Up The Creek Without A Paddle – But Not Really

To an unpublished author, thoughts of marketing your book once it’s published might not be front and center of your mind. You’re more focused on finishing that manuscript, acquiring an agent, polishing your proposal. That’s as it should be. But what if you’re agented, and have several editors showing interest in your completed project?

Now is the time to start your engines and put some wheels on your marketing strategies. Sure, your book may not sell right away, but you’ll want to be prepared when it does. And even if you’re still in the early stages of your writing journey, it’s never too early to start thinking about it.

Last week on my blog I shared a few of the things I’ve been doing since my book, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, released in March. The prospect of marketing can seem daunting to a new author. At first I felt as though someone had pushed me upstream with no paddle, no compass, no directions at all. I soon learned the world of marketing has many places to explore. Today I’m going to focus on one.


Your network is where you hang out; it’s who you talk to, share life with. It’s your community. At this point, published or not, you should be working hard to establish an online presence through blogging, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google+, etc…the Internet is by far the cheapest and fastest marketing tool at your disposal. Learn to use it wisely.

Then there’s your real-life community. We all have family, friends, co-workers, right? These are the folks you want in your network, people who know you, love you and have supported your writing efforts over the past few years. They’re going to want to tell everyone they know about your book, this is great! Make sure they’re kept up to date in the process and send them a copy or two when your book comes out. The more people you can get saying wonderful things about your writing, the easier your job gets. And don’t forget to thank them for their efforts.

But what if you don’t have a supportive family? What if the people in your immediate circles just don’t get it or just don’t care? All is not lost here. While I’d like to advise you to have a good heart-to-heart with these folks, I’m no family therapist. Focus your networking efforts elsewhere.

Do you belong to a writer’s group? If you don’t, you should. This is the next best thing to having all your cousins in Nebraska hauling boxes of books around in the back of their trucks and selling them at every pit stop.

I’ve recently finished reading an excellent book on social networking by Kristen Lamb, We Are Not Alone  – The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, (Who Dares Wins Publishing, 2010). I highly recommend this book and I know quite a few of my fellow WordServers do too. One thing Kristen said that I love is this: “Fish where the fish are.”  Your writer’s group will not only provide support and encouragement in your writing journey, but when your baby is finally born, they’ll be the first to send flowers and start handing out the chocolate cigars. Most writers have a blog. I’ve never met a writer who didn’t like to read. Combine the two, and you have instant reviewers, influencers and endorsers.

Don’t ever be afraid to ask for an interview or to ask someone to review your novel. Yes, you may have to send a few copies here and there, but if it’s going to help get the word out about your book, it’s a great investment. And always offer to reciprocate by featuring fellow authors on your own blog and helping them spread the word about their new baby when the time comes.

Networking has been the most fun for me so far in this gig as a newly published author. I’ve expanded my network considerably, met a lot of wonderful people who have been more than gracious with their words, time and endeavors to get my book ‘out there’,  and I’m looking forward to doing it all over again when my next novel comes out!

What about you? Have you started networking? If you’re already published, tell us about your experiences.

49 Replies to “Up The Creek Without A Paddle – But Not Really”

  1. Cathy, I’ve greatly enjoyed the sense of community I’ve experienced as I’ve dipped my toes in the social networking waters. I’ve met so many wonderful people, like YOU.

    1. Ditto, Keli!! Wouldn’t you know it, my phone line/internet went out yesterday so I had no idea whether this went through or not! Just got it fixed and I am glad to see all is well. 🙂

  2. How true! I am still polishing my first novel (the first in a series) and have made so many copies of the manuscript for my friends to read to their children (and themselves) I have people asking me when my book’s going to come out. I’m an artist and my gallery owner is even planning on carrying the book in our gallery. I hope I don’t disappoint them! I have no idea if it will even get picked up by a publisher but we’re having fun anyway.Frankly, I can’t see how an author doesn’t want to talk to everyone about their book. But then, maybe its because I’m a newbie, I don’t know.

    1. Kudos on completing your first manuscript, Dianne! That’s quite an accomplishment. I wish you well as you seek a publisher for your book.

      I heard some of those same comments when I began writing. I used the questions as a way to gently educate my friends and church family about all that’s involved in getting a book traditionally published. They’ve been incredibly supportive and understood why I was so excited when my debut novel sold, having been my cheerleaders during the five years I’d been working toward that goal.

