August 7, 2012

To Market, To Market, Jiggity Jig

Filed under: Great Reads,The Writing Life — jenny @ 1:02 am

The above would be such a great title for a blog post about the writer’s Hamlet-esque quandary (To market or not to market, that is the question) that even though I sat down meaning this to be my first sentence:

To bookstore, to bookstore is the real refrain of our summer

I’m gonna save that one for later and take up Shakespeare’s rallying cry instead.

Some people would say that this isn’t a question at all. Sunny Frazier, an acquisitions editor at Oak Tree Press, is a sage of marketing and she is famous for uttering words to the effect of: she would rather take on a good book by a writer who’s willing to get her feet wet in the marketing pool than a great book by a writer’s who’s not.

Them’s powerful words, but I understand Sunny’s wisdom. There are so many books coming out these days that a writer has to understand how to make his or hers stand out.

Even more than the problem (or is it a wonder?) of the number of books published, there is this truth. We are all used to relating to more people in a given day than we ever have before. We are used to an unprecedented level of access to people. If they don’t respond to an email, then there’s text, or a tweet, or a status update. This level of connectivity has become so much the norm that if we don’t have it, we may feel frustrated. Or put off. We may simply turn our attention to someone more present.

No writer wants a reader to feel that way.

Which is probably why so many writers feel that having a strong social media presence is not just a plus, but a given.

There are drawbacks, though, and we pretty much all recognize them, I think.

The endless juggle life is now. How we never feel like we are doing everything, because there is no end to everything. We are never, ever simply done.

The weekend was invented for a reason. World-creating requires a break. So does book-creating, or career-creating. What happens if we don’t get that rest? That’s a big unknown. One big social experiment in which we’re all taking part.

Or, what if you’re an introvert and find the demands of all this interaction draining? You might be a wonderful writer, but meh at tweeting and texting.

What’s a writer to do?

I wish I had an answer. I do have one guess, though, and a possible partial solution.

The guess is that precisely because virtual connections are so ubiquitous, it may be that real-time, face-to-face interaction begins to have a resurgence, and the writer who is willing to invest in that will really stand out. No, we can’t connect with 20,000 followers live. But is anybody actually reading all those tweets?

What we can do is get out to physical locations–bookstores, libraries, book clubs, school, out-of-the-box places like a knitting store if you write crafts mysteries, or a history class if your book focuses on some distant epoch–and say hello to the handful, dozens, or hundreds of people there.

Really say hello. Out loud. With a smile and a handshake.

I’m not saying that social media will or should go away. In fact, I dearly hope it doesn’t. My world is broader and more filled with love and closeness because of people I’ve met in far-flung locations that only the internet has brought me to.

But I am saying that we shouldn’t abandon one for the other. They can both co-exist, and enrich our lives in different ways.

The possible partial solution (I’m hedging my bets here, but I do hope this may help at least one person who is struggling with this) is that we all stop trying to do it all. It’s impossible anyway. And if we stick to the aspects of marketing that are truly organic to us, then it won’t seem a burden, but a joy.

Tweeting about food isn’t hard for a foodie. And if that person happens to write a cupcake mystery series then the people who love her tweets just may love her books as well.

No one can do everything, but everyone can find something to do that is value-add–both for the producer of content, and the recipient.

If nothing else, post about how hard you find all this social media stuff and the chronic seesaw that is life today.

I’ll bet you find a million followers.


  1. I love this, Jenny. I am mediocre at best at social media, but LOVE meeting people face-to-face. If I get the opportunity to start doing that…that’ll be awesome. And I think it’s a great thing to keep in mind!

    Comment by Leah Rhyne — August 7, 2012 @ 10:31 am

  2. Just when I think I have this social media thing figured out, something new pops up, or I encounter a problem similar to what you just experienced with the comments. It’s just nice to know that I’m not alone in this endeavor. Thanks, Jenny, for reminding me of that.

    Comment by Kathleen Kaska — August 7, 2012 @ 11:05 am

  3. Another wonderful article. You are correct about why the weekends were instituted. A person can easily become overwrough and despondent if they become overwhelmed and never take a chance to breath and relax. I know. I did it for over twenty years. Work,Work,wokr,play? It took reuniting with Debbie to understand we work to live, not live to work. I missed out on some much when I look back. The same is true with aspiring writers. We have to get out and talk to people for positive/negative feedback, which ever it maybe. It is diffiuclt to read someones’ face in a text, tweet or post. “Did they really like it, or are they just saying it so I’ll go away?” I believe a lot of folks are fearful of large groups and don’t react well in them. As a starting author, do no despair. The groups will be small at first and then grow over time. The author will get a good feel for his/her comfort level when it comes to signings and groups. As you mentioned, libraries and schools are an excelent start. The atmosphere is subdued with none of the carnival atmosphere and the writer will be able to mix comfortably with the small group while providing excellent feed-back. I think some authors are afraid they won’t have anything say. Don’t worry, the readers will be asking the questions. That will take the edge off. Let them guide the conversation. So,do your posts, tweets and texts letting folks know where you’re going to be and prepare to be educated. It is a grand journey

