Marketing Your Book 101
Marketing expert Erik Deckers gets to the heart of what Killer Nashville, the vision of Killer Nashville founder and magazine publisher Clay Stafford, and the alumni of the Killer Nashville family are all about.
In his debut column for the Killer Nashville Magazine as part of a new monthly series, Erik discusses what it means to be a good literary citizen. Erik will be sharing his knowledge at this year’s Killer Nashville. His sessions are a no-miss, standing-room-only opportunity.
Are You a Good Literary Citizen?
By Erik Deckers
When it comes to promoting our work, there’s no one who can help us better than our competition.
The people you become friends with at all those writing conferences. The people from your writing groups. The ones you smile at and congratulate, but secretly wish they would suffer chronic ass cramps whenever they talk about their latest success.
Those are your best promoters. They’re the ones you should tell your fans about. The ones you should send congratulatory tweets to. The ones whose books you should read and tell other people about.
Think about it this way: when you finish reading a book, do you stop reading for the year? Was that your book for the year, and you’re finished until some time in 2016? Of course not, you’re already on the prowl for your next book.
So, if the author of the book you just finished told you about a book he or she enjoyed, wouldn’t you be more likely to check that one out? Of course you would.
Do that for your fellow authors.
That’s what my friend and novelist, Cathy Day, calls Literary Citizenship.
Literary Citizenship is the act of being a good citizen in our literary community. Just like in our regular communities, we work together to support each other — it’s the whole “it takes a village” approach to living.
We also live in a literary community, and it’s important to work together to support each other there.
That means going to each other’s readings, buying each other’s books, and supporting each other the way friends do. (And waiting to go home and sob, “Why not me?! Why not me?!” But that’s a different article.)
Cathy even teaches a course called Literary Citizenship at my alma mater, Ball State University.
In her course description, she says: “A literary citizen is an aspiring writer who understands that you have to contribute to, not just expect things from, the publishing world.” She’s created six principles we can all follow. Here are three of my favorites:
1) Write “charming notes” to writers.
How do you feel when a reader says they liked your work? Feels pretty good, doesn’t it? So how do you think your favorite writer feels when you do the same? Even the big-shot novelists like it. If you want writers to pay attention to you, start paying attention to them first. Send tweets, Facebook likes, Tumblr posts, and so on. Boost them, and they’ll boost you in return.
2) Interview writers.
If you’re a blogger — I hope you already are; if not, attend my class at the Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference — interview some of your favorite writers and writing friends. Email them a few questions, ask them to respond, and then publish the responses. This introduces writers to your readers, and will hopefully introduce you to their readers, because they’ll tell their fans, “Check out my interview on this blog!” (More on this in a second.)
3) Talk up (informally) or review (formally) books you like.
Write short book reviews on Goodreads, Amazon.com, or BarnesandNoble.com. Better yet, review books on your blog (remember what I said about introducing writers to your readers?). You can become a trusted resource for good books, which will build your audience. An audience who will be interested in your own writing as well.
The easiest way to be a good literary citizen is with a blog and Twitter.
Your blog is where you’re going to post your content. Not necessarily your actual writing (although you won’t go wrong publishing the occasional short story), but your thoughts, ideas, plans, and news. Talk about the writing conference you just returned from, the writing residency you were awarded, cover options for your upcoming book, news about your book signings, your various flash fiction stories, and book reviews of your fellow writers. These are all suitable topics for your blog, and a way to keep people interested while you drum up interest for your own published work.
Your blog is going to be the hub of your literary citizen wheel. It’s your publicist, your news station, and your own personal magazine. Publish anything and everything that will help your readers learn more about you, and your fellow writers.
Next, get a Twitter account. If you already have one, great. If you don’t, get one, and use your own name for your Twitter handle, not something goofy like @Mustang1969BU. Connect with other writers, as well as your readers. Include your Twitter handle on your blog so visitors can connect with you.
Don’t be stuck up either; follow people back. Until you become a big name celebrity who’s too important to deal with fans, follow people back and communicate with them. Remember, they could be talking to — and reading — anyone, but they chose you. So show some gratitude.
Communicate with your fellow writers too. They’re already talking to their own fans. If their fans see them talking to you, the fans are more likely to visit your website, read your work, and become your fans as well. Make sure you tell your readers about your writer friends as well. A little quid pro quo (or twid pro quo?) goes a long way.
There are other social media networks you can always try out, although these are the two you need to get started to build a readership, and grow it exponentially it by networking with fellow authors.
Remember, being a Literary Citizen means it’s what you do, not what you get. Promote the work of others, and you’ll see your own audience grow as a result.
Erik Deckers owns a content marketing agency in Indianapolis, and is the co-author of four books on social media. He is also a professional speaker and newspaper humor columnist, and was named a 2016 writer-in-residence at the Kerouac House Project. He spoke at Killer Nashville 2013, and will return again this year.
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