  3. Hi Cathy. Thanks for this post. I am very new to social networking (think May of this year!) and just started a blog which I do enjoy. However, if I’m honest I wouldn’t have even started doing that if I had not kept reading about the need for writers to network and build a platform. That was a total surprise to me when I started learning about publishing. I don’t have twitter or Face book pages and I’m not sure why you would need both, but I’m still learning. Sometimes as I write my blog I feel a little dishonest…I’m only writing this so I can get followers so I can build a platform so I can sell a book, kind of feeling. I enjoy writing the blog and believe strongly in the things I’m writing but still…I wonder if anyone else has struggled with this. I am by nature a rather solitary person so this whole adventure is taking me out of my comfort zone. That’s not a bad thing, and I think when we pray for God to do something God-sized in our lives we should expect that. I have joined the ACFW and am already benefiting from that so much, so I don’t need to be convinced about that…it has just been a little overwhelming. I’m trying to learn how to weed through everything, keep what I need and discard the rest. I really am a newbie…shows doesn’t it? 🙂

    1. What a great and fun journey you’re on! I’m excited with you and we’re here as a resource all along the way. Outside of our comfort zones has such a great new view!

    2. Sherri, congratulations on taking your first steps into the social networking side of the publishing business. I can understand your hesitation. Like you, I’m reserved, and I, too, had no idea when I began writing that writers today are expected to build an online presence and help promote their books.

      I heeded the advice I’d heard so often, stepped outside my comfort zone, and explored social media. I have a blog and a Facebook page. I tweet, and I just joined Google+. Yes, those efforts help me get my name out there, but they do so much more than that. They enable me to connect with others. I’ve made many wonderful friends since I started participating in social networking. I prefer to put the emphasis on the “social” side of things and find that the “networking” happens naturally as a result of the friendships I’ve made.

      1. Thank you all for your encouragement! It is so needed right now. I am about to launch a face book page – can’t believe I just said that! – and start twittering, or is it tweeting???? 🙂 Anyway, between the writing and the non-profit, I really have no choice. So here I go kicking and screaming (although not quite as hard as before) into the 21st century. It’s great to have support in that, so thank you again, and I’ll keep you posted. Maybe you’ll visit my page one day soon!

  4. I cannot recommend Kristen Lamb’s social media books for writers enough! Her first one is We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social media (you can skip the section on myspace, since it’s no longer applicable to writers). But even better is Are You There Blog, it’s Me, Writer. Both of those books are FILLED with amazing information on how to approach social media as writers and use it to build a readership.

    Great post, Cathy.

  5. Great post Cathy! Loved the ‘Fish where the fishes are’ and that’s been my experience too. I’ve also found other writers – even if it’s just at a reading where writers tend to gather – to be a great place to re-energize and feel that cool writer’s groove once more.

  6. Great post, Cathy. You handed other writers a paddle!
    “Your network is where you hang out; it’s who you talk to, share life with. It’s your community.”
    The word “networking” sounds so mechanical, while the word “community” is much more inviting.
    At first, the whole idea of social networking–blogging, Twitter, Facebook. Google+, etc.–overwhelmed me. And then someone described social media as relationships.
    Ah, now I get it.
    I’m a relationship-oriented person. Behind every comment, every tweet, ever invite into a circle, is a person looking to connect with me. Yes, maybe they hope I’ll like their post (literally push the “like” button!) or that I’ll retweet their tweet. That’s the networking part.
    But I’m choosing to focus on the relationship aspect.
    Here’s another thing I’ve learned: I can’t control the networking part. When my first book came out, I belonged to a writers group. Everyone helped me write that book. Everyone believed in me and believed in that book. But not everyone posted a review on Amazon. Why? Because the techy part–the social media part–scared them. And some of them never got over it.
    Okay. Our relationship was more important than the longed-for 5 star review. Those writers helped me in other ways.

  7. As an author working on my first book, your post is VERY welcome advice and wisdom. I’ve printed this out so that no matter what I can lay my hands on it often. Thank you so much!

  8. I think writers are sometimes shy about telling friends and family about their work. I was at first! But everyone I share with–friends, family, church groups, etc. is SO excited and supportive. I know that when that book finally comes out I’ll have an instant fan base of people who care about me. Never underestimate the power of a proud momma/best friend/aunt/women’s circle!

    1. Sarah, that’s great–you will be totally ready when you get there! Not everyone has support from all areas of their lives (some churches, for example, are more supportive than others), but we can usually find at least two or three circles that will gather round and celebrate.

