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It's been a long post on marketing for writers since my last confession and I realize in reading over some of my old posts, I realize how wordy I am. Yes, I'm a wordy writer, why use three words when you can use twelve?
This is why I still keep a blog.
I confess I'm not only slow to respond to you verbally, not make my point in 140 characters, but I need space to think.
So I've been thinking about book marketing for poets and writers and here are my 2 cents on the different mediums, what they offer you as a writer and for your book and some dos and don'ts.
(my author page)
I confess for a long time I had a love/hate relationship with Facebook. (And I confess sometimes I still do.) But I've learned what Facebook can offer the writer, especially the writer who lives in a place without a lot of other writers or artists around him or her-- community.
Facebook is great for building community for yourself as a poet or writer. What I love about my facebook account is that when I go onto Facebook, my newsfeed has articles, quotes, and images about writing. The majority of my friends are writers and so they are posting things that interest them which then, interest me.
It is a great place to get immediate feedback from people who "get it." For example, when I told my family I had a poem accepted by Prairie Schooner, they were happy for me, but not in the way another poet or writer would be happy because I then had to explain to my family *what* Prairie Schooner was and why it was a big deal. Good news loses a little excitement if you have to explain why it's "good news."
On Facebook, there is no literary disconnect. Post "I just had a poem accepted in ______" and watch the Likes come in because we get it. As writers, we are rejected so many more times than we are accepted. We've tried for journals and missed out. We understand the excitement of a yes.
Facebook is also a great way to:
a) hear about others' books and share your own.
b) ask for opinions on book cover or author photos.
c) talk about writerly things without others not understanding what you are referring to.
d) find out about what's happening in the writing world.
e) find new poets to read and books to buy.
f) connect with your tribe.
Of course with every good, there is the bad.
Too much Facebook is not a good thing for a few reasons--
a) you become so hungry for the immediate gratification of the Like or responses
that you focus more on short term writing instead of long-term projects.
b) you find yourself wasting too much time there.
c) you use it to procrastinate, reading the newsfeed again and again.
d) if you find yourself feeling bad about your life or your writing life or your unremodeled home, get off of it for awhile (and have a reality check, people posting on how awesome their lives are, may not be sharing everything...there's a reason why it's also called "Fakebook.")
e) you become the Demi Moore, Kim Kardashian, or Justin Bieber of Facebook--meaning: We see WAY too much of you and what you're doing, thinking, living, etc. Too much of even my favorite dessert is too much.
How Not To Use Facebook to Market Your Book--
1) Publish your book, then friend a lot of poets and writers with similar friends, then immediately after becoming friends post your book (and a link to buy it on their wall) and send them a link to Like your author page.
To me, this is like meeting someone for the first time in a bar, then turning around to your secret suitcase of books and promo material and dropping everything you have on their lap.
It's like saying, "It's nice to meet you, but let's talk about me."
It's walking into someone's house for the first time and writing the name of your book on their wall and leaving business cards in the bathroom, your marketing flyers on the couch.
Let me say this bluntly-- It's not good manners.
That is not marketing, it's being inconsiderate. It's saying, "I value this friendship in how it helps me sell my book."
And it's a turn-off.
Personally, when someone does this, I don't want their book--even if it's fantastic--because, well, it's creepy and rude.
How does Facebook help you market/sell your book?
a) By letting people know you have a book (use your manners on this...see above)
b) By getting the name of your book out there & your readings
c) By connecting you with other like readers & writers
(note: this may get you more opportunities to read in other places besides your own region)
d) By allowing you to make an author page for those fans who love your work and want to know what you're up to
e) By allowing you to create an ad for your book
If you are comfortable with Facebook, use it to connect with people (note: if you start thinking of them as only "your readers" you're screwed because you're missing the opportunity to connect with some amazing artistic people out there), use it find venues outside your region, use it to help *other writers* (seriously, it's part of your job in the literary community--and I mean that), use it to create an ad that will be seen by poetry readers, use it share your successes and disappointments, use it to increase your tribe or to find your tribe or to celebrate your tribe.
Remember, these are real honest-to-goodness people behind the profiles, not solely consumers. Treat your Facebook friends with respect and kindness always.
Oh and one more thing, if you're friends with someone who creates a negative vibe in your direction, is emotionally hostile to you, icky-scary, or just the creepy perverted type--defriend without guilt.
Only keep the best people around you. Always.
1) Engage with others as peers and friends
2) Use your manners
3) Start an Author Page (for your super fans)
4) Buy an ad (note: we did with Two Sylvias Press & Crab Creek Review and had really good results for not a lot of $$)
Like Facebook, Twitter has many timewasting opportunities.
I have heard that people who LOVE Twitter go a little nuts when it is down.
For me, Twitter is the outfit I always forget I have. Oh yes, there's that little 140 character number hanging in the back of the closet, I had forgotten about you.
Someone in a recent blog post said it's not about having "followers" (as in a number of followers) but having followers who are interested in what you're doing.
