Marketing From a Village

Hinterstein Germany Village Buildings Mountains (from pixabay.com)

This past month the local writer’s group I’m a member of held its own book-fair at one of the local parks.

For the first hour, I went, mingled with my fellow writers and watched the band and food vendors set up for the weekly Fridays on Vine concert. Everyone seemed excited, hopeful that the concert and the sign welcoming the public to come meet local authors would bring a stream of locals through the pavilion.

No one said it aloud, but we all watched people gathering on the grass and at the picnic tables as if we might know some of them. As if they might see us, come running in (with their friends, of course) and buy books.

Only a handful of visitors trickled through while I was there, and I don’t think more than a few books got sold, but I still consider the night a success.

Here’s why:

As a united entity, we authors vivaciously reached out to the public.

To my knowledge, this is the first time our little group has ever done this.

It takes guts to welcome new people to come see what we’re up to. It takes courage to put on a professional image, especially when, for most of us, our fledgling works have been self-published and all the marketing efforts are up to us.

For some of us, it takes everything we have to overcome Imposter Syndrome enough that our neighbors, relatives and other people we meet in settings like this will take us seriously. We hope they will at least notice that we take ourselves seriously. (That in itself is a great leap forward.)

I overheard one author say to another, “I don’t know. Sometimes I think we’re all just buying books from each other.”

That may be true. I came home with stacks of bookmarks and two books from my fellow authors, but here’s the deal:

To succeed, self-published authors and traditionally-published authors with little or no marketing budget must be united.

We need to sell the works of other authors as well as our own writings. We need to pass out those bookmarks to every potential reader we meet.

In a world where Talkers and Sneezers make ideas like great books go viral, we need to form tweet teams and street teams that will actually pound the pavement occasionally.

We need a village, and we need to sell to the villages we live in.

That means creating our own wave of enthusiasm, relying on each other to help spread the word, and forming our own movement that can eventually pick up momentum in our own towns and cities and spread to the larger world.

We create online villages by blogging, commenting on each other’s blogs, participating in blog hopping and blog tours, attending virtual book launches and creating author pages on Amazon and Facebook. These are helpful (and so fun they’re sometimes addicting). Wherever we go, we try to seek out our target audiences, hoping they’ll become part of our online villages.

I wonder, though, if they’ll ever really replace people we can get to know.

It takes a lot more courage to reach out to people you can see and touch than it does to reach out to people you might never meet in person. This is one reason why I admire writers who sell their books at trade fairs and arrange for book signings in libraries and bookstores.

Perhaps this is also why I value my writer’s group so much. This last month, at least, these other authors were my village. Even though I didn’t bring any bookmarks to pass out or books to sell, I felt their combined energy swelling up and spilling over into the concert at the park. Since then, two books from one local author have made the bestsellers list on Amazon.

I can’t help but see a connection here.

Her village is thriving.

 

 

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7 Responses to “Marketing From a Village”

  1. Well-said, Gwen. Indie is the place for collaboration, while Traditional is the place for competition. I’m part of a small, informal group of indie authors who are starting to gain my momentum by combining our efforts across the board, everything from manuscript development to pricing to cover design. The learning curve is steep, but the relationships we’ve made along the way are invaluable, both inside and out of the group. We’re still small, but our efforts are starting to bear fruit. Baby steps …

    We’ve done a couple of blog posts on the value on collaboration that you might find relevant to the conversation:

    J.A. Konrath’s Blog – Giving Our Way to Success: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2014/04/guest-post-by-dale-t-phillips-and-vlad-v.html

    Susan Kaye Quinn’s Blog – Innovation: Four Indie Authors, One Small Cooperative: http://www.susankayequinn.com/2014/06/innovation-four-indie-authors-one-small.html

    Like

    • Hi Vlad,

      I don’t normally approve comments with links in them, but these links look exciting. How did you get started with your indie author group? What suggestions would you give to new indie authors who want to build the same kind of network?

      So nice to meet you, even electronically. πŸ™‚ Wishing you all the best!

      Gwen

      Like

      • Thanks for the reply, Gwen, and for the opportunity to contribute!

