Monday, January 24, 2011

Do The Hustle or Die in Oblivion

I’m just going to say it: writers are among the worst marketers in the world. Myself included. Despite spending my entire adult life in the marketing profession, I found the thought of selling myself to be repulsive and tawdry. Once I had the book deal, I wanted to be an “artist” and leave all the promotions to my publicist in New York. Luckily, it didn’t take long for me to snap out of that fantasy and realize that marketing is my responsibility. In fact, marketing is second only to the writing itself.

Agents and editors tell us that the most important skills writers can possess are the ability and willingness to publicize our work. But a lot of us do this half-heartedly or hardly at all. And the scary thing about marketing is that it’s worthless if not done properly. With this in mind, I’d like to give you some things to consider regarding marketing.

-Examine your attitude.
If you have any hang-ups about promoting yourself, you need to leave them at the door and get to business. Remember that you’re advancing your work, not “tooting your own horn.” It is about advancing your stories, your books, your creative output.

-Know thy audience.
We write in isolation, but we market to make connections with people. Our job is to get their attention and keep them engaged. Build a community around your stories. Keep that community happy and well-fed.

-Know your competition.
Study what competing writers are doing and make yourself distinctive in some way. Being different will make a difference.

-Build your brand.
I had a defined brand, complete with website, promo materials, and speaking gigs, five years before I even had an agent or a manuscript. I knew from the beginning that The Cracker Queen would present a model of Southern womanhood rarely articulated or celebrated.

-Look at your book as your product.  
Ask these questions about the product. Is it well-made? Is it compelling? Is it really ready for market? How will you spread the word about your product?

-Assess your marketing strategies.
Ask these questions about the marketing you’re doing. Does your marketing make someone give a damn about your product? Does it make them care and want to know more? Does your marketing have energy? Have you tested it on prospective readers and gotten their reactions? Have you mastered the tools of marketing? (If not, you might consider hiring someone who has.)

-It is a constant hustle.
You must never stop marketing. It’s entirely up to you to keep your work alive. No one else will.

-Don’t expect instant gratification.
Marketing does not typically yield instant results. Keep at it. The rewards will come.

My final four words on this topic are the most important and apply to both your writing and your marketing:

Lauretta Hannon is the author of The Cracker Queen--A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life. She is a shameless self-promoter, and you should be, too. During her tenure as a university marketing professional, she was nationally-acclaimed as the most award-winning marketing communications expert in higher education. Visit her at


Nicole Seitz said...

You're hired!

No, really, this was something I need desperately at this time...a good swift kick. It is so hard to promote your own work because you feel like a salesman, not a writer. But then again, you can't keep writing if your books don't sell. What to do.
Thank you for this post,

Shameless plug: My new novel, THE INHERITANCE OF BEAUTY (Feb. 8), is a story of enduring love. Guaranteed to make you want to run and go call the people you love and tell them that you love them. Great for moms, dads, sweeties, spouses and even teens.
(How's that Lauretta?!)

GAgrl said...

This is terrific advice and applies to all of us who are trying to hustle a living out of our creativity. I am a web designer/jewelry designer/quiltmaker who is unemployed (through no fault of my own!) and now trying to scratch out a living on my talents alone. I must constantly focus, focus, focus, which for an artist is no easy task oh look - a butterfly!

Your words are words to live by! I shall endeavor to do so!

Peggy Webb said...

Great advice! Thanks.

K. Harrington said...

Nice to know we're not alone, Lauretta! Great post.

renea said...

Not only are you the Cracker Queen, you are THE Queen of Marketing. Seriously, you have been everywhere talking about your book, and we are in awe!
Renea Winchester

The Pulpwood Queen said...

You got that right sister can I get an AMEN!

Darla M. McCorkle said...

Lauretta, it all sounds exhausting! I know you are right. I've seen dear author friends drag from book event to book reading to luncheon all in the name of their book! As a reader, not a writer, I love getting to see my favorite authors! As a friend to some I always wish they could be home just writing that next book!