The Differences between Marketing and Promotion & Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone (This was first released in the RWA PROspects Newsletter as part of a larger joint article with Misa Ramirez.)
It’s never too early to begin marketing yourself and promoting your stories, but knowing how and where to begin can be tough. In this series of articles over the next few months, Misa and I will discuss the differences between marketing and promotion and share tips that we’ve learned along our paths to publication and things we’ve picked up since our first sales.
What’s the difference between marketing and promotion?
ND: Marketing is when you spread your name far and wide. Promotion is spreading the message of your product, your book, far and wide.
MR: Marketing and promotion work hand in hand. I see marketing as keeping me, the auhor, in the minds of readers. This is where branding comes into play and is a valuable tool. You can brand yourself, brand your book series, brand a character… and then use specific activities to promote that brand in every way possible. Building the brand–or marketing your name, your book, or your series–helps stimulate demand.
Marketing means committing to some sort of advertising (which can be free or paid) and publicity (meaning being mentioned in the press, having articles written, etc).
Promotion, on the other hand, focuses on one specific thing…like your first release. It focuses on immediate sales and means doing things to ensure that you’re continuing to give your readers what they want. How you market this first release, or a book in one series, will likely be very different from how you market book 2, or a book in another series. Some promotional tools that work within a solid marketing plan (and you should have a plan!) include bookmarks, postcards, book signings, speaking engagements, informative web sites and paid advertisements found in publications like Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, etc. You have to be proactive in marketing yourself and promoting your book. Instead of bookmarks, I created recipe cards for Living the Vida Lola. This was a promotional tool. I then sent these recipe cards out to independent booksellers as part of my marketing plan. I also handed them out at book signings as a way to promote my presence at the bookstores.
To successfully market, you have to first identify your potential audience, and how to reach them. You then go back to promotion by using the ‘brand’ you already have in place (continued advertising, promotions, public relations, etc) to reach that audience.
I’m not outgoing. What can I do that will fit within my comfort zone?
ND: Judi McCoy said in a workshop recently, “You’re a writer. You aren’t allowed to be introverted.” Marketing and promotion may be uncomfortable for you, but at some point if you hope to be a huge success you have to step outside of your comfort zone. You have to promo your books and talk to people. The internet can lessen the burden for you. People always think that I’m an extroverted person rather than introverted. “It’s easy for you to join a group and get to know people,” or “You leave a crowd feeling energized whereas an introverted person is exhausted afterwards,” they say to me. Based on my natural tendencies, both statements about me are false. You’ve heard the phrase “Fake it till you make it.” That’s what you have to do.
It’s my choice to succeed as a writer. To do that, I have to step out of my comfort zone, because no one is responsible for my success except me. In crowds of people I don’t know, that means putting on a brave face. It means telling myself every day that I am not afraid of rejection and that I can handle it if someone doesn’t want to be my friend, agent, or editor. Some groups are easier for me to meld into than others, but if I don’t put the effort forth to let people get to know me then it’s my fault. It’s exhausting and draining and I crash into bed at night like a brainwashed zombie (is that an oxymoron), but with the crash is a satisfaction that I’ve done what I can for the day to ensure my success.
MR: There are things you can do to look confident, even if you aren’t feeling confident. If you’re at a book signing, for example, try to stand. Don’t sit behind a table! Have something to hand out (like the recipe cards I mentioned above). If you’re handing something to someone, chances are they’ll take it. They may not buy your book, but they’re walking away with something concrete, something that has your name on it, your book title/cover, and it will act as a continual form of marketing.
With e-publishing, book signings don’t happen, so you’re off the hook! However, like Nikki said, creating an online presence is so important no matter what path you take to publishing. Maintain a professional attitude, find your voice and use it, and market yourself! It’s not always easy, but it is part of the job. If you want to be successful, you have to devote a certain amount of time to the marketing of your books/brand. Eventually, it’ll become more comfortable.
ND: To piggy back on what Misa said about e-publishing and book signings, keep in mind that in many cases there will not be book signings as an e-published author. However, there are e-publishers that release books in print as well as electronically, so you may still have the option of book signings if they’re important to you. Regardless of the publishing medium, if you’re nervous about a book signing, invite your friends and family to help create buzz during the event to people in and out of the store. Ask the CRM to make announcements throughout the event to encourage people to come see you. One author I know sends out eVites to everyone she knows when she has a book signing. Another holds only one book signing after each release and invites everyone she knows to that signing. Both authors have huge turn outs. The people they know help put them at ease and draw in new readers by watching for people who are looking on to see what’s happening. Caveat: It is important to not use these people as a crutch to keep you from talking to new people. Stay aware for people looking curious. Say hi, offer candy or a bookmark or something. You’ll be amazed how many people will stop and chat with you, and even buy your book.
What do you think of online interviews?
ND: Online interviews are great for marketing yourself, and if you’re introverted how much better can it get? You have someone email you questions, you answer them, and email them back. You talk to one person. Sure, if that interview is going to be put on a blog it’s wise for you to go to the blog on that day and possibly the next day to respond to any comments, but answering a few questions from people or saying thank you online isn’t really that difficult. Besides, it gives readers the chance to connect with you and learn something about you. And if you’re really that shy, beg your friends to come chat with you on the blog. They’ll help set you at ease and run stress interference with the people you don’t know.
