When you come to a certain point in your life, whether it’s a chronological age, reaching a financial/marital/parental goal or you just plain hit a wall, I suppose it’s normal to take a sentimental journey backward to discover the important pivotal moments that brought you there.
At my golden age, I’m never sure if I should be proud of all the accomplishments or embarrassed at the wealth of experiences. I’ve been a musician, a graphic designer and business owner; a public relations specialist, print, radio and television advertising writer and a creative problem solver. Then I got burned out so I jumped into the fire … the kitchen … and became a chef at forty-four. Since then I’ve cooked and created and sold everything from Idaho potatoes to imported Italian meats to giandujas. I’ve traversed spirituality from the pews of the Catholic Church to the humble Lakota sweat lodge. Through it all I wrote and wrote and wrote.
What have I learned? Lots.
And oddly, it all connects.
For nearly 27 years I worked in the advertising, marketing and public relations industry. I developed my career in a town known for steel mills and Permanti Bros. sandwiches. Trust me, we weren’t selling the sizzle. Nothing had glitz or glamour but to be successful in that market you had to somehow make the very mundane seem sexy. Amazing the skills a person can acquire under such circumstances.
It all served me well, but when I dragged my aging behind into culinary school I thought the past was past, never to return again. Nope. Nada. Wrong. To get into the school, I had to sell myself. To get through the courses, I had to test ideas and stretch creativity. I had to compete for burner space, chef educator attention and medals. I had to study not only knife cuts and the ingredients of the classic mother sauces; I had to constantly invent ways to make those sauces unique.
Now, I’m a retired chef spending all her time writing and guess what. The mother sauce dilemma continues. It was always there, it just vacillates according to the direction you’re looking and the goal you’re reaching for.
Marketing prevails. Every moment of our lives requires this skill. Convincing the bus driver to stop as you run for it or talking the bank into dropping a bounced check fee, yup, that’s marketing. It’s positioning. It’s promoting and the product is YOU.
As a writer, every marketing skill I used over all those years, honed through variations in two careers and perfected as a way of life is even more important. Here’s what I know, guys and gals.
1) Don’t think for a single moment that you are the one author who will not need to market and promote yourself. It’s an illusion based on fear. Toss the scary promotional demons aside and just do what you did when you wrote your book. Tell your story … everywhere.
2) If you are painfully shy and terrified of facing the world outside your safe writing space, get online. Twitter. Facebook. Writing Communities. Join yahoo writer groups or better yet, create one. I totally understand your fears. I’m a bit of a recluse these days myself.
3) Use social networking effectively. Take Twitter. It’s easy to fall into the ‘social’ part of social networking. Don’t follow movie stars or rock stars or professional athletes – unless they’re also writers. Carefully choose who you follow; other writers, authors, editors, publishers and agents. Follow their tweets and remember to offer something in return. Dan Brown really doesn’t care that you washed your walls today or had a chicken sandwich for lunch. Time is valuable, get the most value out of yours and remember to ‘network’.
4) If you can get yourself dressed and into a pair of shoes, go to a writing club meeting. Every state, province and country has them. Google is your friend. These groups are all bursting with marketing speakers and tips. It is the buzz in the industry.
5) If everything you learn and discover still seems too difficult, either hire a publicity consultant to help build your platform or make friends with someone who knows how to do it. We’re all on this rocking, rolling, suddenly reinventing-itself-publishing ocean. Problem solving (like creativity) is plagiarism with a flare.
6) Take a deep breath, don’t be afraid. Launch your product … you. Without it your book may also be sitting at the computer, barefoot and feeling unpopular.
Since I began focusing on these self-promotion requirements for writers, I’ve taken up my armor and started the charge. I’ve created specializes pages on my site featuring each book. I’ve created excitement about the characters in the book on those pages. I’ve begun this blog. I’ve created a platform to support my efforts by mixing my chef persona with my writer persona and developing a cookbook series to pair with my urban fantasy series. I’ve started doing cooking demo’s with my local writing groups to test the recipes and chat up my Cold in California series while I’m at it. I’ve continued to query like crazy, continue to ship out additional chapters to agents who ask. And I’m having a blast.
Marketing has always been a flashy, tingly sort of splash at the world and the playground is getting rougher. It’s not easy but there’s no need to feel bullied. All we really need to do is tell our story, tell it with flare, and tell it EVERYWHERE.