Bogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Monterey, Calif.
Weather: Sunny and low 70s
Wendy Lawton and I are spending a couple of days of utter misery–suffering through astounding views of the Pacific, feeling the cool summer breezes off the ocean, and walking on the boardwalk. We’re looking for the ideal site for the Books & Such 2010 clients’ retreat. We’ve honed in on Monterey as a great locale, and now we’re dipping into the specifics by visiting hotels and sampling restaurants’ menus. In other words, we’re enduring serious suffering.
While Wendy and I are here, our conversations will gravitate to how to make our authors as effective as possible in their writing and in promoting their books. The current publishing climate isn’t for the faint of heart or weak of spirit; it takes a willingness to experiment and try new things to find what will generate the word of mouth to sell books.
How can a writer find his or her book’s audience? Often the Internet is the perfect place. I know of an author, frustrated by not finding a home for her work with traditional publishers, who wrote an epidsodic novel on her website. Tens of thousands of hits ensued. She’s using that success to leapfrog her into a book published by a traditional publisher. (While a website isn’t free, it certainly can be done on a small budget and can help a writer to find readers–and possibly a publishing home.)
Promotion opportunities abound online. My client, Dawn Meehan, wrote a clever story about grocery shopping with her six kids so she could sell on eBay a package of opened but unused Pokeman cards that the kids picked up while coasting down the food aisles. The story went viral, and Dawn received a million hits on her blog in one month. From that came an agent (me!); a handsome, two-book contract; a film option; and numerous spokesperson opportunities with national brands ranging from clothes to diapers to cars.
When Jennifer Weiner learned Best Friends Forever had hit #1 on The New York Times best-seller list, what was the first thing she did? Twittered and Facebooked to thank her truly best friends who had bought the book and told their friends about it.
I’ve heard many writers say, “Don’t tell me to Twitter. I don’t have anything to say. And no one cares what I ate for breakfast.” Oh, yeah? It all depends on how you tweet about what you had for breakfast.
Once you start Twittering, you’ll discover you especially enjoy reading certain people’s tweets. Read and learn what makes for effective twittering. Whose tweets do you anticipate reading? Why? What are they doing that you can borrow and give it a twist to make it a reflection of who you are?
One of my favorites is Patsy Clairmont because she can write the most beautifully phrased, thought-provoking ideas in 140 characters. But other days she’ll set off a round of giggles for me with her tweet, such as confessing she had pumpkin pie for breakfast but it was okay because she added whipped cream as her dairy product. I never know what to expect from her except that reading her tweets is rewarding.
For me, I’m very conscious of using Twitter to convey info about our agency, my agenting, or our clients. So when I decide what to write, I really give it some thought rather than just dashing off the first thing that occurs to me. I try to be a resource by linking to mind-expanding articles about publishing’s future or providing publishing news or career helps. Those tweets often are retweeted.
But, if I want to generate comments, I’ll write something like: “Don’t you hate it when you sneeze right after you’ve applied your mascara? Thus began my morning.” Or one day I announced I was heading off for a pedicure, and when I returned to my computer, I tweeted the name of the polish I had chosen: I’m Not a Waitress. I wondered via Twitter how that name was chosen. Theories on the rationale behind the name immediately appeared from my followers. Why? It was something personal they could connect with. Social networking really is about making those personal connections, and personal connections translate into readers or business partners. It’s a beautiful thing. And all for free.
We have such powerful tools available to us that cost us mostly in terms of creativity rather than dollars. It’s up to us to use them well.
Question: What creative idea have you employed that reaped surprising results? Or maybe you’ve heard of someone else’s success…