Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Do I Know You???

Most of us hate marketing. That’s probably why when I Google a writer who has just queried me I find nothing. Some would say that’s great because if there’s nothing, that means this person should be highly publishable, right? It means that this writer isn’t bad-mouthing agents and editors and because of that he or she has a clean bill of health. Right? Well, yes and no.

That might work well if your boss or the dean at the university to which you’ve applied Googles you. However, in the current publishing atmosphere, where everyone needs to begin building a platform about the same time he or she decides to become a professional author, not being known means you don’t understand the game. Before I get into the heart of this post, here's a little theme music to get you in the mood.

Recently, a writer was dismayed when asked why her name didn’t at least appear on Facebook and Twitter. Her paraphrased response was, “I’m not online because I’m busy writing. Once I’m published, however, I plan to then focus on my Web presence.”

Oh no.

That’s fine, but “publish” might not ever happen if you don’t start building a writer name. Many think I’m crying wolf here, but all one has to do is look at what’s being published to realize that there aren’t too many unknown writers getting contracts these days.

And, yes, even though you do need a large Web presence, it’s still wise not to broadcast your feelings about an agent who just rejected your wonderful book on why glow worms glow. It’s still also not a good idea to post those pictures of your mother-in-law when she was wasted at your Christmas party. However, if you do nothing about getting your name out there, then who will know who you are when your book hits bookstore shelves? It doesn’t just magically happen and you should NEVER depend on your publisher putting forth marketing money on your behalf, because that’s not go to happen either. So if you are going to get another contract for your next book, you’d better begin now to let everyone know you write and that you write very well, indeed.

One question writers often ask when I bring up marketing is that they just barely have time to spend on their WIP, so how in the world can they find the time to market too? In addition, I often here the lament that authors just don’t really want to market. It’s boring, and besides, is there any proof that it really works? I mean, look at Stephenie Meyer. She didn’t market her novel and look where she is!

Yes, there is always luck. However, to give Stephenie Meyer some credit, she did happen to write something that struck a chord and that something propelled her to where she is today. If you can find the chord she struck, then please don’t bother to market yourself because you won’t need a platform, either. Better yet, if you can figure out what that magical something is, sell your secret and make a million without writing a word.

For all the rest of those who someday hope to land a publishing contract, there’s the drudgery of marketing and it is advisable that you do as much about being known as possible. There are only so many publishing slots to be filled, and those who are known are there to fill them. It’s a very competitive writer world out there, so don’t let your competition leave you in the dust. Get known. Be known. Stay known.

Here are some tips on how to do it.

1. Start a blog…and actually write something on it. In fact, write something on it every day. You’re a writer, right? Then write. Readers, your audience, those folk who you expect to pay hard-earned money so you can get paid to write, want to know who you are. Show them you can write.

2. Offer to help those who are struggling and not just with writing. Be known for something and then let people know about it. Volunteer to teach kids to read, for gosh sakes. We need hundreds to teach the thousands who can’t read the novels you write. Teach them how and gain double the benefit, two for one.

3. Where’s your local library? If you don’t know, find it and find it now! Libraries are where books reside and people who love to read go there. Find a way to make it known that you write and someday hope to have your book on those shelves. Do talks. Readers love to hear about how and what you write.

4. Do an online seminar or help someone who is doing one. Get involved with anyone and anything that will get your name out there.

5. Get a Facebook profile and let everyone know you write. Make friends there. Join groups, especially readers’ groups. Build your friend list until you hit your limit and do it fast. Write on Facebook no matter how silly it may seem. Others will like you for sharing. They are your potential readers. Be nice to them.

6. Get on Twitter. Write there. Twitter-ers often post valuable information so when you find something interesting online, share it with others on Twitter. Follow others. Learn what the # sign means and use it often.

7. Get on LinkedIn. Link with agents, editors, writers and readers. It’s difficult to do so here because LinkedIn is supposed to be for professionals. However, you can do it because you aspire to be a professional writer.

8. Try to go to at least one conference a year. My suggestion would be to hit the big ones. If you write in a genre, join the national organization linked with that genre, such as the RWA for romance writers, MWA for mystery writers, SFWA for fantasy and science fiction writers, or the ITW for thriller, horror and paranormal writers.

9. At that same national writers’ organization, become active in your local chapter. Volunteer to work at their conferences. Working at a conference not only gives you access to agents and editors, but also gives you the opportunity to interface with those who have been successful, many of them famous.

10. Create a book cover for your novel. It’s very easy and inexpensive. Ask some who have already done so on your new Facebook and Twitter pages. You might even learn how to create a book trailer while you’re at it. Google for instructions.

There are many, many ways you can build a very effective platform in a short period of time. Getting out there is also fun and informative. Try it soon and you might wonder why you didn’t do it sooner…and so will all your new fans.


Jane Harmony said...

Great post - I love your blog! It's been very helpful. But I had a few questions about this one:

I started a blog when I decided to pursue writing professionally. Honestly, it was more just an outlet to detail the day-to-day of writing. Only recently have I discovered how it can be a marketing platform! BUT - I've been blogging under a pseudonym (for internet security reasons) even though I plan on writing under my real name. I figured I would change it when I got published. But of course no agent (or anyone else for that matter) would be able to find me via Google. Do you think it would be wise to start using my real name? (Haha, after writing all that, the answer seems kind of obvious. Duh!)

In a nutshell, I guess I'm wondering how to balance internet privacy and writing marketing. Any ideas on that front? Or should I just go for it... :)

Again, thank you for your blog! I really enjoy discovering more about the writing industry.

Malin said...

The following is simply a question out of curiosity, not meant in any other way than a wish to get an honest reply.

If we writers are supposed to do the marketing ourselves, which are the reasons for needing a publisher (or an agent)?