    Comment by Jeff Dawson — August 7, 2012 @ 11:07 am

  4. So right, Jenny. We do have to market if we want any degree of success. But it’s best to socialize/promote in ways with which you’re comfortable. And if you’re comfortable–whether it be meeting people one-on-one or within the security blanket of the virtual approach–it’s got to pay better dividends than one which makes you tense and uncomfortable.

    Comment by J. R. Lindermuth — August 7, 2012 @ 11:17 am

  5. All I really want to do is write my books and leave the rest to fate, but these days you can’t just sit back and do nothing. I have to admit FB scares the you-know-what out of me, so I don’t do it. But I do tweet and I think it’s important to maintain a presence on various threads & loops. I’m a strong believer in word of mouth over actively promoting, so I just try to keep my name out there. Does that translate into sales? Who knows? I get weary trying to figure out what words and what doesn’t.

    Comment by Nancy Morse — August 7, 2012 @ 11:30 am

  6. Jenny, I’ve found my happy medium to be more content related and less in-person (for the moment). What I mean by that is I hardly ever social media about my book. What I use social media for is to comment on life in general. Again and again that has led people to my blog who have then gone on to buy my book and enjoy it.

    I think the mistake people make, when using social media, is they start to sound like a used car dealer. Nobody wants to listen to or read that. What people what is a real level of social interaction, be it in person or in social media.

    As for the weekend conundrum…still working on that one!

    Comment by Johanna — August 7, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

  7. I hope that I am able to find a publisher with a publicity budget…but I’m thinking that might be like finding a needle in a haystack. So I’ve been working on my marketing knowledge, just in case. The interaction with people both in person and online is something I enjoy, so the challenge for me is not that I have to do it, but to not do it too much!

    p.s. I like the spicy mustard yellow background ;)

    Comment by Madison Woods — August 7, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  8. I’m not convinced that any particular method of marketing works. Sometimes nothing you do works and sometimes doing nothing works…

    Comment by Judy — August 7, 2012 @ 12:46 pm

  9. This is a great comment thread…exactly why I love blogging (and don’t consider it social media, though I suppose it is. What I mean by that is what the blog post and Johanna says–at its best, this isn’t work, it’s friendship. Kinship).

    Madison, I would love to hear about your publication journey! My thumbnail response is that we need to figure out a way to talk to readers no matter whom we publish with. We can reach so many more readers now–it’s a wonderful thing. But what to do then becomes a question…?

    So glad to see you all again, and new readers–the hugest of welcomes :)

    Comment by jenny — August 7, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

  10. You happened to post this blog right when I’m pretty much taking a break from EVERY kind of exposure. :)

    Comment by Savvy blue — August 7, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

  11. Hey thanks for the shoutout, cupcake!

    It’s easy for me to market my Cupcakes books. Not so easy my new YA book. I don’t know when you pull back and focus on the next book. Kind of makes one crazy, eh? Besides getting the next cupcakes book out this August, I’m working on updating that website.


    I hope you’re having a great time visiting bookstores across the country, and getting ready for your own book launch. What fun!


    Comment by Pamela DuMond — August 7, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

  12. Bottom line, go to where the readers are, not the writers.

    Comment by Jeffrey Siger — August 7, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

  13. Jenny, this is a great post, and I think the best line was, “We’re never, ever simply done.” Once we realize this, we can begin to plan the best use of our time for marketing AND for some time off each week. Watching the Olympics, and the winners, I’ve noticed one thing that seems to be true of the majority of winners. They’re having FUN. I’ve decided I going to do the things I enjoy the most and forget the rest. Sound like a plan?

    Comment by Jan Christensen — August 7, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

  14. A couple of things:
    First, I treat social media the same way I treat people in person. I don’t do generic thank you’s to comments anymore, I actually look the person up, look at their website, send them an email to acknowledge their comment. That person took the time to read my blog, I certainly can take the time to thank them. They become fans. They also buy my books.