Here's what I think Twitter is good for:
1) Sharing information whether about a class your teaching, something you learned, something that will help others.
2) Being entertaining
3) Teaching writers to summarize their thoughts and sentences
4) Having another way to connect with people (readers and writers)
5) Helping other writers promote their work
What it's not good for--
1) Just promoting your own work
This is the fastest way to get people to unfollow you.
If you're on Twitter, you need to offer your followers something valuable, and well, that's not your book or whatever you are promoting.
I see Twitter as a way to share interesting and/or valuable information or to be humorous.
That's about it. It's a way to increase your tribe, but not necessarily the best way to sell your book.
Use Twitter to follow people you're interested in and engage with them.
Use Twitter if you like a lot of info, need to connect with what people are talking about in the world, enjoy poetry chats (follow hashtag #poetparty every first Sunday from 6-7 pm PST), or just want to follow your favorite authors (Margaret Atwood is on here as is Sherman Alexie...and each RARELY mentions their own books--oh and they have a ton of followers).
Do not use it just to keep saying, "My book is available..."
Do not use Twitter to be boring.
1) Engage with others
2) Don't just focus on selling people things
3) Be your most interesting self
Like Facebook, but for Book People!
GoodReads is another place on the web I forget about, but I do recommend it. In fact, I think this would probably be the best place to promote your book, but to be fully honest, I don't use it enough to tell you exactly how.
I set my GoodReads to post so my blog post goes there and I occasionally go there to find new books and keep track of my own reading (as well as post reviews for other poets and authors).
You can create an author profile which is helpful as well as see how many people reviewed and rated your book--
Kelli Russell Agodon's books on Goodreads
If anyone else has more info on how GoodReads is useful to authors and poets, do share.
1) Authors should have an author page there
2) Link up your blog if you have one.
Pinterest is a basically a visual bulletin board and the newest of these social platforms.
It's addicting for the visually inclined as it's image after image from boards that you follow.
You can pin images that you love. Some people have boards devoted to their favorite authors or book boards, where they pin what they are reading.
Again, this isn't really a board to promote your own work, but to perhaps, find inspiration or interesting images.
5) Red Room:
(here's my account)
This is another place similar to Facebook, but for writers. Again, not a place I show up much (or at all), but the people who love it, seem to love it.
I don't know enough about this place to offer pros and cons, but wanted to share it with you and if others have good info on this, please share with me and I'll add it and credit you.
Share your photos with retro looking or other overlays on them. (In fifteen years, all our kids will want to know why all their baby photos are square with a weird tint to them...)
Final thoughts: Big with the younger generation, not so great for selling books.
7) Others: Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube:
YouTube for book trailers.
Reddit & Tumblr - I don't have enough info or experience on them to offer any advice.
Here's really what I think are the main things a writer should have to market their book--
1) An author page
Here are the two which I direct people to:
a) My main page: www.agodon.com
b) My about.me page: www.about.me/agodon
***Note: the About.Me page is free and easy to set up.
If you only have one thing, you need this. No matter what phase in your career you are. You need a webpage. Keep it clean, to the point and make sure others can contact you easily.
2) A Facebook Presence (or maybe a blog (if you like to write longer text)):
I suggest a Facebook or a blog, just so you have something more up-to-date for your webpage, or online.
Facebook is nice because so many people are connected and check in daily, and this does not happen with blogs.
I would suggest an Author Page especially if you don't want to "friend" everyone.
Or friend everyone but maybe set your privacy settings so your personal info (phone, address, kid's photos, etc) are separate. Or have two pages, one for your close friends and family and a writer's account. (Though I don't think FB wants you to do this, if you're a more private person, this may help with any anxiety you may have with "sharing.")
But I would keep a page that you can update every so often, just to keep in touch with the literary community.
3) A Linked-In Account:
I didn't mention this above because really I see it as more of a professional way to be connected. I don't check in there much, but it's a good place to find jobs or professional connections.
Whatever you do on your Linked In account--keep it professional. Do not call yourself "The Grand-Poohbah of the Poets." Use it when you need it, otherwise, just check in occasionally or as needed.
4) An Email Mailing List:
This is a good way to connect with readers and people who may want to buy your book. I suggest offering something besides your book info in your email or newsletter.
Or if you just send it out to share your book is ready to buy, just make it brief and to the point.
And of course, always use your manners.
All the rest of it?
Choose what you like, or don't.
Honestly, if you just want to do one thing-- Have an author page.
Two things-- an author page and a mailing list.
Three things-- an author page, a mailing list, and a Facebook page.
Keep it simple. Focus on the writing. Enter book contests. Do readings. Connect with readers through your local NPR station. Send books to people who can help you get the word out (but connect with them first, don't just send out a book). Visit book clubs. Teach classes at writer's conferences. Attend poetry festivals and writerly events.
Have fun, write lots, don't worry about marketing your book so much.
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