Why not turn marketing into play?

This week I was the guest on a podcast with author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. Several years back, I helped her launch her novel called Bittersweet, and it ended up hitting the New York Times bestseller list. In the podcast we were reflecting on key actions and lessons we took to launch the book. Miranda characterized our approach like this:

“Why not turn marketing into play?”

She and I spent more than a year on that book launch. I often advise writers to begin considering their author platform, marketing plan, and launches way before they think they need them. What did we do in that time? Here is a partial list of some of the highlights:

  • We created a blog that offered fans a behind-the-scenes look at our work together. More than 100 posts were shared, and it became a huge resource for other writers. More than 5 years later, I still have people tell me that this is how they discovered Miranda and her writing.
  • We did a massive book giveaway that involved more than 20 other authors, including Roxane Gay, Megan Abbott, Emma Straub, and many others. Our goal was to flip the idea of a giveaway. Instead of Miranda spending weeks saying “win my book!” we designed it to support fellow authors, reward readers, and create community. It was a huge hit.
  • We developed her social media presence so she could truly show up in the lives of the authors she was meeting, with booksellers and those who support books, and of course with readers.

Some people would take that list and try to sell it as a “roadmap.” Like, if they just copy those actions, they will potentially have a New York Times bestseller. But that isn’t how it works. Something Miranda brought up was the critical importance of collaboration. Of not isolating yourself and trying to figure this all out alone.

When you collaborate with others around marketing, you have someone to help you brainstorm, to identify new strategic ideas, to see your work and possibilities in a new light. It is not just a calculation of splitting the workload, it is investing in your potential. This comes back to Miranda’s prompt of “Why not turn marketing into play?” Instead of this feeling like an arduous and scary task, what if marketing felt like a truly creative process. One where you focused on connecting real people to writing you love, where you focused on helping, and where the measures of success were about the richness of the experiences and your fulfillment as a writer?

For the past few weeks I have been sharing ideas and resources on the value of social media for writers. In that time, I have had so many conversations with writers about their goals and challenges with social media. Perhaps some of these feel familiar to you:

  • “My life is inherently boring. What would I even share?”
  • “I don’t photograph well.”
  • “I don’t have the time for one more thing, and social media already overwhelms me.”

I always focus on truly listening when people tell me things like this. I want to understand where they are coming from, but I also want to consider: what are their hopes for sharing their writing, and how can they get there?

This is the work I do each day, working directly with writers to help them consider their goals, move past roadblocks, and make real connections between their writing and those who will appreciate it.

I have found that social media is a powerful way for a writer to share their voice and connect with readers. This is an incredible way to:

  • Connect with readers and writers who love what you write.
  • Find readers before, during, and between book launches.
  • Develop your following of true fans.

Doing this is not about gaming algorithms or over-promoting yourself. It is showing up as the writer you are, learning how to share what you create and why, and being open to filling your life with writers and readers who are inspired by the same things you are.

It is about living the life of a writer every single day.