        Dale T. Phillips and I met at the New England Authors Expo & Book Sale a few years back; the expo is a fantastic event to network and meet people in the industry, and that’s where it all started. It’s a grassroots event that any writer can attend, and is pretty vibrant with indie culture, although some of the writers who attend are traditionally published … but we don’t hold that against them πŸ˜‰ .

        Events like the expo is where I would start for anyone looking to get into the indie world and establish relationships, because that’s what worked for me. People are generally willing to share experiences and information, and for me, it was the genesis of it all. I see these type of events popping up more and more as writers connect through social media and the world of publishing continues to change, although “face time” is still where you’re more likely to make an initial connection; social media is great for keeping in touch after the fact. Networking, trading books (and leaving a review if I genuinely like the work), striking up conversations, assessing other peoples’ methods and marketing materials and applying them to what I know, sharing information, supporting other authors etc. were all key to creating my network.

        By attending these events and helping others, they in turn helped me. Dale and I soon met three other authors, and now have five authors in our little group; we intend to keep it small and nimble because we all have day jobs and still have to produce work and serve as editors for everyone else. I would shy away from becoming too top-heavy for logistical reasons, but that’s just me. Once I found people who were passionate about the craft and driven to succeed, we started working on manuscript development together. We started as acquaintances, but through our work have become genuine friends, not just business associates, so that definitely helps. Plus, we leave our egos at the door, and offer honest (sometimes brutal) criticism because we want to see our friends succeed. Sometimes it’s tough to take, but in the end we’re all vested in mutual success, so it’s worked well so far.

        The down side to all this is that, just like social media, the more social you are, the more I think you’ll get out of it; introverted people may find these strategies more difficult to execute. I’m not one of those people who is a natural salesman, so my methods have all been learned by trial-and-error. The solution for me was to forget about the salesman aspect and just be real. Far and away the best sales pitch I’ve got isn’t a sales pitch at all, it’s a conversation starter:

        “Excuse me, sir or madam, what do you like to read?”

        Most readers are happy to talk books, so this opens the door for me to tell them about my work based on their answer, if it applies. If they’re not interested in horror or sci-fi, then I happily recommend someone else’s work if I can. Most readers are appreciative, and almost all will consider my recommendation. I have no problem selling other people’s work because they in turn sell mine. I think we extrapolate on this a bit in the Konrath post – but once you establish your group and everyone is acquainted with everyone else’s work, you can then cross-sell at live events more effectively.

        So that’s my “short” response on how I got involved with my informal collaborative. πŸ™‚

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  2. I’m one of the writers in Vlad’s group. I can’t tell you how valuable it has been for my own writing to get feedback, critique, and encouragement from the other writers on our team, all of whom I trust and respect. They can serve as my motivation and my self-imposed deadline. There are days when I just plain don’t feel like writing, and then I remember; “I told those guys I’d have this to them next month. Time to get cracking!” And so I do.

    I’m pretty introverted myself and it can be tiring to spend a day at a craft fair, convention, author event or library reading greeting people and answering questions. But it’s the only way to meet like-minded people and start building relationships, with both authors and readers. I, too, don’t go for the salesman approach. Often, a smile and a “How are you today? Is there any genre or author in particular you like to read?” (as Vlad said) is all it takes to start an interesting conversation.

    Writing is a solitary profession, and often a difficult one. We need the reinforcement from other writers to help us hone our craft. I feel being a writer is a life-long learning process–I’m always reading and learning different approaches, styles, tones, voices–and that we should, as authors, inspire and help each other to continue on that path. Someone who writes well and is passionate about the written word is eventually going to produce something that I’m going to love reading; why wouldn’t fellow writers want to encourage that?

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  3. When someone asks me to review saying they will send me a freebie, if I agree to give them the review, I buy the book instead of taking the freebie. Honestly, I think the sale will help them more than the review. And, if it is a requested review, I will find something good to say about it. I may mention something negative, but I cannot say, “Yuch”. I guess it is professional courtesy.

    Like

    • I’m sure you’re right about the purchase. If you buy on Amazon, doesn’t it immediately bump up their rating and their chances to get noticed by other potential buyers? I really like that philosophy.

      Liked by 1 person

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