learn about Social Media Marketing, you can join me at my workshops to be held through Noosa Library Service at Noosaville Library and Cooroy Library in coming months.
They’re free to the public. Details are included in the flyer below.