    Second, when will people realize that this social media stuff isn’t crushing us or stealing our time? Opportunities abound, but nobody is forcing you to become involved with everything. I think this is only the beginning of the onslaught–as the web grows, it becomes infinite. No one person can know everything going on. But, we can pool our resources and share info. We can play to our strengths and let others mess with the rest of it. Some people love Twitter (not me) and if that’s what they feel works for book sales, then go for it. Experiment.

    Third, learn to scan and do triage. How much time do you spend on blogs only to find it time wasted? I can look at a site or a blog and in seconds know whether it’s worth my attention. If it has value but I don’t have time, I put it in a folder for a peek later.

    Finally, moaning over a process that hold so much possibility is crazy. We can’t go back to sending postcard announcements because stamps are too high. Bookstores don’t exist. People want to read but money is tight. So, why not be generous with your time as well as your words?

    In my world, fans come one at a time. But, they bring their friends along and we all enjoy the party.

    Comment by Sunny Frazier — August 8, 2012 @ 3:30 am

  15. It’s a good reminder to take a break. I’ve been burning out. I tend to forget that there has to be a balance…

    Comment by Diana Wilder — August 8, 2012 @ 6:04 am

  16. I’m still working on trying to understand social media, but admit that for me writing is more engrossing.
    Nash Black

    Comment by Nash Black — August 8, 2012 @ 7:46 am

  17. I resisted Facebook until last month. With another book launch in September, I thought I would do more publicity via social media. We’ll see what happens.

    As soon as I turned on my FB account and added 120 “friends”, I sold 6 e-books. I know I can sit down at my favorite haunt, The Dogleg Coffeehouse in Bandera, TX, and not only sell 6 books, but I can sign them and meet the reader. No e-book sales compare to the feeling of handing a signed paperback to a reader.

    Comment by Doug Carlyle — August 8, 2012 @ 9:16 am

  18. I think there are people who can be really successful face to face. I look at what Janet Oakley has done with all her live appearances related to the historical side of her fiction and it’s fantastic. It isn’t me though… that introvert thing? In real life, that is me. I can manage outgoing online. In person, not so much. But I am more a deep investment online person–blogging and facebook work SO MUCH better for my personality than tweeting.

    Comment by Hart Johnson — August 8, 2012 @ 9:22 am

  19. Jenny, your musings are spot on. However, “it is what it is.” The way the market works these days, a writer must also be her own publicist. Even if you hire a publicist, as I’ve done, there’s plenty the writer herself must do. As for personal appearances, I find my most fervent fans are readers I’ve met face-to-face. But online can certainly help. Yesterday was my release day for DEATH OF A SCHOOLGIRL, and thanks in part to our online efforts, it rose in the Amazon rankings from #112,000 to #18,954. And no, the work is never done, so beating yourself up about what you haven’t done is futile. In the end, the old maxim is true that the BEST marketing is to write a killer book. But no one will know how good your book is if they don’t give it a try!

    Comment by Joanna Campbell Slan — August 8, 2012 @ 10:11 am

  20. Great post to stir up the thinking processes, Jenny. I use Facebook because I really like it and have met some great friends. I have a Twitter account, tweet, retweet–most important–and interact with other writers and readers. I’m one of the few writers who does not have a blog although I’ve had offers to join a few. As a self-published writer exclusive to Amazon, I’m experiencing a learning curve as to what works to create sales and what does not. So far the strategy I’m using has garnered two spots on Kindle’s Romantic-Suspense bestsellers’ list at the same time. Okay, one is hanging on by a thread, but it’s been on the list for three weeks. As an unknown, it’s taken awhile to get here, but I’m a firm believer that writing a good book is the key. That garners reviews, and “word of mouth” does as much as any horn-tooting a writer can do. There’s a fine line to cross when self-promotion goes from being effective to being annoying. I’d rather err on the side of caution than to adopt an in-your-face marketing strategy that turns people off. To this point I haven’t done any in-person promotion, but later this month I’ll do my first signing with another writer at a wonderful indie bookstore. I’m excited to leave the safety of my computer, but online marketing to create name recognition is where it’s at these days.

    Comment by Polly Iyer — August 8, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  21. Thanks for everybody’s comments and thoughts! Judy’s phraseology tickled me :) And indeed there’s a big nobody-knows (to quote William Goldman) component to all of this. I think that Sunny’s take on it elaborates on mine, or offers concrete ways to make social media simply an extension of who you are as a person and a writer.

    The only thing I’d disagree with–there *are* bookstores. We’re seeing hundreds of them packed and thriving, and there are thousands we’re not getting close enough to see. My guess is that bookstores and other physical locations are going to experience a resurgence even as the web increases as Sunny predicts.

