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.