Monday, July 28, 2014

An Inside Look at the Working Indie Author: Connections vs. Marketing

I think we probably all have a different idea of what networking, connections, and marketing mean to us as individuals. I personally do not believe it is a one-type-fits-all program as we each have different ideals and goals. Thus, we each have to determine what strategy works best for our individual needs and go from there. It is my intention to give you a glimpse at my own personal viewpoints and hopefully you will find something of value to take away from this article.

First off, I would like to address networking vs. connections. I grew up in a family owned business. From very early on I would go to trade shows, set up booths, and have to network with customers. If there is one thing I know about myself is that I can handle this situation with a smile, a pleasant exchange, and promote a line. It is fast-paced, get people in and out, hand out a business card, get the order, and "move on to the next customer type atmosphere." Being able to effectively handle a situation and enjoying the process are two different things. This is not me. I like making connections. When it comes to my own writing, I'm not networking. I am out to make a genuine connection. I want the people I'm reaching out to, to know that I have a vested, personal interest. I care about what my readers think, about helping teachers, and how my young readers are going to respond. I want to know that when I let go of a young adult novel that I am hitting my target audience's interest and for them to know that I care about their feedback. To me, networking is cold-hard-business whereas making connections is about true human interaction. I can do both well, I just prefer one over the other.

My first book released in December 2013. Now eight months later, I haven't even begun the marketing stage. I have used my time to make connections. I have wanted people to get to know me, my writing style, and my books. I do not even want to think about marketing until I have at least three books in my children's series on the market. Why? How many children do you know that have a lot of patience? If they like something, and it is part of a series, they want immediate gratification. They don't want to wait months for the next release. A prime example of this was after I released my first book and my second book was under production. I received an adorable picture of a little girl from her mother along with a note. To paraphrase, the little girl was anxiously awaiting the second book of my series and since it was not available, she decided to do a daily countdown to the scheduled release date. It was incredibly sweet, but at the same time I hated disappointing the little girl. Another example came from the U.K. A little girl who professes to be Dani's #1 fan read the first book and desperately wanted the second book for her birthday. Her mother wrote me a note asking me if it would be done in time? Again, how can you let a child down? I had to kick it up into high gear. These are two real-world scenarios I have experienced. So although I have released two books, I have not yet done an all-out marketing campaign. Think of it more as a very slow, soft release of my series. I'm building a foundation on which to later base a promotional marketing strategy.

Right now I am happily spending my time making connections. I especially love working with teachers. To date, I have "adopted" a few classes where I have donated books, bookmarks, resource materials, etc. They will be receiving all the future releases of the Dani P. Mystery series. Now, some might actually construe this as marketing. To me this is making a connection because, again, I have a personal interest in the individuals I am working with.

When it comes time for me to begin a marketing campaign, I will tackle it with a business-like mind. After all, I was raised that way. That will be the time to focus on press releases, sending out book flyers, arranging book signings, contacting books stores, setting up school visits, etc. This stage opens up a whole new set of tasks for a writer to consider and takes time away from the actual writing process. Will you want to handle your own marketing campaign or will you want to hire out this work? Can you afford to invest your time in marketing your own books or do you have the financial means to let someone manage this aspect for you?

In the meantime, until you are ready to begin a full blown marketing campaign there are certain things you can prepare for in advance. Begin by setting up a website, an author Facebook page, a book/series Facebook page, Twitter account, a blog, etc. Bear in mind that social media is not necessarily going to equate to book sales, but it does help in making connections and letting your future audience get to know you and your work as a writer. You can also have business cards and bookmarks printed and start handing those out now. Again, this is making people aware you are a writer and not necessarily marketing yourself. I do not get pushy with the business cards. If I'm chatting with someone and making a genuine connection, I'll hand out a card. When it is time for me to market, I'll push the business side not the individuals. You want to gain readers, not alienate them. Marketing is for business---connections are for people---and if you are conscious of your actions, you will do both gracefully and professionally.

While you emerge as a writer, keep in mind that you are but one of many struggling to surface in an industry that is abundant in both books and authors. Do not let anyone's success mar your own, or let yourself become envious of another's accomplishments. Instead, buoy their achievements. There will never be enough literary options to satisfy the reader. It is more important to help one another to succeed, because ultimately, if your writing is worthy of a readership it will find a home.

Wishing you all a little mystery & adventure,

K. Lamb

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