Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gleek Marketing

I was just thinking over the weekend about how my DH and I met. (It's a funny little story which I've shared here before so I won't bore you with it again.) But I'm also on Facebook and always wondering what to put on my wall that might be entertaining. So for a lark I typed:

Met my DH in college chorus. We were Gleeks before it was cool. Where did you meet your sweetie?

In short order I had 15 comments, little vignettes of those super-charged, hormone-rich days of first love.

The immediate and accidental success of those 3 sentences in eliciting a response made me think about marketing.

I never took any marketing classes in college--too busy being a total "gleek"--so when I sold my first book and was told I'd need to promote it, I was adrift. I had no idea where to begin. Still don't. I have no clue when something I fling into cyber-space will get a response or when it will hit the firewalls of readers' psyches with a resounding thud. But I know running around shouting BUY MY BOOK, BUY MY BOOK is annoying and counterproductive.

So I thought back to my days of gleekdom, when the first rule of performance was: Connect with the audience.

When you're singing, this means making eye contact and letting the lyrics show on your face. When I'm in cyberspace, all I have are words, but the goal is the same. Making the connection.

We're human. We're readers. Our life experiences may be wildly different, but we all love, hurt, exult, suffer. Finding common ground isn't that hard.

The second rule of performing was: Be genuine.

It must be real. There is arguably no artistic merit in the "Pants on the Ground" song which has recently gone viral, but the fellow who created and performed it did so with complete conviction. We respond to real.

If you remember Eddie Haskell, you know we all hate phonies. Everyone has unique gifts (hence the premise for my What kind of Genius are YOU? Quiz). Don't try to fake someone else's style. Use yours. If that happens to be a slightly shy, midwestern personality with a sense of humor only the DH gets all the time, so be it.

Turn a weakness into a strength.

I had a really good ear as a kid. My auditory memory was fantastic. At each piano lesson, I'd ask my teacher to play through the piece for me so I could hear how it was supposed to sound. Then I remembered the rhythmic patterns. As a result, my piano teacher never realized that I couldn't read rhythm worth shooting. Once I got to college as a music major, my deficiency was pretty glaring, but I was too embarrassed to admit how bad I was at timing. So I taught myself, painfully and privately, to read rhythm. Now, it's one of my strengths.

When I started blogging, I was terrified by the idea of recording my thoughts online for all time. Then I realized it's not about just my ramblings. If I do it right, I get to hear what my readers think too! I've made friends with people all over the globe through this blog. Blogging with you has become one of the best perks of being published.

And lastly: Leave it all on the stage.

Don't hold back. Don't mark (sing with half a voice). Give the audience everything you've got every single time. Do your best.

All the clever marketing in the world won't save a mediocre book. My goal is to deliver the best story I can with each book I write. It may not be Shakespeare, but it's from my heart. And every time I turn in a manuscript, I want to feel that it's the best thing I've ever written. Ultimately, the writing is the only thing I can control in this business.

So now it's your turn. If you're a reader, what's the most annoying thing an author has ever done to try to catch your attention? (Please share so we can keep from doing it again!) If you're a writer, what's the most effective marketing strategy you ever used?

Or if you like, please share how you and your sweetie met? I'm all ears!


Sandy said...

Interesting post, Emily.

I think my best marketing strategy is the fact that I've stayed in touch with all the people I worked with at TWA. Many of them have kept in contact with others, and everyone is waiting for Addiction to come out in print. Word of mouth is definitely the best marketing tool.

DanielleThorne said...

I think being genuine is exactly what's needed, especially when promoting online. We already get so much spam--so real words from the heart go a lot further than singing one's own praises--over and over and over. Great post.

EmilyBryan said...

Sandy--Too true. Word of mouth is still the gold standard in marketing.

Failing that, "word of mouse" runs a close second. I've been so blessed to have the support of online reviewers and romance sites as well as my cyber-friends who talk up my work.

EmilyBryan said...

Danielle--I used to think staying in character for the five hours necessary to sing Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" was tough. I can't imagine trying to maintain an online "persona" all the time. True, I write under a pseudonym, but I'm still me.

Jane L said...

I went to the RT convention in Pittsburgh and during the big book sale an author stopped me and said, "HI! Have you ever read my work?" I told her no and she said, "Would you mind reading the blurb on the back of my book and tell me if it would be something you would read." So I did and YES! it was and I bought it and I really enjoyed it! So I thought this was a cool marketing strategy! LOL!

EmilyBryan said...

Hi Jane,

I knew you'd have an idea to share!

My only problem with that is that until STROKE OF GENIUS, I didn't get to write any of my cover blurbs, so the reader really wouldn't be sampling my writing.

But when SOG hits the shelves, that's a doable plan!

Sandy said...

LOL I love the word of mouse, Emily. It's still word of mouth though just with a mouse. Wink!

