A Newbie Writer's First Trip Around the Marketing Block: A Guest Post by Rajdeep Paulus
While our hardworking agents are attending BEA in New York this week, several authors are filling in with guest posts. Enjoy!
Rajdeep Paulus decided to be a writer during her junior year in high school after her English teacher gave her an “F” but told her she had potential. She studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and began writing on the island of Dominica, while her husband of two months biked down to campus to begin his first day of medical school. Fifteen years, four daughters, and a little house on a hill in the quaint town of Locust Valley later, she now writes YAFiction and blogs weekly In Search of Waterfalls.
I’m not the first newbie author to wade through the waters of marketing her first book with a bit of trepidation. Truth be told, when I learned that a writer’s job was not simply to write a great story, sit back and wait for readers to come in flocks to scoop up copies galore, I welcomed the challenge that lay before me. Simply because I’m a tad atypical to the hermit-writer stereotype: I love people and rubbing elbows with the world outside my writing cave.
So when I read a title like “The Extroverted Writer” by Amanda Luedeke, I think, oh, she’s talking about me! When, in fact, she’s composed a book chalk full of practical advice for all types of writers who find the whole marketing thing as messy as a knot on a bad hair-day morning. Something I am all too familiar with since I have four princesses. Hair balls up the ying-yang, but where was I?
Yes. The art of marketing your first book. How do you do it? Successfully? And how do you know how to proportion your time, giving yourself time to write, edit, market and still take time to breathe.
So I began my marketing momentum by brainstorming. A bunch of ideas that amounted to not much more than share my book with anyone and everyone. I also considered TP-ing Jhumpa Lahiri’s house, but Chip dissuaded me, assuring me that there are much better ways to pursue an author endorsement. Come to find out a friend of a friend of a friend knows Jhumpa. Well, her relative. It didn’t pan out. So much time spent on one point of contact when social media has opened up the world to you and me. Literally.
Anyway, the one thing I’ve learned is that if I don’t know how to do something, whether it’s parenting, marriage, or building a treehouse, someone out there does. And most likely, someone has written a book or blog on it. So I came up with three resources that have truly impacted my understanding and approach to marketing *in addition to Amanda’s Book and Chip’s blog:
Rob Eager’s Sell Your Book Like Wildfire,
A podcast interview by Chris Brogan with author Kamal Ravikant.
I appreciate Michael’s affirmation that anyone can build a platform. Even if you’re a first time author. He’s the reason I invested in blogging at In Search of Waterfalls faithfully for the last year.
Rob Eager gave me the motto, “Figure out who your readers are and go and stand in front of them.” Of course we all want to believe that the book we wrote can be read and will be loved by EVERYONE! That might be true, but there’s still a key group of readers you’re searching for. So I asked myself, over and over again, until I narrowed it down to “Female teens and young adults with a South Asian-American background.” Simply because Swimming Through Clouds is a Young Adult fiction book with South Asian-American characters.
So I set out to find out where my target audience congregated, both in the real and cyber worlds. There are times, I have to be honest, when I feel like I’m sifting through the clothes racks at TJ Max, just searching for those one or two tops that fit perfectly, because there are a ton of places/websites/blogs out there.
Chris Brogan and Kamal Ravikant discuss audience in the context of caring about people on Brogan’s podcast. Because in the end, it’s about relationships. People are valuable. Each person priceless in worth. And if, as a writer, you want people to read your book, don’t you want to know and care about them first? And find out what’s important to them? Whether they feel compelled to open the pages of the story you penned is and always should be an added blessing and not the gift you search out upfront.
So my goal is to connect with people. And hear their stories. Because even though I’ll be the first to admit I love to talk, I so relish listening to people’s dreams, hopes, and stories. And earn, if you will, the right to share mine. Or not. The investment in the relationship is enough. The side effects, icing.
Does this mean I approach marketing passively? Not at all. I’ve “Liked” just about every Facebook Page that mentions Brown Girl, South Asian, Young Adult, Long Island, New York Writer, and Indian-American. I’ve scoured Twitter for anyone with the same hashtags and spent countless hours emailing/contacting YA Book Reviewers, especially those who focus in on South-Asian writers. Even connected with the people who make Post-its, since that’s a hot topic in my first YA book, Swimming Through Clouds, where a Post-it note sparks a sticky romance between two unlikely friends. 🙂 And since Swimming Through Clouds also addresses the issues of abuse and human trafficking, I’ve sought connecting with organizations tackling these issues.