MR: I’ve done several and for those people who love the internet and visit reader sites where your interview might be found, I think it’s another good marketing component. Shorter and pithy is better, in my opinion!
How and where do you market/brand yourself?
ND: My branding is everywhere that I am. In my books, it’s the way I write my stories. To help me figure out my writing brand, I thought long and hard about what goes into my stories and then I made a list of things I seem to have in every book (it’s on my website if you want an example). As for my me brand, I started with my website and considered what I wanted it to say about my stories and me as a package–the writing was still the bigger focus. Once I had that nailed down, I created similar graphics for my other more prominent “internet homes”. As I build a name for myself, and until I have a book cover for my upcoming release, I will focus my promotional materials around my website brand but incorporating some of the graphics I used in that design. With luck, people will begin seeing and remembering my name and identifying me by how I’ve branded myself.
MR: I’m with Nikki…marketing and branding is in most everything I do related to my writing. I’m a columnist at Romancing the Blog (http://romancingtheblog.com) and use my Lola logo as a graphic there. I write at Chasing Heroes (http://chasingheroes.com) and we have a members only section where special ‘cheat sheets’ are available. This is information about writing that is a free gift to Chasing Heroes readers.
I am also helping fellow author, Virna de Paul, with a new site called: Hip Writer Girls ( http://hipwritergirls.typepad.com/hipwritergirls/ ). It’s a site about cool, crafty, creative, and hip ways to promote your books and market yourself.
I operate my website and use my Lola logo on products I have available (http://writees.spreadshirt.com/). All of this has paid off because Living the Vida Lola was #6 in local hardcover bestsellers recently (http://www.guidelive.com/sharedcontent/dws/ent/books/stories/DN-bk_bestsellers_0412gd.ART.State.Edition1.4a5979e.html). I’ve been developing a mailing list via the book signings I’ve done, and I sent out a newsletter before the release of Living the Vida Lola. Twitter, and other social networking, is also something I do, but again, it’s about having something to offer to people. If you give them interesting bits of information, they’ll continue to be interested in you!
I’m also working at developing an online class, as well as gearing up to teach with the creative writing continuing education department at a local college, both of which–as a perk– will continue to give me exposure to readers.
Websites. When should you have one? What should be on it?
ND: I’ve had a website since I began querying agents, though I only sold to Samhain a couple of months ago. Though I’ve changed the design a few times I haven’t changed the contents much. I have a bio, articles I’ve written, tools I’ve used in my writing process, blurbs and small excerpts for each book I’ve written, and a blog. There are links to authors, friends, agents, and editors, as well as links to my publisher and my other “internet homes”, and there is a link with my email to make it easy for anyone visiting to contact me. Because I’ve written books that are part of a series and others that are not, I have broken them out so that anyone can tell which stories go together.
With that in mind, while some agents and editors have admitted that they like for an author to have a web presence when they sell, they have also said that a website can be built later. Before you get begin paying for a website that you aren’t sure what to do with, don’t forget that you can do blogs, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and things of that nature for free and still begin building a following. I’m not certain about other blogging software, but using wordpress, you can get a free blog and should be able to put pages on the blog that will give you the opportunity to showcase some of your writing on a separate page. You could do the same thing in MySpace by using the blog page there to post your excerpts. Keep in mind that if you also blog the excerpts will get buried in the posts, and you don’t want to make agents/editors dig for them.
MR: I believe having a web site is important, as long as it looks professional. That’s not to say that you have to pay big bucks to accomplish this. My website was done with wordpress (using some static pages), it was very affordable, and it’s easy for me to maintain it and update the content (http://misaramirez.com).
The key thing to remember is that writing is your career and how you present yourself, even online, is going to say something about you to agents, editors, and readers. So before you build your website, think about the content, what image you want to portray, and remember your purpose. The website is not for you. It’s to convey information about your book(s) to agents, editors, and/or readers.
What should be in your website: Bio, Press Picture, information about your book(s), author blurbs/quotes, reviews (if you’ve gotten any), information or articles you have that can help other authors.
What about bookmarks, et al? If you have an e-book, is it worth making bookmarks?
ND: My book is going to be out first as eBook, so I have not done bookmarks. I don’t plan on doing bookmarks for it until perhaps its print release. With that said, I have printed up a few things that I’m sending to conferences and book clubs for promotion. So far, for this book I’ve created excerpt booklets and a postcard (picture to the right) to promote the book and my newsletter contest.
The excerpt booklet sample: 8.5 x 11 word document, 2 pages, printed front and back, folded. The graphics and wording for the cover are all one image that I created in another program and pulled into word as a .jpg file. Until I have a book cover, these are the graphics similar to my website that will hopefully help people begin recognizing my “brand”.
MR: As mentioned above, I did the recipe cards instead of bookmarks because I wanted something that tied into the book and that people would potentially hang on to and would find useful. I think it’s worked, and maybe one day I’ll do a Lola cookbook!
