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Marketing Advice from the Front Lines (of Bookstores)

No surprise: what’s good for the bookseller is good for the book author.

At this year’s ABA Winter Institute, I attended a conference session called “The New Marketing and Media Strategy” hoping to get caught up on the latest tips and trends. From the panel that featured my friends from last year’s USA Today / The Novel Neighbor collab along with a couple of other independent booksellers, I was  curious to learn what marketing insights they found most useful and effective. 

The New Marketing and Media Strategy panel: (back, left to right) Kassie King, The Novel Neighbor and Cris Siqueira, Lion’s Tooth; (front, left to right) Kalli King, Rediscovered Books and Laura Trujillo, USA Today.

While everyone is always looking for a magic wand and crystal ball when it comes to success in the ever-changing social media environment, it turns out that much of the panel’s guidance for increased visibility and community engagement was quite similar to advice that would work really well for authors and thought leaders too. 

Let’s dive into what they shared…

Be in line with your mission. Be in line with your brand.

Remember why you went into this kind of work in the first place. You don’t need to be all things to all people. Let your purpose and your values guide your marketing and messaging. 

Make it “personal” to you and your readers.

Show and share your passion, enthusiasm, your team and /or your process when you are sharing your content. It’s what distinguishes you from everyone else. 

Working with “partners” is good for community building and sharing.

You don’t have to do everything on your own. Find your key community members, co-collaborators or general fans to help you get the word out. 

It takes a long time to get there.

No one on the panel was an overnight success (or went from zero to thousands of followers) without lots of time, trying, tweaking and constantly re-calibrating. 

Creating the content you want to read makes it shareable and fun!

If you are creating content that you want to see and it’s fun to make, then ideally it’s going to be just what your audience wants to see and share too.

Focus on authenticity; it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Luckily the world of short form video has given us permission to be less than perfect (though many make it still look perfect), but please know it’s OK to get your message out there in a way that is best for you and means the most to you. Your authenticity will come across far more powerful than a perfect picture, image or caption. 

It’s not about the platform! 

This is huge. There is no right place to be. One of the booksellers shared a delightful “mini-zine” that they produced monthly (on one sheet of colored paper, folded into eighths) and handed out as a business card, brochure and bookmark. 

Repurpose your content across platforms.

Focus on your content first, then figure out how to share it across your marketing channels. It’s like the tail wagging the dog (not to mention exhausting and inefficient) if you focus solely on what each platform needs individually. 

Give yourself grace.

Do the best you can. Most of us were not planning on having “chief marketer” as part of our title. If you do have someone who is that person and can help – great! If you don’t, you are not alone! You’re doing great!

I’m curious which of these resonated most (or least) with you – or are there others that you would want to add! As always, I’d love to hear from you and chat about where you are in your “new media strategy” journey – you can set up a call here.

Plunging Into the New Year

Technically, I like to say my new year starts on February 1st. This gives me the space and grace to go into January feeling OK and open – NOT overwhelmed! It also allows me to fully enjoy the holidays with family and friends. 

So instead of beating myself up about busted resolutions by the end of the month, I spend January getting some foundations set and some housekeeping out of the way.

What exactly does that mean you might ask? For me this is what it has looked like so far this month: 

  • Cleaning up Asana (project management software)
  • Moving from Goodreads -> StoryGraph (not owned by Amazon)
  • Moving personal finance tracking from Mint  -> Quicken
  • Finishing up a big CRM overhaul 
  • Finalizing my ONE WORD for 2024
  • Mapping out big ideas in the “Big Ass” notebook – IYKYK!
  • Having conversations with the people I want to see and work with this year
  • Blocking and locking in important events* and trips on my calendar

Usually, I have a better idea of how my year is shaping up as I head into it, but moving into this year has seemed more hazy and unclear than usual. My intuitive friend and coach Patty Lennon tells me it’s because we are moving from a “7” year to an “8” year – which, when I researched it a bit more, makes total sense.  

Regardless, I am happy to report that new energy and enthusiasm for this year is on the rise, and I’m moving forward even if I cannot see exactly where I’m headed. I’m excited!

What about you? How are you plunging into the new year? Are things rock solid set in place or fuzzy and all over the place? I’d love to hear about it – or if I might be able to help. Book some time to chat – now!!!! 

Top Podcasts for Inspired Writers and Authors

This week I ran across this list of “25 Podcasts for Authors on Writing, Publishing, and Book Marketing” from the team at bookbaby.com. While it’s thorough, thoughtful, and cleverly organized, I was surprised to see that several of my go-to writing / author / book publishing focused podcasts were NOT listed. 