But I’m not done. Each time an idea/topic/angle sparks from the content of my blog, book, or personal background, I take a walk down that path and search out people. Because your readers are your treasures. Waiting to be found. So as in the words of Ravikant, “Go where they are. Meet them where they’re at.”
Which brings me to the part of marketing that has been the most fun—finding potential readers in the real world, in real time. And heading to New York City to connect with them. Having a lot of fun enjoying the city in the process of making new friends and hearing their stories. And then when the time is right, sharing a bit about mine.
Have you heard of Playlist YA Fiction? We’re a team of Young Adult Fiction authors over at www.playlistfiction.com who write and publish Contemporary YA E-books. These writers have filled my life with fresh new fiction, become my friends, and influenced my writing, for the better. Team-marketing reminds me of team sports. If the team wins, everyone wins!
So I encourage all writers, new and those who’ve been around the marketing block a few times, don’t give in or give up. There’s a world out there full of the hurting and hope-seekers. Everyone’s searching for that next story. That book that will give them a taste of heaven on earth. Or help them on their own journey. Or just take them out of their madness for a moment.
Thanks so much, Chip, for giving me a little space to share a bit of my writing journey. You’re not just an extraordinary Agent. You’re a friend I truly treasure. 🙂
Sincerely aware that great stories change lives,
And you? Tell me how the whole dance with marketing has been? Learned anything that works you’d like to share with us? I mean, does the bookmark thing really work?!? Maybe an iTunes gift card for a song from your book’s playlist? Now that’s what I’m talking ’bout! 🙂
FaceBook: Author Rajdeep Paulus
Enjoyed this post. This part, “The investment in the relationship is enough. The side effects, icing,” – loved it. That is one of the great rewards about writing, when your readers contact you, share what your work meant to them. It’s one of the best things there is.
Fun you stopped by, Kamal! 🙂 Just beginning to taste this sweet treasure now with my first book out there. Kind of intoxicating, when you hear readers connecting to your story. Strangers become friends. Your characters, the bridge.
Well said, Raj! I hope we get to swap stories in NYC soon!
Hey Gina! Can’t wait! 🙂
Well said, dear friend! You’re one of the hardest working writers out there! Glad to be on the journey by your side!
The feeling is mutual!! Can’t wait for our Perfect Clouds Blog Tour to kick off!! Yeah for writer friends! *hugs* -Raj
Thanks, Rajdeep. I agree, it’s not enough to just write a good book and wait. I do the marketing and advertising for our family company (we sell trailer hitches for RV owners). After years of just magazine ads, I started blogging, facebooking, and e-mail campaigns. What I found was that we do much better talking directly to a few thousand people than mass advertising to a million. This is the world we live in now. You have to get up close and personal to your customer.
Did you say RV?!? Ha! We’re the usually proud owners of a 2008 RV that has taken us coast to coast, NY to Cali, and even all the way to Miami, FL. My favorite place so far as been out to Acadia! Love being an RV family! We’re packing it up right now for our weekend camping trip to do the Tough Mudder tomorrow. Hope I live to tell you how it went!!! Thanks for sharing your story!
I am in the same marketing boat with you – learning it is all about the relationships that I build along the way. Thank you so much for sharing, and for letting me know that TPing is not an acceptable endorsement avenue.
You’ll have to thank Chip for that one. I had one roll in one hand and a sack of rolls on my back when he said, “Woah, Nellie!” or something like that! 😉
Wow, Rajdeep, you’ve really thought this out and gone after it. I’m so glad you shared what you’ve done. I think I’m going to take some of your tips and use them. 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing!
Your welcome, Jeanne. I don’t know that I so much thought it out, but I sure have had fun trying out all the things I’ve learned. For the most part. I just love when someone has gone before you and proved a method tried and true or not worth the time so you can scratch a few tasks off your list! 🙂
Rajdeep, you’re so far ahead of where I was when my debut novel came out! I’m very impressed with your marketing savvy and your big heart. I have no doubt that this is the beginning of a long writing career for you!
Awww, Steph! And how I love your heart for teens. And so fun to be playlist sistahs! 🙂
Great advice. You have to do the work! Not easy, but the relationships you develop really make it worthwhile 🙂 Just followed all your stuff. The book looks great.
Thanks so much for the follows, Lisa! And the sweet words about Swimming Through Clouds. Giving it a whirl! And yes, relationships. It’s what we were created for! 🙂