Our Liars Club series of answers to burning questions about writing and publishing continues today with Burning Question #2: What one marketing tip would you share with a new author? Each day, a different Liar will offer a response. For answers to Burning Question #1, check prior posts!
Workshops. Invent and do workshops. That’s my big red-hot tip.
See, folks just don’t come out to signings at bookstores like they used to. They’re busy. They forget. They have to make a lasagna. Whatever. And there are several gajillion books coming out every second, so you need a way to stand out, and to get folks away from their lasagna to you for at least a while.
My first novel WHAT I MEANT… is for the teen market. Picture book and middle reader authors have it easier, because elementary schools have the bucks to bring authors in to speak and to sell. Those folks can get anywhere from $500 to a few grand to spend an afternoon with the kids, and the PTA foots the bill, and the parents send in checks to pay for the books, and it’s all good. But when you’re a YA author? Not so much. Middle schools and high schools usually don’t budget for appearances. Authors of adult fiction and non-fiction face the same dilemma.
Which brings me back to workshops. I knew my market: teens. And I knew that teens were notoriously busy, when they weren’t feeling notoriously lazy. And that they have all these crazy obligations with school, and trying to impress colleges and whatnot. So I needed to find a way to fit into their lives. To give them something they could use and enjoy…plus sell my books too.
Since I’m also a Girl Scout leader, I knew that teen scouts need to earn a certain number of badges for their Silver and their Gold awards. I also knew that these badges could take several months to complete. And there’s this reading badge. Hm…
So I’ve developed my So What’s the Story? workshop that earns scouts the badge in just 2 hours. I made sure it was fun and interesting, and that I’d give participants a taste of my book through a series of mini readings that corresponded with activities we had to do. Each scout gets a copy of my novel, and at the end, I sign them. It’s been a huge hit, and sometimes I get writer’s cramp from signing as many as 100 books at a shot! To date, I’ve easily sold over 1,000 books this way, and I’ve also cultivated relationships with over 1,000 teen readers.
I encourage any author to think hard about the audience of his or her book. And what does that audience NEED? Sometimes entertainment is what your audience craves. If you write memoirs, can you teach senior citizens how to write their own? Is your heroine a huge pasta fan? How about a cooking lesson/book reading package, with your book included in the package price? Be inventive and creative.
Sometimes your audience needs to fulfill certain requirements. Have an inspiring story? Corporations hire motivational speakers. Have an unusual skill that is highlighted in your writing? Different associations require continuing education credits from professionals in order for them to keep their licenses. Even Landscape Architects must do this. Teachers too. Can you find out the requirements of these continuing ed credits, and work with an association to meet their needs through your specially tailored workshop? And can you include a copy of your book in the fee?
Of course you can! Your audience gets what they need. You sell your books.
Win-win all around.
Liar Marie Lamba is author of the young adult novel WHAT I MEANT… (Random House). Her work also appears in the anthology CALL ME OKAASAN, and in many magazines including Writer’s Digest, Garden Design and Your Home.