The 1950’s television show “What’s My Line“, was a game show that featured a panel of four people whose sole job was to guess the identity of a mystery guest. Like any emerging author, the identity of the shows guest was unknown, and could only be discovered by someone on the panel asking a question such as: where they came from, what was their niche or line of work, what or where had they performed before, etc.
In other words, by asking the right questions, it was possible for anyone on the panel to discover who the mystery person was. But unless this person had done something to set themselves apart, or had created a unique niche, the participant often remained unknown, simply because they hadn’t really done anything that set them apart from everyone else.
An author’s ability to successfully market themselves is a lot like being that ‘mystery guest’. When you first emerge out onto the landscape of readership and publishing, no one (except for your friends and family, agent and editor) really knows who you are. You may have even been around on the social network scene for a while, but without being intentionally engaged in the community you surf in, and establishing yourself as someone worth investing time and money in, you too will go undiscovered.
So how do we take everything we’ve been working on: building community, honing our craft, developing credibility and becoming socially visible, and roll it into a marketing strategy that will take us to that all important goal of getting our work in the hands of readers, agents and publishers?
How do we market ourselves from obscurity to financial viability?
I decided to start with “Books & Such” Blogger, Janet Kobobel Grant. In Janet’s 2 part post, “What Do Your Readers Really Want From You?”, she uses Jessica Beinecke , (digital story-teller who teaches Mandarin Chinese youth, American slang via her online program ,OMG! 美语, ) successful YouTube video feeds to highlight the power of engaging our community in unique ways, that also allow us to be ourselves, build friendships and connect with our audience at a deeper level.
“Your mission in connecting with your readers online goes beyond getting them to buy your books, says Janet. If that’s your goal, then you’ll end up offering potential readers ads. But if your desire is to make an inherently deeper connection, then you’ll be more self-revelatory and, well, someone the reader feels as if he or she knows. That engenders loyalty that goes way beyond selling a copy of your latest work.”
My next stop was The Creative Penn where Joanna Penn doles out some much needed advice on different things that have worked to make her blog site voted the Top 10 Blog Site two years in a row.
“In order to stand out, you need to have an online presence with quality content that people want to consume either for information or entertainment. Each piece of content you put out there is another way for people to find you. By spreading your content across different media, you will be able to target a variety of audiences.”
Some of her recommendations are:
- Blogging (of course) for ourselves as well as others. Joanna says that once we’ve gotten the hang of writing a blog on a consistent basis, we need to start looking for guest blogs on other sites as well as inviting other’s in our community and niche to guest blog on our own.
(A great collective blogging site I recently discovered is, My Blog Guest. This is a free guest blog site where authors can submit and access quality articles on a variety of topics, thus enlarging their sphere of influence, garnering new friends as well as marketing their PB.)
2. Using online video and audio s such as YouTube, iTunes and webinars. One my favorite ‘go to gals’ for all things author>writing is C. Hope Clark. The other day she posted her podcast interview on What The Glass Contains with Austin Moss on SoundCloud, a free site that lets you record and upload sound and connect to SM like Twitter, FB and Tumblr.
3. Joanna also recommended uploading drawings (such as sketches or maps of your book), doodles or pictures that can help to engage your audience with more of who you are and what you’re doing. You could use this to tell about your hobbies, vacations, friends and family.
4. And of course there is the standard; SM of Twitter, FB etc. I love to Share other bloggers, authors work on-line at places like Digg, Stumble Upon, Tumblr and Linkedin. It’s a good way to build community as well as let other people know what my likes and dislikes are. I’ve had several people stop by my site simply because of what I posted on SM.
5. Developing a schedule for blogging, writing, networking and marketing. Her list entails everything from daily Tweets, to using links in post, to audio>video, to how many books to write per year. I have started using a program called Free Mind, that lets ne visually map out my blog post for the next year. I’ve also used it for my ghost blogging as well as a way to strategize plot and chapter outlines.
And of course no article would be complete without going over to C. Hope Clark’s site and taking a look at what her favorite marketing tools, which are writing articles and using postcards. As an author (Low Country Bribe) and free-lance writer, Hope understands the power behind authors getting their work out where editors, publisher’s and other writers can see it (She attributes much of her success as an author to learning how write content in 700 words or less under deadline). And using bright, shiny well designed postcards as a means of giving away something for free that customers and followers are less likely to put down and lose.
While researching this post I came across an article by Robert Lee Brewer, (site owner of My Name is Not Bob) entitled How to Brand Yourself (And Take Over the World). In it he makes an astute comment about writers and authors in general,
“First off, I know that personal branding is a topic that will probably turn many writers off. For one thing, many writers (including myself) like to think of themselves as unique creative talents. For another thing, isn’t branding reserved for businesses (not writers)? Shocker: If you’re a writer who’s interested in getting published and making an income (whether supplemental or full) from your writing, then you’re in the business of writing…”
Whether we write because it’s an addiction we don’t’ want to be rescued from, or we write because we have a BA in Journalism and believe its compulsory, the brutal fact is, the responsibility for marketing ourselves is serious business. From the moment we start taking ourselves as writers and authors seriously until the last breath leaves our bodies, the PB and marketing of ourselves will never stop. Be it guest blogging for one of our peers, submitting a first draft to our online writers group for critiquing, to announcing the launch of our first book the process of marketing ourselves will never stop.
By building a strong foundation of community, credibility, content and visibility, we as writers will develop a PB that is not only marketable, but sellable. Who better to help promote ‘You’ than the people and communities you and I have taken the time to share, comment and interact with? Sure there a lots of other ways, in which we might reach the public without having to extend ourselves beyond laptops, book signings and occasional Twitter or Facebook posts. But when things get tight and money is held close to the chest, people tend to spend where loyalty has been earned.
In my next and final post in this series on Personal Branding, I’ll take a look at how you and I can celebrate and share the glory of success with those who are as much a part of it as we are.
So what have you been doing to market yourself and your book? What tricks of the trade have you found that work, and which have your found that didn’t? Feel free to drop the ball and get the conversation going.
From the laptop of an uncensored dreamer,