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Archive for July, 2009

So a publicist walks into a party…

I really get a kick out of telling people at parties that I’m a literary publicist, mostly because my marketing mind is constantly conducting consumer research—whether sitting in a corporate boardroom or standing in line at the movie theater. Here’s the word on the street: nobody really knows what it is I (read: literary marketing and publicity professionals in general) do all day. Some think publicist=publisher=printer (enough of the same letters, right?) and start asking me questions about how I make the pretty books. Some think I’m one of those faceless paper-pushers filling an Office Space cubicle. Some are even convinced I spend my weeks jet-setting in stilettos from swanky premiere to high-profile award ceremony á la Brangelina’s “people.”

Yeah, not so much. I trip just carrying books down the hall in my flip flops.

The truth is this: as a publicist, it’s fair to say I spend half my day communicating with media contacts in pitching our books or responding to their own queries; the other half is spent answering questions from authors and internal staff. Lots of questions, and lots of the same questions, about the parameters of what we can do internally to publicize books and authors, and what authors themselves can and should be doing. As you might have guessed, a lot of those questions are about social media.

I hear you over there. “But I’m not really sure what I’m doing. Shouldn’t I get some sort of certification as a social media expert before I jump in and risk… irrevocable writing career damage?” To you, a little relief: there are no true experts. And while “yes, Virginia, there is bad publicity,” for the most part, you’ll only grow more adept at this stuff from placing yourself into the fray. The beautiful, replicable concept here is about community—community of authors, publishing industry folks, media, and readers—figuring it out together. I love this quote from a Harper Collins marketing exec in a recent New York Observer piece on publishers’ involvement with social media:

“Nobody knows what they’re doing—you just have to jump in and work together. What I don’t understand about people who are hesitating is, what’s the alternative? Doing nothing? That doesn’t seem like much of a strategy.”

We’re so excited about the concept of The Back Porch because it’s a small mirror of the community vibe we want to cast as your ultimate goal as an author. Community building=readership building=book sales. It’s a place where we can share the wisdom we’ve gathered by sifting through lots of strong opinions and observations, and can work together set new standards for building readership. Let me make one thing clear: when we say we, it’s not the royal We The Marketing Experts. It’s we the Thomas Nelson Fiction team—each one of you working alongside us and alongside each other, sharing what’s working, expressing frustration about what’s not working, responding with new ideas.

To get you thinking and talking, a couple of helpful links and 101 articles:
The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter from Michael Hyatt, CEO, Thomas Nelson. Great how-to. Mike raises the bar for our team, authors and publishing staff alike.
Identifying and Connecting with Influencers from Brian Solis of FutureWorks. At times he’s a little heady, but makes some interesting points on furthering relationship.
Techipedia: Tamar Weinberg Tamar is a “social media enthusiast” (a lot more believable than “expert,” right?). Her blog’s one to follow and proves a concept I like: if you want to build your community of readers, your postings should be a mix of business and personal musings. The authenticity is refreshing and powerful.

So pass the sweet tea already, and pass along a question or cool find while you’re at it, will you? Let’s get this party started.

Cheers, friends-
Katie
Twitter: @ksbond

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email-headerThe Importance of Building Your Platform
the-importance-of-building-your-platform
Last Friday, I spoke at the Music City Media Mixer, a luncheon sponsored by George Uribe and Ebie McFarland. I spoke on the topic of “The Importance of Building an Author Platform.” While my talk focused primarily on authors, the principles I shared apply to anyone trying to sell anything in today’s environment.

Building an author platform has never been more important. This is because of three realities author’s face today:

More books are being published than ever before. More than 408,000 new books were published in the U.S. in 2007. That number grew 38% to 561,000 new titles in 2008.
Meanwhile, retail shelf space remained relatively constant. The small growth in chain stores was offset by the number of independent booksellers going out of business.
Worse, other forms of media compete for the public’s attention. Whether you are a clerk in a story or president of a corporation, you only have 24 hours in a day. Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of your attention.
So how do you break through the clutter and get your message out? I would suggest four ways:

1. Write a truly remarkable book. I often get asked by bloggers how to increase their traffic. I usually reply, “Start by writing something that people want to read and will recommend to their friends.” This is true of books, too.
2. Take responsibility for your own success. Publishers are not in business to make you famous. They have a lot on their plate, too. Most don’t have the resources to build your platform from scratch. They expect to get a head start when they sign you.
3. Don’t rely on traditional, interruption-based marketing. You know the kind of talking about—where someone thinks that if they shout loudly or frequently enough, they can coerce you into buying their product. In our over-connected, media-rich world, this has never been less effective.
4. Build a tribe of your own. Tribes are no longer about geography, ethnicity, or a common culture. According to Seth Godin in his landmark book, Tribes, they are about people with a shared passion. All they lack is leadership and a means of communication. This communication must occur on four levels:
o Tribe leader to tribe member;
o Tribe member to tribe leader;
o Tribe member to tribe member; and
o Tribe member to outsider.
If you build a tribe in the manner Seth suggests, you gain access to the most precious resource on the planet: other people’s attention. While this process is not easy, it is easier than ever before. With the right leadership and use of social media tools, virtually anyone can build a platform today.

Imagine what this could mean to you as an author. If you can bring to the table, not only great content, but an established platform, you will have agents and publishers lined up to sign you.

Question: What are you doing to build your platform?

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