Thursday, February 10, 2011

Marketing, Smarketing

For me, marketing falls somewhere between “I don’t know I just work here” and “I wish I knew now what I didn’t know then”. (Cue the music.) Necessary background, condensed out of sympathy for those who may have heard the weary story before: After a lifetime (two years, more or less) of filing rejection slips alphabetically, I created my own platform (online community called All Things Southern) and went about publishing my own books in my hard-headed version of build it and they will come. One website, three self-published books, seven years, a gazillion tiny speaking engagements, and one weekly video and radio show later, I signed with a wonderful agent who eventually sold my fourth book to Penguin Group USA/Berkley. Trust me; that was the abbreviated version.

Having been a self-published author, I was down with the hard facts. The only way my work was going to get promoted was if I did the promoting. The hats were all mine, from stock girl to publicist. If I didn’t contact a store in person, there was zero chance they’d ever carry my books. Granted, the chances were slim that they would carry my work even after I started stalking ‘em but the odds would increase, albeit marginally.

When Suck Your Stomach In and Put Some Color On came out in May 2008, I was ready to set my book promoting self aside, concentrate on my writing, run All Things Southern and live happily ever after in My Publisher Will Handle That Land. Reality can be so pie-in-the-face rude. The new hard facts looked a lot like the old ones. I may have leapt the big hurdle but if I wanted to stay in the race, I still needed to pick ‘em up and put ‘em down.

The sequel to that book, Sue Ellen’s Girl Ain’t Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy, is scheduled for release May 3rd. In a perfect world, I would hire an outside publicist with the energy level of Kathy Patrick, the Pulpwood Queen, and the marketing skills of whoever is behind Justin How-Did-This-Happen Beiber, but alas my resources are limited. Instead, I will try to live by my own Marketing Commandments:

-I will help Penguin’s in-house publicist help me by remembering that I’m only one of many authors she is working with and any media contacts or leads I can gather or pass on to her will help maximize her time, and thus my book’s exposure.

- I will send out Sue Ellen’s postcards to AT LEAST the bookstores that hosted signings for my last book and as many more as I possibly can.

- I will maintain a current database of the stores that welcome me for a signing and try to be more prompt about following up with thank you notes.

- I will interact with the public as much as possible at book events. Everyone has a story and every event is an opportunity to capture new ones.

- I will have material, (book marks, business cards, etc.) to hand out at book signings so potential book buyers can feel comfortable walking away to consider the purchase instead of being put on the spot.

- I will call radio stations and ask if they are interested in doing giveaways of my book and I’ll consider it a good investment for the trade-off in airtime.

- I will attend as many book festivals as physically possible to connect with readers and writers.

- I will continue to make every effort to see that my weekly newsletter is entertaining and informative, keeping in mind that this is my way of giving back to the ATS community.

- I will not use social media selfishly. Communication, by definition, is a two way street. My readers are people, not numbers, and they deserve to be treated as such.

- I will support my fellow authors. (Towards, that end: Dear author friends, please contact me if you would like to guest on my blog at All Things Southern.)

- I will do readings at area libraries. Their patrons may not buy books, but they are readers. As writers we have a shared responsibility to promote reading.

And number twelve of my Happy Dozen:

- I will enjoy my life while I’m promoting my work, knowing that I am living what I first dreamed many years ago as a little girl perched in the top of my reading/writing mimosa tree. I am a writer and I will be grateful for that privilege.


Shellie Rushing Tomlinson lives in Lake Providence, Louisiana with her husband, Phil. She's owner and publisher of All Things Southern and the host of a daily radio show and weekly video segment by the same name. A list of the twenty-eight radio stations that carry Shellie's daily southern features can be found at All Things Southern. You can listen to Shellie's All Things Southern LIVE Talk Show each Monday evening from 5-6 PM CST on TALK540 out of Monroe, LA. The show streams LIVE and podcasts are available so everyone can join Shellie's southern celebration!


Nicole Seitz said...

This is a great post, Shellie. I love seeing your organized marketing bullets. It's helping me with my own marketing efforts.
By the way, your new book is wonderful, hilarious, wise, and will sell BIG.

Shellie Tomlinson said...

Gracious, sweet Nicole! If there was anything here that could help you spread the word about your work-- and especially your newest release that I'm in love with "The Inheritance of Beauty", then color me delighted!

Anna Michaels said...

Great adivce from a generous heart. Your new book sounds wonderful! And thanks for the offer to guest blog. I'll take you up on it!

Judy Christie said...

Very helpful post, Shellie, and I can do a testimonial that you practice what you preach! You've been so generous to have me on your show, and I've seen you smiling and signing and encouraging here, there and everywhere, planting seeds in so many ways.
Thanks and have fun with the launch of your new book!

Shellie Tomlinson said...

Thank you, Anna. Please hit a contact button on my website (yes, they all go to me except for the wow speakers contact *grin*)and we'll set up that blog visit.

Shellie Tomlinson said...

Judy, your testimonial warmed my heart! I could say the same for your generous soul. THANKS and God Bless!

Renea Winchester said...

One of the best things about this blog is the honesty of those who contribute. I am so happy to tag along with this smart group of Authors. Now let's work on cloning Kathy. Honestly, does she ever sleep?

In previous posts I've mentioned my affection for libraries and Shellie, I am so happy you made that point. Libraries are struggling to do more with less. We must remember that not every city has a bookstore, and sometimes the best gift you can offer is your time and a signed copy of your book donated to a public library.

Shellie Tomlinson said...

I couldn't agree more, Renea-- both with cloning KP and supporting those libraries! :)

Glenda Council Beall said...

This is one of the best blogs! This post is excellent as many authors have no idea what they need to do to sell their books.
Thanks for sharing.

Shellie Tomlinson said...

You're welcome, Glenda! I'm glad you enjoyed it.