So I’m sharing some of my favorite, most useful, accessible and often funny podcasts that will certainly up your writing game and help you on your book journey. 

#AmWriting with Jessica Lahey, KJ Dell’Antonia and Sarina Bowen

#AmWriting is an entertaining, actionable advice on craft, productivity, and creativity for writers and journalists in all genres, with hosts Jessica Lahey, KJ Dell’Antonia and Sarina Bowen.

Bound + Determined with Richelle Fredson

Bound + Determined is an Intimate and Unfiltered Conversation on Books, Brands and Business. Each week Richelle dives into an unabashedly truthful conversation with authors, publishers and thought leaders to reveal a behind-the-scenes look at the business of books and what it means to be an author today.

Book Marketing Action Plan with Becky Robinson

The Book Marketing Action Podcast is a resource where you can get actionable advice to build your author platform, plan a book launch, launch your book successfully, and sustain interest in your book after launch

All Things Book Marketing from the Smith Publicity host Olivia McCoy

The Smith Publicity ‘All Things Book Marketing’ podcast explores all facets of book publicity and book marketing, with great expert guests sharing vital information for both authors and publishers.

*NEW* Book Bound with Fran Hauser and Bethany Saltman 

Critically acclaimed authors and bestselling book coaches Fran Hauser and Bethany Saltman are your hosts of Bookbound, the podcast for aspiring nonfiction authors who want to learn how to transform their ideas, expertise, and obsessions into successful books and publishing deals. 

Authors Who Lead with Azul Terronez 

If you want to know how bestselling authors find the time to write their books, the methods they use to be productive and how they find their ideas you will love this podcast.

I’d highly recommend writers, authors and book lovers check out these and other podcasts to stay inspired, hone your craft, and guide your journey. What writing podcasts do you love? I’m always looking for new shows to add to my list!

20 Years Wiser: Critical Business Truths Experience Has Taught Me

Twenty years ago this month, I quit corporate – or opted out – as they called it back then. 

You know the drill – commuting from the burbs to NYC by train, working in cubicles on the 35th floor of a midtown building, surrounded by co-workers, and lots of buzzy publishing activity of a weekly magazine. 

I finally hit my wall of how much I could work full time and commute while having two very young boys at home more than an hour away. With barely three weeks of annual vacation and not much savings left after paying for all day childcare, I realized this was not the way I could operate to be of my highest value or have my highest impact. 

Below is the email that I sent out in October 2003…

While I didn’t exactly have a real plan I was fortunate enough to keep my professional head in the game with freelance work that sustained me and eventually evolved into the work that became Sheed Communications

I was also so lucky to get in early with social media platforms as they were just starting to take off. Learning lots of lessons through many gyrations of work, clients, and projects helped me to figure out what I really wanted to do, who I wanted to help and how I could help them. 

Here are 10 important things I have learned, need to remember, and perhaps you can appreciate: 

  1. You can’t do it alone and you shouldn’t do it alone. There have been amazing clients and collaborative project partners, coaches and groups upon whose shoulders I have been carried to where I am now. 
  2. Find your people. It’s really important to have a community to support you. There are several groups of people and professionals who have significantly impacted the trajectory of my work. 
  3. There is NO playbook! You and your work are distinctly different from anyone else, so there is no right or wrong way. Only your way. 
  4. It’s okay to take a different track and try new things – regularly. I now work on platforms that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Imagine if I stayed stuck in the world of press releases and media alerts? Always be curious!
  5. Marketing can be authentic. It doesn’t have to be sales-y and icky. It can be aligned with your values. Heck, as an extrovert, I consider going to events and meeting people as a marketing strategy – thank you very much.
  6. I’ll take quality over quantity any day. While many benchmark their success on the numbers of likes, follows, hits, impressions, clicks. Focus on making a difference or making a real connection with your work and content – not just ticking a box of social media postings. 
  7. Sometimes you are barely a step ahead of the people you are helping and advising but that’s okay; simply having your perspective and experience is of huge value to them.
  8. This is a long game – not a quick sprint. There is rarely an easy fix for building something valuable and meaningful. 
  9. There will always be more to do…so make sure you are focusing on the things that have the most impact or keep your vibes high and aligned with your values. 
  10. Putting yourself out there can be scary and vulnerable – but if you don’t do it – who else will? 

I feel fantastically blessed that I could “opt out” of the traditional workplace yet still keep up with consulting work that provided me with income and growth on a professional track. And I am truly thankful for so many wonderful people with whom I have met and worked. 

Finding your peers and peeps is critical. While I miss the camaraderie of an office and co-workers, there are now so many more opportunities for business owners and soloprenuers to meet, connect and learn from each other and build business than there were two decades ago. 

