Hello SXSW peeps!

Thanks for a great trip last week! I’m thrilled by my trip to Austin (and exhausted). I had such a great time. Austin is just a lovely small city and I truly enjoyed our time there. Your hospitality is pretty terrific!

I talked to a lot of people during my week at SXSW. And I was always just a bit tickled by how my message focused in on the needs of each person I spoke with. I changed it up as I went. I hung out with an ad guy from D.C. and we talked print kid’s books. Next up, I was in a game design panel and talked with a game designer about using the iPad’s abilities to push manga, which is a piece of kid’s books, but slightly different. And then I went to a dinner where no one had any experience with kid’s book and it was all about the next great book on social media for brick and mortar businesses.

A diverse crowd, yes? Yes.

1. I tried to remember who I was talking to in each conversation, which is the first universal rule of good, persuasive writing, isn’t it? Or does someone else have a better first rule? Please tell me. I’d hate to be mistaken. But for my purposes here, I’ll just say, LOUDLY, that it’s helpful to know who you are talking to when you are blogging, building a community, preparing to sell a book, preparing to self-pub or indy pub, whatever. Copyblogger calls it “creating an avatar.” But that brings to mind the blue people from James Cameron’s AVATAR, and I’m always confused. Anyway!

2. Find their pain. I remember asking specific questions trying to find out what kept them awake at night or what their passion was (I use the word passion all the time; no matter what Jonathan Fields says) and it was so interesting to me what people care about and how that changed how I kept the conversation going. I am really easygoing in one-on-one conversation. You can pretty much steer me where you want me to go. I’m so not pushy. Somehow my writing translates as more pushy, and I’m trying to quit it. Really! So don’t follow my example! Be willing to be steered to follow the pointers your audience gives you about what matters to them!

3. Give more than you ask for. First mantra of my life has always been: give more. And I don’t mean giving what I think is important, but what my audience really wants from me. If they are lost about publishing, I don’t launch off into a long-winded spiel about how you should be prepare to write a lot of crap before you try publishing anything. I just say: “What are you writing about now? I think you should keep doing it.” And I offer pointers about how they can keep going. Because sometimes that’s all that people need to hear. “Keep at it!” Plus it’s pretty hard to create a strategy for a project that is never finished and it is totally discouraging to hear the self-proclaimed publishing gurus saying the same gripe over and over about how you should get the crap out of your system before you try and sell a book project. Ha! Whatever. This simply translates into “You’re not ready yet.” Nevermind some of the CRAP those publishing gurus produce on their own blogs and in their books. Sure, the project you’re working on may not get a print book deal, but don’t we all learn something from simply finishing a project? But perhaps I’m the only one.

All in all, a techhead/blogger can have the most fun with all this community-building stuff. I mean, everyone breaks their blogs or can’t figure out how to use video, or loses a password and has to figure out how to reset something. And that’s why we need people who can teach us, help us, and encourage us. Plus, how else will I know about the hottest blogging template until a blogger tells me about it? I’m just in the dark, I guess.

So, go forth and talk to your peeps now!

PS — was I too bossy in this post? Hit me with it!

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I’m so sorry for my absence. South by Southwest Interactive 2011 was AWESOME!

I had a fabulous time. I met so many people, which was very cool, but I also just loved the creativity undercurrent in Austin. You could feel it under the surface, like a auditory thrumming everywhere you went. And SXSW was everywhere. We truly took over all of Austin. Every restaurant, cafe, store, hotel, coffee shop was taken over and the hospitality blew me away. Austin really rolled out the red carpet for us and for that, thank you, Austin!

But right to the point: the biggest buzz word for authors and journalists was community. In other words, build it now.

I brought together some of the best minds in the world (literally) to my panel “The Care and Feeding of Blogs and Book Contracts” and what an action-packed hour we shared! But from the first planning meeting, I knew I would have to tell my blog readers first thing: building a community around your story is more important than ever before.

I repeat: building a community around your story is more important than EVER BEFORE.

Here’s what I mean:

1. Publishers are actively soliciting books from authors and journalists who have built their communities. These people share a vision and a passion with their community. Their community feels as if the author/journalist is really taking them somewhere. And that somewhere is where both the author/journalist and their community both really want to be. In other words, offer a solution. The community will buy whatever that author/journalist writes, sells, offers, because he/she has offered a solution that the community desperately wants.

