This Marketing Strategy Works

Last weekend, I was part of a panel discussion at the Biographers International Conference in New York City. This was the presentation just before I went on stage:

I was there to discuss how to promote your book. In our panel, one marketing strategy kept coming up again and again:

Show up in the lives of those who will love your book.

As did a second one:

Find the stories that resonate with your ideal readers.

Both of these marketing strategies hit upon the value of knowing how to communicate effectively with readers about what you create and why. That is what truly works to connect your writing to those who will love it.

This, as opposed to what frustrates most writers: spinning your wheels trying to figure out elusive trendy social media secrets (that don’t really exist.)

The other two panelists with me were author Melinda Ponder and Declan Taintor, publicity manager at Henry Holt and Company. Our moderator was author Ruth Franklin, who I had met when she joined my Creative Shift Mastermind group last year. This is Ruth and me:

What does it mean to show up in the lives of your readers? It is a specific strategy of consistently reaching out to people who may appreciate what you write.

What Declan, Melinda, and I shared from the stage were practical examples of:

  • Identifying how what you write can turn into dozens of different stories that may engage your readers directly (through blogs, essays, articles, podcasts, social media, speeches, etc), or through the media (interviews, articles, etc.)
  • The importance of forging relationships with those who connect with readers, such as booksellers, librarians, authors, literary festival organizers and others.
  • Not pretending your audience is a vague set of demographics. Authors who truly understand and connect with real readers online or in person are the authors who understand how to effectively market their book.

In many ways, direct outreach is the secret sauce of book marketing strategy. But it is also the most fulfilling, because inherently it is about forging meaningful connections to people who love the same writing that you do.

Melinda shared one story of outreach that blew me away. It illustrated that writers who succeed need to be inventive and passionate about how they connect with those who will appreciate their writing.

She found out that a friend of hers occasionally bartends for a well-known author who had a strong connection to the topic of Melinda’s book. Melinda dreamed of having this author write a blurb for her book. (A blurb is the short testimonial that appears on the cover of a book.) So, Melinda asked her friend to approach this author and give her a copy of Melinda’s manuscript.

Reading this may make you uncomfortable, because it requires social risk. I can see any reasonable person discouraging this because:

  • “Well, you don’t want to use your friend to get access to someone.”
  • “That’s not professional to hand that well-known author your manuscript in a social setting like that. Just send it to her agent.”
  • “That isn’t how publishing works.”

The result? The author loved Melinda’s manuscript. She ended up writing a heartfelt blurb encouraging people to read Melinda’s book. Getting this blurb from such a prominent author was a real catalyst to get Melinda’s book in front of a lot of readers.

All day, I talk to writers. What I find again and again is that huge opportunities for their writing came about because of simple direct outreach. I mean, if you listen to the interviews I do in my Creative Shift podcast, you hear this again and again. Just last week, I shared my interview with bestselling author Chuck Wendig, and he shared an amazing story. A single Tweet directly lead him to getting a three-book deal which landed him on the bestseller list.

Again and again what I experience in working with thousands of writers are the magical moments that happen when an author takes the initiative to reach out to someone.

I try to share a lot of resources in my blog, podcast, and social media to help you get better at marketing your writing in order to connect with your ideal readers in an authentic manner.

But I also want to offer a way to get direct feedback from me as to how you can do this yourself: creating a personalized outreach plan for your writing.

Earlier this year, I released my new program: Human-Centered Marketing for Introverted Writers. It sold out really quickly, and the feedback from the program was off the charts amazing.

I’m opening the doors again, and want to invite you to join me to:

  • Personalize your own Reader Connection Plan, working from a template I provide, plus videos to guide you through it.
  • Each week for 4 weeks, you get direct feedback from me. I answer your questions and provide feedback and ideas just to you.
  • I share outreach scripts to show you exactly how it’s done.
  • Each week, I encourage simple micro-actions so that you can immediately get started amidst your otherwise busy life.

You can find more details and register here.

Something special happened as my panel ended at the Bio conference, a woman rushed down to the stage and asked to chat.

She said, “Hi, I’m Etta Madden.”

I had to take a step back in total shock. Then we hugged. Etta is a writer who had been in my Creative Shift Mastermind group twice. She and I had collaborated on her goals as a writer, and on doing the real in-the-trenches work of what it means for her to connect to readers.

While we had engaged a lot virtually, we had never met in-person. She got on a plane in Missouri to come to New York City for this event.

It was just incredible to meet her in person. To connect on that human level of smiling, laughing, and talking. Here we are together:

Too often, when we approach “marketing” for our writing, we overcomplicate it with social media trends. I want to encourage you to show up in the lives of those who will connect with your writing. It may just make all the difference.

Thank you.