  9. Even though Ive made strides with my networking, I still find it a daunting task and a bit intimidating. Since I direct a writers conference now, I am torn with my time. But I suppose the conference is a great network in itself. The book sounds awesome and I’ll check that one out. My question would be, is it more important to lead a fledgling group of writers as my “writing group” experience or should I seek out a group where I can just be a participant? I am longing for more mature writers to hang out with on a regular basis, but it would most likely mean giving up leading my group. It’s a tough decision but I am at the point where I need the feedback.
    Great post – Im encouraged. 🙂
    Jan Cline

    1. Jan, I hear you on the struggle to juggle. Sounds like you have a lot on your plate. I’d recommend checking out WordServe client Jody Hedlund’s blog. She has some great posts on time management and making time for social media. Her blog is linked in the blogroll in the sidebar.

      In regard to your writing groups, I think that’s a personal decision. Only you know what’s most important to you. Perhaps you could cut back in one area so you would have more time in another. You could ask those who know you best to give you their input. They might have insights that would prove helpful.

  10. I live in Nebraska. I’ve never seen anyone selling books out of the back of a truck. But Elvis got started by selling his records that way…not in Nebraska.

    1. I’m from Nebraska and would love to find someone close to share with. Where in Nebraska are you from and do you have a blog?

  11. Marketing can be so daunting. My goal is to do one marketing-type thing per day. This keeps it manageable for me.

  12. I need to read Kristen Lamb — thanks for giving me the nudge to head over to Amazon and make the purchase!

    P.S. I live in Nebraska, too — and I’d be willing to sell my book out of the back of my minivan (and ask my friends to do the same), if that’s what it takes! 🙂

    1. I’m from Nebraska. Do you have a blog or a writer’s group? I’m new and would love to talk to other writers.

  13. Thank you, Cathy, for the great advice. I jumped on the social networking wagon this year and although I have to seriously watch the time I spend on the internet, I’ve found it enjoyable making new friends through my blog and commenting on other people’s blogs, plus I do a little Facebook and I’m trying to keep up with those two as time allows. Your tips are spot on!

  14. I like to leave the term ‘marketing’ behind and think of it as sharing. We’re sharing our ideas, our inspirations. After all, the ultimate goal of writing is to have someone read our work and enjoy it, or learn from it. Books shape lives and if they aren’t read, than their purpose is unfulfilled. I don’t just write for the sake of writing. I write because I want someone to read what I write…not because I want some kind of kudos (although I certainly won’t refuse a pat on the back) but because I believe in what I’m writing about and think it will somehow have an effect on someone in a good way. I care about my readers. I write young adult fantasy and my current book is for boys. I have grandsons that are facing the struggles that young boys go through and my character in my book has those struggles.I think my book offers a message of hope for them in a fun way, with lots of adventure and fast action. I want to share that message with whomever is open to it. What else can I do but talk about it in every venue I can?

  15. I am glad to hear, Cathy, how much you’ve enjoyed marketing your first book. As a friend in your community on Facebook and Twitter, I can say I think you’ve done a terrific job of it, too.

    I floated an idea for an e-book in a facebook post the other day and asked for first reactions from my friends. One long-term blog reader of mine (and a facebook friend) sent me a private message. She said, among other words of encouragement, “You have a significant fan base in place.” I was a bit surprised to read that!

    Even as a pre-published writer, there is so much we can do, little by little, to build our community of readers. Cathy, you’ve listed many of those techniques here. I am hoping that by the time I have a contract in place, I will have a much deeper (and wider) community than I now have. Thanks for writing on this topic, Cathy!

  16. And Cathy, thank you for this article and for posing the question. I think as writers we all do well to shape our thoughts into words and to write them down! There’s so much more I need to learn about blogging. I’m at a loss as to what to write! I’ll be referring to other blogs here for ideas. Thank you!

  17. Hi Cathy,
    I haven’t read Kristen Lamb’s, We Are Not Alone – The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, (Who Dares Wins Publishing, 2010). Now I will have her, “Fish where the fishes are,” stuck in my head. Excellent post. I too believe networking is a necessity and not that hard to do even for those of us who consider ourselves introverts. You just have to energize and get out there.

  18. Hey everyone,
    So glad this blog is up and running! 🙂

    My debut just came out at the tail end of June, so this is very timely for me. I’ve already been learning a lot and of course, from subscribing to Rachelle’s blog for well over a year. Thank you all for being so caring!

  19. Thanks Cathy! I couldn’t agree more. And Kristen Lamb’s book really is fantastic.

    The thing I like most about online networking is not just the marketing aspect but connecting to other writers, helping them out & being helped. We’re all in the same boat and sometimes a few tweets are all I need to accomplish my writing goals.