2. Authors/journalists who are having trouble getting their book proposals looked at or seriously considered and/or bought should look at what kind of community they are building. Of course, my first question to authors/journalists is: do you have a blog? Do you know what your audience wants as an end result? Does it include a print book? These are legitimate questions that publishers will be asking. If you can’t show how you can sell 15,000 (random number that is just for example purposes) print copies to your community, the publisher is not going to be interested. How does an author prove this? By beginning to interact with a community and testing what exactly they will buy from you (see #1).

3. If you do have a community and are still not getting anywhere with publishers, take a step back and ask yourself what kind of community you are actually building. A lot of people may have built a group of people who read their stuff, but haven’t yet ascertained if that community would ever plunk down 12.95 for a print book. They may be only part of the community because it’s free and will likely never pay a dime for the content. That’s not what I think community is. To me (and to publishers), community is the ability to sell to a core group who will in turn recommend you to their core groups.

But enough about what I think. What do you think?

  • What kind of community do you want to build and what issues have you had building it?
  • Or do you have another definition of community that you think works better than mine?
  • Does it frustrate you that publishers are asking for yet another level of commitment from you as an author/journalist before they will even consider your book idea?
  • Are you ready to give up on print altogether?

Talk to me. I got to chat with authors/journalists/bloggers for 40 minutes after my panel and I loved it. My comments are open to you!

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When kid’s book authors . . . actually when ANY authors . . . ask me how to best use social media to publicize their books, I give them this answer (provided by Janet Reid of Reid Literary):

Word of mouth is the best book publicity there is.

And getting to know people on social media is the point of social media.

Sounds like the two were meant to be together, right?

Then why is there so much conflicting information out there on positioning yourself as a kid’s book author on social media? Why is it this person says to use Twitter and this other person says to use Facebook? Who are you to believe?

I think you can tell where I’m going. No one’s right or wrong, but what social network(s) could you use to get to know people in order to encourage word of mouth?

Hm. I wonder.

Oh right! Twitter and Facebook. Blogs and email newsletters. Flickr and YouTube. The list goes on and on and on.

So, you’re ready to go on all these networks. How do you position yourself successfully in the mind of your reading (and buying!) audience?

1. What’s your story? We’ve covered this before, but from a kid’s book persepective, it really matters. Because to both kids and parents, what is the story is the central question. Parents will be checking for reading level and maturity requirements, especially from YA novels and down to picture books. Kids who are picking out books (with parents or without) will be checking out the story and the characters. They’re looking for situations and dynamics that attract them. A teenage girl may yearn for a romance or adventure; a teenage boy may want something historical or out of this world.

2. What’s interesting that you can use to connect with your readers? Laura Resau, author of the forthcoming book, The Queen of Water, has connected with her audience by talking about the subject of her novel and the subject matter that her novel deals with. This is effective word of mouth enabling and platform building, but it doesn’t look like it, does it? In fact, it’s more powerful than just publicity and platform building, because it’s a story that most of us need to know more about and don’t. Resau helps us imagine what it would be like to live a life as a child laborer and whenever she talks about the subject matter, she continues to use word of mouth to get other readers interested in her book.

3. What about a book that doesn’t appear to have a strong non-fiction slant? Say you’re writing an urban fantasy, much like Penny Blubaugh’s Blood and Flowers, which undoubtedly has a non-fiction slant, but at first look appears not to. Penny wisely appeared on a writing blog talking about the background of getting this novel written and published. What a great idea! This is something that prepublished writers can’t get enough of. We (and we’re all prepublished in one genre or another, aren’t we?) are always ready to listen to a post-published author and how he or she wrote it and sold it. The world of writing how-to can’t get enough!

4. Be creative! My good friend, Dori Jones Yang, author of Daughter of Xanadu, a YA historical that came out in January, has agreed to appear at a local restaurant near Seattle for a book signing. One the evening of the book signing, the restaurant will feature a custom menu highlighting Mongolian dishes (arranged artistically and appetizingly, of course!) with corresponding wine choices. Now THAT is creative word of mouth platform building. Who wouldn’t want to read a novel that tells you more about Mongolian history after you’ve spent an evening tasting delicious Mongolian dishes? I sure would!