    So…how does everyone like the new blog color? Or if you’re a first-time visitor, welcome! and–does it work :)

    Comment by jenny — August 8, 2012 @ 11:38 am

  22. I like this more brown/tan color for the background and the slightly pinkish color of the post background, and I love the bookshelf motif on the front page :) These colors are easy on the eyes and easy to read.

    Jenny, my publication journey is convoluted, haha. I am beginning to combine my love for nature and herbalism with my fiction because in my stories there is always the influence of the wilderness around me. In general, people who love the subjects I do are likely to like the books I write, so I’m trying to “gather my kindreds” so to speak. Until now, those two sides of my life have been kept apart, like both were bastard children to different mistresses. I’m much happier now that it’s all coming together rather peacefully :) So the way forward will be interesting. I have some virtual herbwalk presentations I’m planning to release as $2 downloads on my writing and my nature blog later this year, so we’ll see how it goes. I get invited periodically to speak to garden clubs and just turned down one at a survival/preparedness fair because of schedule conflicts. So this might be a good angle for me.

    Good luck with your ventures!

    Comment by Madison Woods — August 8, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

  23. Amen, Amen, and Amen, Jenni. Thoughtful, insightful, and like words from my own heart.

    Comment by Radine Trees Nehring — August 8, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

  24. Radine, you and I have been kindred book spirits for a long time now :)

    Madison, I am *fascinated* by these additional details you provided. I hope people will return to this post to read your comment, because in many ways the unification you describe is like the brass ring of “non-marketing”. Two loves, joined in a book, with a natural (ha) audience for the one that will carry over to the other.

    I would love it if you wanted to write a Made It Moment for my blog when the time is right.

    Many of the commenters who are sharing their own tales of frustration, hope, burnout, questioning have already contributed Moments. But if anyone has not–you are the people who make this blog what it is. I hope you will get in touch so we can spread the word about your book, which in the end is really at the heart of this whole marketing beast.

    Comment by jenny — August 8, 2012 @ 9:03 pm

  25. Oh, Jenny, how you touch my soul with your words. I leapt aboard our new (to us) sailboat in late July with the intention of relaxing in the San Juans for two full weeks before tackling the social media dragon in earnest. Hah! Three days out, my husband smashed his finger with a wrench, necessitating a trip to the ER. Several days later the engine died, permanently. Provided terrific material for my romantic suspense WIP, but didn’t do a thing for the R&R that was supposed to give me the strength to market more. It’s always something . . .

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — August 9, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

  26. Jenny, I really love this: “My thumbnail response is that we need to figure out a way to talk to readers no matter whom we publish with. We can reach so many more readers now–it’s a wonderful thing. But what to do then becomes a question…?”

    I am adding your Blog to my Website because I love not only the mustard background, but the thoughts. Fantastic! FB = 7,000 friends, YT = over 100K video hits, Twitter = 39 Followers. I’m not savvy enough to be poised to “use” this to sell my books, but my Friends have been following my Life for 6 years. I’m a doctor who was in a severe car accident with my daughter, who was okay. I struggled out of a brain injury, a vertebral artery dissection, and something called dysautonomia.

    After reading this thread, my Saturday morning Break, this is my conclusion: Just be Yourself. Since most of my audience is women aged 25-35 years old, and many of them are disabled, I will keep using Social Media. Hey, sometimes people simply can not get out of bed. And since I’m going back to work after a car accident 6 years ago, I will be shaking many hands. What a Grand Adventure it will be to have my book bare my soul to so many strangers! Yet we will all learn, grow, and be inspired to be here for one another. That, my friend, has to be the best feeling in the world. Knowing that we are making a difference in some one’s life.

    Comment by Dr. Margaret Aranda — August 11, 2012 @ 11:46 am

  27. Hi Jenny. I’ve been mulling over this issue for the last few days as I’ve waded through 300 plus daily emails, looked at my 1200 friends’ FB posts, and occasionally even checked out my tiny tribe of tweeps tweets. I can glean tons of new knowledge from their posts and updates, and occasionally even laugh a time or two, but ultimately if I try to do it all, I’ll end up doing nothing.

    As for personal contact, that is by far the way I sell the most books. I love meeting new people and sharing resources as well as making new friends and fans. No matter where I go (wineries preferred of course) I sell tons of books and it is definitely more rewarding than keeping an eye on my Amazon rank.

    So continue to have fun with your new journey, savor these moments of friendship with fellow authors, and make sure you have enough time left over to bake cookies with your kids!

    Comment by Cindy Sample — August 12, 2012 @ 2:06 am

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