    1. Merry, I find that writers are some of most supportive and most generous people I know. The connections I’ve made have blessed me in so many ways.

      1. Keli I have found this as well and am so amazed by it! Publishing is such a difficult and competitive world that I never expected the level of generosity and encouragement and sharing of information that I have found – and I’m a newbie! That has been such an unexpected blessing!

  20. I have started, but I’m going slowly. Just read the blog one of Kristen’s and starting the WANA one. Great stuff in there! A true blessing to writers!

  21. I have been blogging for a couple of years, and made my leap into social networking about the same time; what I haven’t done is get connected to a writers’ group. I work full time days, and live in a rural location, so time and distance are major factors as far as meeting regularly for any reason. This makes me wonder if any one here belongs to an online writers’ group? If so, do you have any suggestions?
    Thanks! Teri

    1. Hi Teri!
      I belong to American Christian Fiction Writers – I’m in Bermuda, and don’t have a local writers group. ACFW has been invaluable to me – through them I have joined online critique groups, been part of email loops and received all kinds of amazing advice and encouragement. They also hold a huge writers conference once a year and I’ve been lucky to attend most since joining five years ago. I can honestly say I don’t think I’d be published today were it not for this group. Romance Writers of America is another group that operates the same way – you can do pretty much everything online these days, don’t fret! Critique groups are a great way to get started as a new writer so I would suggest looking into them once you join a writer’s group.

    2. Hi Teri. I am new to this as well. I have recently joined ACFW and that is great. I also plan to join RWA. I just entered two contests that I learned about from being in the loop with ACFW! I am in a critique group that I joined through Proverbs 31 ministries and the ladies in my group are from all over the country. It has been a great experience and a blessing. Joining a Proverbs 31 group doesn’t cost anything. You just let them know you would like to be assigned to a group, and they either fit you in to an established group, or they start a new one with others who have expressed interest. I think you would really benefit from and enjoy being in a group. It’s challenging time wise (I work full-time as well) but well worth it, and you get some amazing feed back on your work. Hope you can get hooked up soon!

  22. Great post with much helpful guidance, Cathy. Over the past year I’ve tried to educate myself about what to expect when contracted. It all seemed overwhelming as far as building a platform and marketing. I’m learning thanks to reading the blogs of agents, other writers, this site, attending conferences and joining ACFW. I do some social networking on FB. My family and in particular my hubby are very supportive and that’s a huge plus. This year so far
    I participated in more book events to get to know other writers in my city. The church I attend started a book club and they’re interested in my writing journey. I persuaded the group to consider ACFW authors for their book selection. Thanks for other means of networking, too.

  23. I really enjoyed your article about being up a creek without a paddle. I have been writing for about five or six years. I have five novels and I will be starting my sixth soon but I have had no idea to go about publishing. I have tried every place I could find but most of the time I receive no response at all. Recently I went on a mission trip and I met Jennie B Jones and Marti Pieper and they gave me some web sites. I am thrilled to find some chat groups and writer’s blog. It has helped me a lot. How do you start a blog? I’m not sure what you would write about or ask about when you are unpublished and know very little about the whole process. I will take any tips you have for me.

    1. Hi Glenda,
      I am no blogging expert! I started my blog more as a personal writing outlet and it’s evolved into me talking about my publishing journey as well as sharing life experiences. I try to blog two or three times a week when possible. With blogging, you’re really the one who needs to decide what your blog will be about and why you’re blogging in the first place. If you want to use it as a way to connect with other writer’s and potential readers when you’re published, you want to make your posts writing related. Your blog reflects you. Keep it real. Make sure you try to keep up with comments and follow people who follow you. I’ve used Blogger for my blog but I’m really liking this WordPress set up here, and will probably make the switch at some point. Good Luck!

  24. Hi Glenda,
    Time management has become something this ‘fliperty jibbert arty type’ has almost mastered, I do say almost. I am however a great networker (even if I say so myself) the best place I have found for re-aquainting myself with others is at writers festivals. From one side of Australia to the other I have run into familiar faces and become firm friends with many inspiring people.

  25. I’m so confused. I am writing a book, a collection of essays and interviews on a certain topic. If I can only get a publisher to believe that my book will be successful based upon the popularity of my blog, then who is going to buy the book if they’ve already read it, week by week, on my blog? Did nt I just give my book away for free by putting it on my blog?

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