Yes, it can be overwhelming, and you can’t be everywhere and do everything BUT you can get clear on what works for you, your business and your life. 

Looking forward with an eye on the accelerating pace of change and technology in these ever-growing virtual, artificial, divisive and fractured times…..I’m doubling down on humans, connections and communities! They have served me well so far – and are guaranteed to be ever more important in the future! 

That’s my TedTalk – thanks for being here!

PS – I’d love to hear from you what critical business truths you have gained in your work? Let’s chat! 

How to Write a Memoir for the Marketplace with Book Coach Jennie Nash

Memoirs have a unique power to captivate, inspire, and connect with readers on a deeply personal level. 

They are windows into the lives, experiences, and emotions of their authors, offering a glimpse of the human condition in all its complexity. 

But, what does it take to transform your life’s story into a compelling memoir that not only resonates with readers but also finds its place in the competitive marketplace?

I recently interviewed Jennie Nash, CEO of Author Accelerator, a hugely successful business she has been running for 10 years. They certify, train and support book coaches. She’ll discuss the importance of understanding WHY you want to write a memoir and how it will serve you in the world.

She has developed blueprints for writing memoirs, non-fiction books, and fiction books. Each blueprint consists of 14 steps that guide writers through every aspect of writing their book. The first step is always asking why are you doing this? Understanding your motivation is crucial when it comes time to market your work.

Why Write a Memoir? 

First off, it can be super therapeutic – it’s a way for us to figure out what’s been going on in our lives. You know, sometimes we jot down stuff in a journal, maybe scribble letters to someone (even if we never send them), or just pour out our thoughts and experiences in various ways. 

It’s not about trying to sell a book or anything; it’s more about capturing your own life story, leaving a legacy for your family, or simply finding some healing in the process. So yeah, it’s definitely not about writing for the big, bad marketplace.

Memoir Writing is Unique

Memoir writing is a unique and sometimes challenging endeavor. More often than not, writers start with one idea in mind, only to discover that their story is something entirely different. It’s like planning a journey to London in the 70s, only to realize that Amsterdam in the 80s is where the real adventure lies.

Why does this happen? Well, memoirs are deeply personal. They’re about sharing your life experiences, your truths, and your vulnerabilities. But often, as you begin to write, you find that your story takes on a life of its own. It morphs into something unexpected and powerful.

Take, for example, the concept of “memoir plus.” This modern approach to memoir combines personal storytelling with additional elements like interviews or cultural analysis. Think of books like Carmen Maria Machado’s “In the Dream House,” which delves into a taboo topic within the lesbian community while simultaneously dissecting the act of storytelling itself.

Another fantastic example is “Wired for Music” by a scientist who initially set out to write about the impact of music on the brain. However, through collaboration with her editor, she discovered that her personal journey with music added depth and richness to her work, giving it a new shape and purpose.

How Your Book Will Serve You

How do you want to be in the world with this book?

Once you have established your “WHY” Jennie recommends thinking about how your book will serve you beyond just being published. Some people want their books to establish them as thought leaders or experts in their field while others may use it as part of their business funnel or ecosystem.

When trying to figure out why they want to write a memoir, many people struggle with finding an answer beyond simply wanting “to tell my story.” It’s important for writers to dig deeper by asking questions such as “Who do I want my readership audience to be? What do I hope they gain from reading my story?”

Building a Blueprint

In an ideal world, writers would approach Jennie and say, “I’m ready to do this. I have nothing. Let’s go!” But, let’s be real, that’s not how it usually goes down. Instead, clients typically arrive with a draft, a few chapters, countless attempts, blog posts, keynote speeches, and a whole bunch of other material.

Jennie asks them to show me what they’ve got as they follow her 14 steps blueprint plan. It’s like a creative puzzle, and it’s often a rollercoaster ride of discovery. Some parts are like hitting the jackpot, while others need some serious TLC.

Rarely does Jennie advise her clients to scrap everything and start over. It’s more of a discussion, a journey of inquiry. The blueprint process is about asking the tough questions before diving headfirst into writing. Why are you doing this? What’s your strategy? What’s your ultimate goal? These questions can be unsettling because they often lead to answers that aren’t as dreamy as writers would like.

Let’s face it; we often wish for a fairy godmother to swoop in and magically grant us a million-dollar book deal, a blockbuster movie adaptation, and the freedom to quit our day jobs. It’s the dream. But the blueprint process reminds us that crafting a book is a journey, not a shortcut to instant fame and fortune.

