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…
I didn’t know you were Dawn’s agent! I just met her a couple weekends ago and heard all about her story over a PR lunch. HOW COOL!
I’m actually very active on Twitter and have been surprised by the opportunities that have come my way because of it. Most of my “creative ideas” that reaped amazing results came about completely by accident – like writing a photo essay about dish soap that got an insane amount of traffic for a product review and led to a long term relationship with a PR company.
Neat post Janet. And I’m totally with you on everything you said. I started a Twitter account for one of my fictional characters (who actually is dead) from a novel I am seeking representation for. She’s @Grandma_Dorothy on Twitter. Grandma D’s tweets range from commenting on someone else’s to sharing words of wisdom (i.e. Always do the right thing. It might not be what’s easiest). Anyway, I’m having lots of fun with this. People are following and that’s great. I’m a journalist (newspaper editor) and many of my colleagues follow me. It’s neat that they will say things like: What would Grandma D do? Or, what would Grandma D say? She’s the grandma we all hoped we had or wish to be someday. Interesting that I’ve taken this idea and have started to work on designing retro shirts with Grandma D’s picture and sayings, like I’m a retro kind of girl (see her picture on Twitter). Who knows where this could lead? But using Twitter has definitely helped “market” her. Now for the book. But that’s another story. But I’m keeping the faith.
Janet, may you and Wendy have a wonderful time exploring Monterey! I think you will find just the right spot for the 2010 retreat. I liked your comments about communicating on social networks. I often tell of a good book I’m reading–a natural way to promote. On Facebook I gave glowing remarks about Di Ann Mill’s novel,BREACH OF TRUST.
I am totally impressed that you are Dawn Meehan’s agent! 🙂 I was one of the million who read her eBay post and laughed myself silly.
Your posts this week and Kathleen Y’Barbo’s Friday articles are my own personal “Marketing for Dummies”. There’s so much to learn, and new tools are developing daily. I feel like I’m running to catch up, but at least I have a couple of digital “personal trainers”.
I recently begun twittering. I try to promote my writing and my webpage. This brought in new readers to my webpage. However, good point, Janet, about Patsy Clairmont. I pepper my tweats with quotes or writing related stuff, but pumpkin pie for breakfast with whipped cream as her dairy? mmmm…I do need to add some variety to my breakfast food.
Dawn’s stuff is hilarious! I wish I were suffering in Monterey, too… checking out venues and restaurants… So hard.
I got my first radio book-interview because of Facebook… an old friend… a brother… 3 degrees of separation.
How to Keep Your Inner Mess from Trashing Your Outer World (Kregel, 2009)
I have no creative idea for you, but wanted to say I really liked this post.
You’ve inspired some outside-the-box thinking this morning! Thanks for the insights! I’m a tweeter and a FB user. I think they are great tools as well as a wonderful link to family and friends.
I have an inspirational/devotional travel book that I would like to see published and currently am trying to raise interest in my blog which has become more travel oriented. I’ve joined several travel forums and drive traffic to the blog by leaving links in my posts. Hopefully building a readership.
Thanks for piping up, y’all, about your Twitter, Facebook experiences. You never know what opportunities might open up when you’re a savvy user of the Internet. Miss Britt, how fun that your dish soap photo essay led to what sounds like a great gig.
And let me just say that Wendy’s and my trip to Monterey was dreamlike in its perfection. While we dined on scrumptious food, we watched the full moon pop up over the ocean like a big orange bead. It settled into a butter yellow and created a path of light on the water right to our hotel. Breathtaking. Plus we found the perfect venue for our clients’ retreat. Ohmygosh are they going to love it!
Well Janet must tell you about my little adventure on Twitter. @WayneMansfield said as an ex-Novice I’d just be right to tweet about the Saint of the Day which I did so for a few months, then stopped, thinking people found it boring. My niece, who works for an American company in Surrey (U.K)came home for a holiday recently and said that some of her coffee buddies were “bereft” that I no longer tweeted about Saints. But they are not even Catholics, I protested. “Even so,” she answered, “they were put off because they didn’t know which Saint it was that day” So my Saints have been reinstated- In spite of what the English Cardinal said against the ills of net-working… I think, it is important even though we may never know just how much.
My best free idea was an online conference. The first one I hosted because I wanted to go to a conference but didn’t have the funds or the time to attend one. We had about 50 people who attended and about 25 authors who participated. It was a lot of work to put together but it was FREE.
This year will be our sixth conference and to attend is still FREE. This year we’ll have sponsors. I would like to send someone to a real live conference if we get enough sponsors.
Sometimes free takes a lot of time and effort, but in the end it can be a blessing too.
Thanks for the posts, I’ve learned a lot about doing things for free.
Ouch! Ouuuch! Okay, I get it! Enough! My toes have been trampled and I have been thoroughly convicted! FB and Twitter, here I come!!