Do you write jacket copy?
ND: For Samhain, there is a blurb worksheet that I completed for the book and sent to my editor. It will go to a blurb editor for fine-tuning. It’s my understanding that I will have input on whether I want additional changes to the blurb before it’s finalized.
MR: I wrote a draft (much of which was taken from my query letter), and my editor wrote a draft. We then combined/merged them and came up with the final jacket copy.
Did you have a launch party [or are you planning one]? How will that work with an e-book?
ND: I will likely do a launch party online for the eBook. I will be chatting it up on the Samhain readers loop and blog, I will likely schedule an author chat in their loop, do some guest blogs at friends’ blogs, and have a party on my own blog. I know there will be prizes and giveaways, but I haven’t figured out every detail yet. When the book releases in print, I will definitely be making my rounds to the local bookstores to see about making sure it’s in their stores, autographing their stock, and having a party somewhere for the print book with more giveaways and food.
MR: I did have a release party. Two, actually! One was locally (near Dallas) at a Barnes and Noble bookstore. I sent out invitations, worked with the Customer Relations Manager and had food presented (bite sized pastries, tea, coffee), and it was a fantastic event. In fact, we sold more books that night than the Dallas Cowboy who’d done a signing the week before! B&N was thrilled.
Since we are recent Texans, I also flew back to California (where we just moved from) to do a winery event that had been planned months and months ago. It was a two day event over Valentine’s weekend and culminated with a celebration/release party for our California friends. The parties were a blast!
With e-books, I would consider self-publishing a book-like excerpt with reviews, blurbs, etc, and using that as part of a release party. Have all the information available on how people can buy your book, have the excerpt so they can get a taste of it, and celebrate your fantastic publishing success!
ND: I hadn’t considered a party with an informational booklet, but it’s a very cool idea! Especially if you team up with e-published authors who have books in print so the bookstore gets more sales.
How do you handle book signings, and does the publisher do anything to help promote and market your book?
ND: If I want a book signing I will have to visit the bookstore(s) I want to have one, connect with the manager, and set it up. They will likely do some promo, but I will make sure to create and print flyers or postcards for them to put in bags with each customer’s purchase to help out. It will also be up to me to promote the signing through my website, chat loops I’m on, in my local chapter, and so forth. As for Samhain, if I send them the information they will put it up on their website that I have an upcoming event with the details. I’m not there yet, but I’m pretty certain it can also be put on their blog and in their newsletter.
MR: My publicist has set up several book signings, and I’ve arranged the rest. The big stores have to set them up in a certain way, depending upon who the publisher is and what the protocol is. The bookstores have had signage printed. I have contacted the local papers to announce the signings, but occasionally the book store has also done that. Better for the author to have a checklist of things to do to ensure that the signing will go off without a hitch.
Marketing and Promo together… (It gives readers a chance to know you as a person rather than a name on the book.)
Do you have a newsletter?
ND: I’m just starting one. My intention is to have a quarterly release and then use the mailing list for any special announcements or quick updates. To manage the mailing list, I created a Yahoo group with a link on my website and blog and set it so that only I can post messages to it. This allows people to make their own choice of signing up for the group without feeling like I’m spamming them. As I attend events and get email addresses from people I will send them an invite to the group, in case they are interested.
MR: I do have a newsletter, though I’ve only sent one edition out so far. I’m building my mailing list and will only send a newsletter out when there is something important to announce–targeted around the next release.
Does blogging have an impact on sales?
ND: It’s tough to say as there’s no way to track those sales. Blogging, like a newsletter, gives readers the chance to learn about you as a person as well as about your books. It’s a venue for them to chat and connect with you, which in turn may induce them to download or pick up your book. I’ve chatted with people on blogs, MySpace, and Facebook who’ve said they’re going to buy my book when it comes out, but I’m realistic enough to know that some are being kind. Granted, if I keep chatting with them and remind them when the book releases they may do it. Just as people commenting on guest blogs that they’re going to purchase the book may be genuine. I look at it as you don’t that it will sell books, but you don’t know that it won’t.
MR: You know, I think it does, but only because I work at Chasing Heroes and it’s got a target audience, we work hard to keep it fresh, and we offer something to readers and writers alike. Blogging for blogging’s sake isn’t going to win you many fans, imo. You have to give readers something and make them want to come back for more.
Through Chasing Heroes, I know many readers have learned about my book and have purchased it. Blogging with intent can have a positive impact on sales.
Nikki Duncan recently sold Sounds to Die By to Samhain Publishing. It will release in October 2009. She’s a Golden Pen contest finalist, has done promo work, website design, and book videos for several authors for e-publishing and NY print books. More can be found out about Nikki and her writing at her website www.nikkiduncan.com.
Misa Ramirez released Living the Vida Lola, a Lola Cruz Mystery, in January 2009. The second book in the series will be released winter 2010. Misa is the co-founder of www.chasingheroes.com, was a middle school/high school Language Arts/English teacher until recently, and she helps Brenda Novak with her diabetes auction. More can be found out about Misa at her website www.misaramirez.com.