So, why does Jennie love this part of her job so much? “Because it’s a journey of self-discovery and growth for both me and my clients. It’s about turning their dreams into a tangible plan, one step at a time. It’s about refining their creative process and transforming their scattered thoughts into a cohesive story.”

In the end, it’s not just about writing a book; it’s about the adventure of becoming an author. So, whether you’re just starting or you’ve been on this path for a while, consider taking that two-week journey of inquiry. Embrace the magic of the blueprint process, and who knows? Maybe you’ll find your own version of happily ever after in the world of writing.

Getting Excited About the Marketing Plan

Getting people onboard with creating an effective marketing plan is not easy since most writers are introverts who prefer working alone rather than connecting with readers early on. However, helping them understand what they bring to the table in terms of talents and proclivities can make this process less daunting for them.

One of the critical points in getting your memoir ready for the marketplace is having an effective marketing plan in place before finishing or publishing your book. Waiting until later could mean missing out on opportunities to connect with readers early on, making it harder to market your work effectively later on.

Creative Marketing Strategies

Marketing your book isn’t just about pushing it out into the world; it’s about aligning your intentions, passions, and expertise with your target audience. It’s about making a difference and connecting with those who genuinely care about what you have to say.

Also it’s important to understand that building a platform doesn’t mean amassing a massive Instagram following. It’s about finding unique and authentic ways to reach your readers. There are countless avenues to explore, and it all starts with a clear sense of purpose and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone.

Identifying Goals for Your Book

Today, writers are realizing that publishing is a tool, not the ultimate goal. When you ask an aspiring author what they want, many might say, “I want to be published.” But what does that even mean? The real desire behind it is to get their words into readers’ hands, to make an impact, and to engage in meaningful conversations. The method of publication is just a means to achieve these goals.

Now, here’s where it gets exciting. The landscape of publishing has evolved dramatically, offering numerous avenues to get your content out there. It’s not just about traditional books anymore. Have you considered a Substack newsletter, or perhaps a paid subscription newsletter? Why limit yourself to one format when there are so many possibilities?

You see, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a book, and it doesn’t have to follow a specific blueprint. The key is to ask yourself, “How do I want to use my work? What impact do I want to create?” Once you have those answers, you can explore the myriad of publishing options available.

Now, some of you might wonder why there is still focus on the agent and traditional publishing process when we just discussed this newfound openness to alternative routes. It’s a valid question.

The reason is simple – the traditional publishing path has historically set a high standard for quality and excellence. When you approach your project with the intention of meeting that high bar, it will serve you well, regardless of how you ultimately decide to publish.

Think about it. What if you had to create a book proposal or pitch your idea in a query letter? What if you had to thoroughly research the market to see what else is out there? These are valuable steps that can help refine your work and make it the best it can be no matter which route you choose.

Why Work with a Book Coach?

Why should you consider working with one in the first place? Imagine this: You’re embarking on a road trip, and you’ve got a map (or GPS) to guide you along the way. Your book idea is your destination, and the manuscript is your journey. A book coach is your trusted travel companion, helping you navigate the twists and turns of the writing process, keeping you motivated, and ensuring you stay on the right path.

Start working with a book coach right from the beginning. Don’t wait until you’ve penned a complete manuscript. It might be tempting to think, “I’ll just write it all down, and then I’ll have someone polish it up.” But here’s the deal – having that guidance and support at the outset can save you a ton of time and effort down the road.

Think of it as building a solid foundation for your book. A book coach can help you refine your book idea, create a blueprint, and set you up for success from the get-go. It’s like having an architect plan your dream house before construction begins, ensuring that everything is in place and the structure is strong.

How do I find a book coach?” Well, that’s where Author Accelerator comes in. They have a network of 180 certified coaches located all over the world, each with expertise in various genres. These coaches have all been trained in the blueprint process, which is a fantastic framework to get your book started on the right foot.

The beauty of working with an Author Accelerator book coach is that they aren’t rigid in their approach. They’re encouraged to adapt the blueprint to suit your unique needs and writing style. They’re tool agnostic, meaning they’ll use whatever methods work best for you.

If you’re ready to take that crucial step in your writing journey and work with a book coach, you can visit Author Accelerator’s “Match Me” page. There, you can search for a coach who aligns with your goals, whether it’s reviewing your blueprint or guiding you through the entire book-writing process.

Remember, working with a book coach isn’t just about getting your book polished; it’s about ensuring your book’s foundation is solid, your ideas are refined, and your journey as an author is supported every step of the way.

So, if you have a book idea burning inside you, don’t hesitate. Take that first step and get the guidance you need. Your future readers are waiting for your story, and a book coach can help you bring it to life.

If you want to listen to the full interview, you can watch it here.