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:
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