Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Savvy Marketing Skills

I spent 30+ years marketing other people, mostly physicians in private practice. From analyzing the way their receptionist treated patients to making sure they received a minimum of two media appearances a month, our clients grew their practices slowly and steadily by a) treating patients well and b) marketing their services.

As authors, we need to do the same: a) write the best stories we possibly can and b) market the hell out of our books.

It took me 10 years to finish my memoir, which just came out at the end of February, 2009. I haven't been a marketing/pr professional since 1999--I've thought of myself as a writer. But now I realize I must wear two hats and I must learn to switch between those two hats in any given day. If the writing isn't going well, I can shift to marketer. If I'm having trouble "selling" myself, it's back to writing I will go.

It's funny (not ha ha funny) that I've been so unwilling to utilize my marketing expertise on myself. I still find myself wanting to help others, like my singing coach, for example. I'll give her all sorts of ideas on how to let people know about her services. Why is it so hard for writers to "sell" themselves? Because it feels like selling your children. Well, I realized this past week that my book is not my child, even though I birthed it. It represents many years of pain, tears, lessons learned, losses beyond measure, and the blood and sweat that went into getting that all down on paper. I do have something to say and hopefully if it finds its way into readers' hands, they will gain something from it.

So I am going to share a handy dandy little marketing device I used when first starting out with clients. They say that you teach what you need to learn, so here goes. It involves creating a table with four columns:

Target Audience Current Perception Desired Perception Tools/Tactics

In the first column, you list the audiences who might benefit from or be interested in reading your book. The way to do this is to identify themes that run through the manuscript. In my memoir, there are several themes: low self-esteem, early childhood sexual molestation, dysfunctional family, poor relationship choices, adolescent promiscuity, child custody loss, parental alienation syndrome, to name a few. From the themes, come up with groups you might target: survivors of childhood sexual abuse, adult children of alcoholics, womens' support groups, rape crisis centers, etc.

Once you have a target audience list, determine what their current perception of you/your book is. In most cases, it will be unknown.

In the desired perception column, for each group you've identified, put down what you want them to know about you/your book. It might be a different message for each group, it might not. I would have a different message if I were targeting teenage girls about promiscuity than if I were trying to reach older adults who are discussing their dysfunctional childhoods, for example.

The last column becomes your marketing plan. For each target audience and desired perception, you attach a marketing tool. Here is a partial list of tools/tactics to cull from:

  • Speaking engagements
  • Articles in newspapers and magazines
  • Advertisements in newspapers and magazines
  • Direct mail
  • Radio and TV interviews

You then need to match a marketing tool with an audience and desired perception. Like so:

Target Audience: Teenage girls

Current Perception: unknown

Desired Perception: become known as advocate for fostering high self-esteem using my book as example of what not to do, by telling my story.

Tools/Tactics: Set up talks at local high schools, camps, wherever I can find groups of teenage girls; Write articles about adolescent promiscuity and its pitfalls; Arrange radio and TV interviews on the topic (would have to write what's called a "pitch" letter to make this happen. It's similar to a query, but not quite the same thing.

Hmm, perhaps I could give seminars to writers on this. What do you think? Nope, that's just another way to take my time away from writing.




Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great advice, Karen. And a good reminder that we all need to take a step back from our book and think about it more dispassionately as a marketer.


Morgan Mandel said...

Soon I'll be doing some of what you've mentioned when Killer Career comes out. First, I'm trying to get it ready. I'm almost there.

I have made efforts with my other books to target audiences, but I intend to do even better this time around.

Morgan Mandel

N A Sharpe said...

You have some great advice here - well thought out with a plan to implement it. PR and Marketing are areas I need work in. Thanks for some good ideas for approaching it.


Anonymous said...

This is solid advice -- I'm going to need it when my book comes out! It's great to hear from folks like you who are steps ahead of me.

Galen Kindley said...

What works for me in this post is the organziational structure. It provides focus and a plan. With those two attributes...it's pretty hard to go wrong.


Jina Bacarr said...

You've done an excellent job applying your marketing skills to promoting your book.

I esp. identify with: "what you want them to know about your book." I write erotic romance but my latest book is also filled with WWII history, intrigue and a paranormal plot. I try to target those elements as well in my pitch.

Thank you for the super tips!



Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent post, Karen. Some marketing projects are so much fun. Others not so much. I'm trying lots of new things with this second book, so it's going to be an interesting ride. With a little bit of luck and clever marketing methods, maybe I can get by with only a couple of torturous solo booksignings.


Anonymous said...

Excellent advice and plan. It is said the difference between a goal and a dream is a dream is a goal without a plan. You have a great plan, so now just DO it. :)

K. A. Laity said...

Excellent advice! I can understand the reluctance to use the things you know -- maybe in the back of your mind was the thought that someone else might come in and do it for you as you had done for so many. It's hard working for yourself -- you don't get any pay and your boss is a tough customer!

The Practical Preserver said...

Excellent post. We get so close to our work that we need some help when it comes time to launching that baby out into the world.