Antisocial Media

God bless the Internet.

It’s the great equalizer of our time. It has been a tour de force for introverts the world over who feel more confident and less prone to risk behind a laptop than a podium. Marketing no longer is the exclusive playground of handsome and highly articulate extroverts, people that really know how to connect with other people.  A website can have an infinite amount of charm – or at least charm enough not to require a spokesmodel.

How has this been possible? One reason is a fundamental shift in marketing itself and how society sees it. Marketing strategy has evolved from outbound to inbound. An outbound marketing strategy involves actively finding people and making them aware of your product and offerings.  An inbound marketing strategy is about being easy to find. It requires a high level of visibility. If you are invisible to Google, it’s not going to work.

This being said, I recently met with a visibility coach to discuss the next steps for how to continue building a writing platform. It seemed like many bases had been covered, and now I was stuck on how to proceed. After all, the infrastructure seemed to be coming along:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Writing contest award site
  • Book reviews
  • Smashwords and Amazon purchase links
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest board
  • YouTube radio interview
  • Google Adwords, Google+

I reviewed all of these facets of the marketing platform with the visibility coach. She was glad that some visibility had already been created, but there was still a lot to do. She said that the aforementioned social media sites are tools. Such tools are only part of a marketing strategy’s infrastructure and did not constitute its entirety.

Some of the things I had been putting off on my to-do list started coming back to mind:

  • Determine how many prospective customers would be interested in your product
  • Define that group – Who are they? How old are they? What is their demographic data?
  • Create a buzz among that target profile
  • Identify their buying behavior
  • Develop a message that speaks to that group
  • Become highly visible to that customer group
  • Learn their communication style and preferred methods of contact

The coach said, “I think we need to get you some REAL fans and not just virtual ones.” She kind of laughed a little bit, and I hadn’t realized until then that it was kind of funny. All my supporters are either friends or ones I’ve garnered online.  “Virtual fans are all well and good, but you need to meet and connect with some REAL people, some actual people now. We’re going to move forward with a press release and creating some events.”

The coach could probably tell that I was a little uneasy about the whole ‘events’ thing.  It’s awkward enough pumping up a site with one’s name and picture on it in cyberspace. How could I look people in the eye and do it for real? I would know if they didn’t really want to meet me.  What if someone told me to get lost? What if they said they had already read my book and they thought I was destroying literature or something? Besides, I had never met any of the authors I had always admired. Was that really necessary? Talking about my work with strangers… ugh. It seemed like the worst kind of vanity.

But the visibility coach pointed out something enlightening. When positioning the book and other works to the audience, there is no reason to focus on the author. The focus is on the characters in the book. She said to become the cheerleader of my main characters and pump them up constantly – and to take myself out of the equation. That resonated with my introverted nature, and I breathed a little easier.

Marketing is about telling a story. Who better to market, then, than us storytellers?

The ancient concept of the group storyteller conjures up images of tribes fixated on a speaker, basking in the orange glow of a campfire.  That kind of storytelling is interactive. Actors are storytellers, but of a different sort. They tell stories with their physical beings-not with words.

Writing, as a form of storytelling, can’t be purely antisocial because life and the human experience aren’t antisocial. That’s the whole point. People are trying to connect and feel something.  The Internet has made it very easy to forget that – but people go to the movies and read books for a reason. They are looking to connect. And as uncomfortable as it may be at times, connections just do not belong in the realm of the antisocial.

In what ways have you RECENTLY connected with your non-virtual reader fans? How might you reach out to them, specifically, this week?

Hunting and Fishing: Tackle Box Tools for the Aspiring Author

What does hunting and fishing have to do with being a writer? More than you might imagine. If you think you’re exempt from needing these skills, you may find you’re going to need a bigger boat, so to speak.

After placing well in a writing contest, I was approached by several people who wanted the same thing. They resembled eager, wide-eyed hunters, sure that there was a sportsmen’s paradise within reach, if they could just locate the geographic coordinates. The questions have been pretty standard. How do I get started? What should I write about? How do you get an agent? How do you get published? But the most interesting question so far has been how do you find the courage to put your work out there? This question was from a woman (we’ll call her Nancy) who had already written an entire series of books, but lacked the confidence to move forward. She was stuck.