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thank you so much for breaking it down. People need to know this stuff if they want to be taken seriously.

In this day, I'm surprised people don't think platform first and submit later.

Thank you again.

Kim Baccellia said...

I agree. When I went to the Maui Writer's Conference in 2004 author Terry Brooks told us to start now to build a platform and not to wait till we were 'published'. On your list I do almost all of your suggestions though I admit I could do more with my local SCBWI chapter.

My question is what do you think of an author who starts with a smaller press and not one of the big 5 NY houses? I often worry about that but still list both of my books as they are published and not with vanity press.

Sue said...

Great comments here,
I already do most of your suggestions, but can see I need to put some extra time into it as well,

Anonymous said...

Oh boy. Guess I'll have to work on my Facebook skillset. You nailed it when you mentioned 'silly', because that's how I feel when I'm trying to post anything there.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Hi Kim,

To answer your question, what do I think of an author who starts out with a smaller publisher and not one of the big 5 NY houses?

Many authors begin their careers this way. Again, marketing is the key to success. If your book is a success, it doesn't matter who published it. Also, success makes all your rights more valuable and marketable thus bringing in more income for the publisher and the author. Key is to understand that it's very difficult for anyone except the author to market his or her novel or book. No really cares who published the book or who his or her agent or editor was. To prove my point, without looking it up, who is Danielle Steel's agent? Who edits her novels or who publishes her? Does her readers care?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Hi Malin,

If we writers are supposed to do the marketing ourselves, which are the reasons for needing a publisher (or an agent)?

I'm not going try to speak for publishers, but you do need an agent :), Seriously, agents do more than just try to get publishers interested in projects. So to answer that one, as far as agents go, it depends on whether you need someone to manage your career, Agents take care of pesky things like checking to make sure your novel is ready for submission, helping write effective synopses, handling and negotiating offers, reading negotiating contract language, managing your finances, advice on future novels, managing your career and things to numerous to mention. Being an agent goes far beyond reading query letters and sample submissions. Of course, publishers have editors and anyone who has been published can tell you about what their novel would have read like without one.

Lack of editorial input is the reason most self-published novels fail. So I'd say, overall, that most writers need publishers--and agents.

Marketing, on the other hand is most effectively accomplished by the author (read my response to Kim's question as to why).

Malin said...

Hm, I didn't think of all those pesky legal stuff, and I guess there's always a need for someone to lean on for advice. Thanks for the input!

I need to give that darn Scandinavian Jante law a kick in the nether-regions and learn how to praise my own work without blushing too bad.

book publishers said...

I think comment 10 is a really good point. Creating an original book cover can help bring to life and illuminate both the publisher and agents imagination, and help them see where you're going, in a way that words can't. Remember a picture is a thousand words...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this very informative post. There seems to be some conflicting opinions about whether it's only non-fiction writers who need platform or if fiction writers need platform as well. Can you comment on this?

Mary McDonald said...

Great suggestions. I haven't done a book trailer...yet, but have most of the others.

arlee bird said...

This is an outstanding list of ideas that could in many ways be applied or adapted to other career professionals. I'm going to retain this post to my files.

Tossing It Out

Lili said...

How did readers find books before the internet age? And how were those books marketed to the public?

Exactly. :)

Seriously though, anyone can FB or Tweet about being a writer, but so what? Prove it to me. Proving it takes time, and work.

The internet is helpful -- not all-powerful, just merely helpful -- but it is time consuming, and that's a valid complaint. Building name recognition (and product recognition to match the name) can take years. People need to understand that fact before anything or discouragement sets in, and discouragement often leads to failure.

I do have a web site, but I'm not linking because I have erotic art content and don't like to surprise people. :)

Dawn said...

This is a great post - and demonstrates nicely what I have been encouraging my writerly friends to pay attention to. I resisted a blog for some time, using the "busy writing" excuse. Now I see how important it is in establishing connections and some initial marketing.

Ms. Leira Carola said...

My question is, when I submit a query, do I sign with my full name? My full name, and the one I use in legal stuff, consists of four names. However, my pen name and the name I'm known for online is only two of those four. Should I sign with those two, my first and middle names?

—Leira Carola

MBW aka Olleymae said...

Great post.

Sometimes it can be discouraging investing all that time in twitter and your blog before you are a published author, but there is a whole wonderful writing community out there that makes it sooooo worth while!

wizardofwords said...

Terrific post!

I had previously co-authored 2 books, but this March released my first solo non-fiction project thru a small Canadian publisher.

I spend hours a day continuing to build my author's platform so that when I begin marketing my next book, I will be a much more established entity with a positive and multi-faceted public persona. It's a lot of work, but as you mention, an absolute necessity for most authors.

viewfromdownhere said...

Hi, I just found this blog, and I'm actually trying to get back to writing and hopefully work towards writing a book in the near future. I just started a blog, and I was wondering if there are any networking sites out there specifically for writers, other than facebook and linked-in?


Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Hi Viewfromdownhere,

Well there's Twitter, but none of the social networks mentioned are exclusively writer information sites. There are a couple, however, that are. One is Absolute Write and the other is Writers.Net. Both can be found by searching on their names. Hope this helps

Sarah P. said...

I just wanted to add, based on a local SCBWI conference I attended with an agent from a large agency, the #1 thing an author needs to do is complete writing their manuscripts. You can market yourself til the cows come home, but if you don't work on making a great manuscript, (even a finished manuscript) you're not going to get published either.
I started my blog while I was finishing my novel. I started my Facebook page when I started revising. These things don't guarantee that I'll ever be published, but I will say, it's a nice ego boost to see all my "fans" when I don't even have a concrete product yet. The networking opportunites on Facebook have been great too.