Michelle Santiago said...

i haven't met my sweetie yet but i know he's out there somewhere :)

as a reader, i haven't come across any annoying marketing so far. but yes, i agree with you emily that "word of mouse" is definitely catching up. all my book recs now comes from the book blogging community and rarely do i buy books on a whim at the book store anymore which is good because i'm liking everything i've been reading so far. great post :)

Jane L said...

Oh! well if we are talking SOG! I can come up with something creative! LOL! Let me think on it!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Emily,
Great post, very interesting and you raised some very valid marketing points.


EmilyBryan said...

Chellyreads--I still remember a friend putting my first Jane Auel, MM Kaye and Mary Stewart book in my hands. The thing that's so cool about sharing a good read is that it deepens the friendship between the ones who've had a shared experience through the book. You almost develope a secret language.

My kids and I read aloud a lot when they were younger and to this day my daughters will talk about something giving "scope for the imagination"--a reminder of our time with Ann Shirley and Green Gables.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, Margaret! Glad you stopped by!

Hot Ash Romance Novels said...

I'm on special notices on a couple of chatty loops--for a reason. I don't want to get daily emails...especially not the same on over and over and over ad nauseum.

I don't know if someone said something to them or not, but they backed off a bit. Now it's only once a month or so.

Most effective are those clever stories some RWA chapters use to promote their contests or workshops. Kiss of death just did one. If we're writers, we should be able to make promo entertaining!


EmilyBryan said...

Funny you should mention that, Ashlyn! That's what I'm trying to do with the free serialized novella on my website. Not only do readers get a free read, I'm letting them vote on how the story should continue each month! The first chapter of A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS went live Jan 1st. It's time for me to write the next chapter!

Colleen Thompson said...

Enjoyed your post, Emily.

I love hearing from authors and don't mind getting a few review quotes, links to sample chapters, and neat stuff about the story's background. But there's a fine line between promotion and obnoxious self-aggrandizing, and I often wonder when I see people flogging the dead horse of a book that's been out for a long time. When do they write the next book instead of promotional e-mails.

Also strongly dislike very aggressive authors at book signings. I try to smile, ask people if they'd like to - no strings - read the cover copy, and answer any questions in a friendly, helpful manner.

I think it's important to get your "self" out of the way so you don't come between the reader and the story. How this helps with marketing, I can't say though.

jean hart stewart said...

Thanks for a great post. I'm too shy to make blogging easy, and will now try hard to loosen up and SHARE..Jean

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks for sharing, Colleen. "Flogging the dead horse of a book..." LOL! Love the way your mind works.

I do send out a newsletter every month or so. I try not to make it more often than that unless something happens to warrant a special emailing (like when Dorchester was offering DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS for $2.99 just before Christmas and my December email had already gone out!)

Do you think monthly is too often for a newsletter or should it only be for new releases? (Since I am technically releasing a new chapter in the online novella every month, I'm pretty well covered either way! ;-))

EmilyBryan said...

Jean, I feel your pain. Are you by chance from the midwest too?

It always amazes me when people are interested in the small doings of my life. I think what happens is that they feel free to share their small doings right back. Friendships are made that way. Even cyber-friends.

Nynke said...

I really wouldn't know what the most annoying marketing strategy I've come across is... Nothing worse than posting a blurb somewhere that turned out to be not quite my thing. And Emily, I love how much new and fun stuff you try!

Since I don't have much to add to that, and I'm in love, I'll share how I met my sweetie: he got me all starry-eyed at a friend's birthday party in a barn, when I was 14. And years later he joined the same student association as me... But he would not have been my sweetie now if we hadn't reconnected through facebook. The Internet is good for love as well as friendship and marketing :).

Nynke said...

Oh, and by the way, what's a gleek?

EmilyBryan said...

Nynke! What a fun "how I met my sweetie story!" Hope you had a lovely Christmas in Norway with his family.

"Gleek" is a combination of a couple of words. Choirs are sometimes called "glee clubs" and someone who is a little nerdy is called a "geek." If you put them together, you get a singing nerd--a "gleek!"

Janet Kay Gallagher said...

Got a job at a Drugstore Cosmetic Counter. Found out how much money I would be paid and figured living expenses. I thought I could eat one meal a day for lunch and get fruit for breakfast and dinner. First day I found a pasta meal would fit my budget very well. Real hungry 2nd day. went to same place and ordered pasta dinner. Cook/Waiter different than before. Came over and spoke to me. When I started to pay I was told he had paid for my lunch. He had gone already. Yea Budget not ruined.Skipped lunch next day.Ate at a different place next day. Went back, He bought lunch and asked me out. My money lasted until payday. We got married a year later. Lasted until he passed away thirty years later.

EmilyBryan said...

Janet--What a sweet story. Thank you for sharing. I'm sorry for your loss, but happy you had so many years together with such a thoughtful man (I know it never seems like long enough.)