In addition to being a strong writer, Nancy had an impressive graphic arts background and was perfectly capable of designing the entire book herself. She had all the tools she needed and then some – but not the confidence. It’s a common dilemma. Many writers are introverted and sensitive to criticism. They may have much better work in their garage than most of what is available, but we’ll never hear about it because they are unwilling to send up a smoke signal and let us know where to find them.

Not everyone is going to love our work, and we don’t need everyone to love our work. We just need to find our audiences. Fishing with good bait obviously helps exponentially. Nancy came to peace with the fact that she was going to have to learn to fish. She then accepted the fact that although she didn’t think her book was good enough, it was certainly better than some of the other books out there. If those books could get published, then why not hers?

Next, we tackled the business about marketing and promotion. Nancy realized that she would not have to just catch the fish, but cook it, clean it and perhaps even serve it as well. The author is expected to do a great deal of their own marketing. The publisher can’t do it all for us; they have other authors they need to promote. No one has as much of a vested interest in our success as we do.

Nancy was horrified to learn that she would probably need a website with her name and picture on it, and she might even have to speak about her book in front of people. The most uncomfortable concept for her by far was that she would have to ‘sell’ her work. But she figured out that it doesn’t feel like ‘selling’ if you are simply providing a service or commodity and increasing awareness for people who really want your product. Blogging and tweeting and self-promoting are awkward concepts for most of us. However, unless you have staff to hunt and fish on your behalf, there aren’t too many other options.

Nancy still isn’t crazy about all the hunting and fishing she has ahead of her, but she is committed to surviving as a writer. She has started working on her book covers and finding books on how to overcome her shyness. She’s bravely entering Writing Territory and looking for a spot to set up camp. Best of all, she is no longer stuck and is actively pursuing her own hunting and fishing sportsman’s paradise.

Have you caught any tasty fish lately? How are your hunting skills? Figuratively, of course, but if you want to share some literal experiences, that’s okay, too. 🙂

The Create Space Experience

Many people gaze at online publishing as settlers must have viewed the wild, wild, west – with fear and awe. However, life on this frontier is not as lawless as one might think. It can be a useful accelerator on your path of obtaining or supplementing traditional publishing efforts. Take Create Space, for instance. Well-organized and structured, this tool can provide the positioning and leverage you need to take your creative efforts to the next level. Where you go from there is entirely up to you, and there are a myriad of options for you to ornament your work with whatever bells and whistles you want.

Even before you receive what is called an advanced reader copy (ARC) or a gallery (similar to an ARC), you can print out books for your readers and reviewers. In turn, they can begin your marketing buzz by word of mouth. With Create Space’s step-by-step application, the author is guided through all the necessary steps to correctly setting up their book. Setting up the title, creating the interior, and selecting cover art are parts of the process. You can upload interior files as a PDF to ensure formatting will not change. You can either create a cover with the website’s cover creator wizard or upload your own. In this case, be sure to follow their directions to the letter to ensure you don’t frustrate yourself by having the wrong size spine or files with poor resolution that will look shabby.  If you aren’t the type that can sustain the trial and error it will take to get this right, then recruit a patient friend to help you with the details.

Even before your book is actually for sale, you can choose to have sample chapters viewable to your social media networks through Create Space / Amazon, even if you don’t have your own website. You will have a way for people all over the world to familiarize themselves with your book. Create Space also has very good deals and is a low cost vehicle for having copies on hand for your book signings and giveaways.

The flexibility for authors is also remarkable. There are no minimum print runs with Create Space. You can order as few as one at a time. For perfectionists who want to make sure everything is just right before committing to a large press run, this is an unprecedented luxury. I ask readers to write Amazon book reviews, which are better than gold, and send out those links via Twitter. Perhaps best of all, actual customer service people answer the phones and they do so 24 hours a day.

Thanks to Create Space and other emerging platforms, there are more options than ever for authors to distribute their work. Technology has opened up an ocean of opportunity, and the new world looks brighter than ever.

Have you ever utilized non-traditional publishing methods to support your traditional publishing dreams? If so, how? How might a tool like Create Space help your marketing platform?