Next up, ideas for positioning using social media for journalists and authors and then techheads and bloggers. Yes, I’m a bit behind because of my SXSW appearance, but I’ll make it. I’m so excited! If you’re in Austin this weekend, please be sure to say hi! I would LOVE to meet you.

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It sounds so simplistic, doesn’t it?

But positioning is all about audience.

For instance, my audience is authors, writers, journalists, bloggers, novelists, techheads, business owners.

But this audience includes several sub-audience, or niches.

Becoming a niche blogger, niche author, or niche writer is particularly helpful to finding lucrative gigs and reaching the linchpin people that need to know about you in order for you to gain access to their audience.

Otherwise known as specialization for journalists/authors and market for techheads/business owners, positioning is familiar to bloggers and writers. In fact, you may be rolling your eyes at me right now. More marketing, Trish! Can’t you just get on with it?

I can’t. First things first. If we all don’t learn to position ourselves strongly in the midst of others who are selling essentially the same exact thing (listen up, authors!), we won’t get anywhere. It’s like a flashing billboard in Times Square that everyone ignores or a 30-second commercial that’s beautifully artistic but that no one can understand or the full-page book advertisement that doesn’t result in any sales.

It happens all the time in advertising. But we’re so lucky. We get to look at the mistakes of the past (and the mistakes of the present and future) and see immediately that we don’t have to do that ourselves.

1. Your audience may include several niches or sub-audiences. Can you pick out three different viewpoints in what you think your current audience believes? For me, I know that authors/journalists come to the book publishing industry differently than techheads/bloggers, who also vary from kids’ book authors significantly. Those three areas are my niches.

2. How can you test these viewpoints? What are people in your audience (doesn’t matter which niche) saying about it? Can you place them into niches by what they are saying? Does it match what you think you know? Remember that surveys are what a market thinks it wants most of the time; sometimes, it rings true as to what they need, but often, surveys may send you in the wrong direction. But it doesn’t mean to not survey. Better idea: offer some free consulting. Give away a couple of hours of consulting (especially you business owners/consultants/techheads/bloggers) and see what happens.

3. Who’s buying what? If you’re a novelist and your audience is all buy, buy, buy with your last few books, you can be pretty sure they are interested in what you are writing about. You can quanitfy those results as a test. So then what would a novel-buying audience most like to hear from their favorite author? What kind of questions are you getting in book clubs or from fans? Could you pull together a top 25 questions FAQ and use that to reward your loyal tribe?

Next up, we’ll dig deeper into a kid’s book author-focused discussion about finding your audience on social media. (As you can tell, it’s hard for me to balance all three niches in one post, just because everyone will find their audience in a different way.) Don’t worry, techheads and bloggers and authors and journalists. Your audience-finding specific posts are coming up next week!

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I’ve talked to a lot of authors in my time as an editor (in both the content design and production phases) and what I LOVE about talented and successful authors is that they can tell me, very succinctly, what their book is about and how it’s different from most books out there.

Positioning is natural to us. We see someone writing a book and we think about how we can write a book that is similar, but from our perspective. Every single author/writer has a perspective that is quite valid. Yes, I really believe that.

As publishing changes, the avenues to communicate that perspective have changed. No longer is it just about a print book or a self-published book. Now there are Kindle books and Smashwords and Kobo and selling ebooks from your own blog via e-junkie (pdf format is practically universal these days).

How you do it doesn’t matter as much as what your story is. The social media tools remain the same for print books, self-published book, Kindle, Kobo, and Smashwords books, and even e-junkie books from your own blog. That doesn’t change. What changes is what you are trying to say (who you are makes that extremely important) and who you are trying to say it to.

1. If you have a book that is just like a book already on the market, tell me how your book is going to be different. Can you differentiate it enough so that your book seems completely new and fresh? To gauge the interest of your audience, you could write a “white paper” that solves the original problem that your book also seeks to solve, but in a way that makes you the expert and creates a desire for your audience to read more of what you write. White papers are short (for a few great guides on white papers, check out books by Robert Bly and Michael Stelzner); generally used as marketing reports to create a position in the industry, they don’t tend to run 350 pages like a typical novel or 240 pages like a typical nonfiction book, but they create powerful solutions for your audience’s CORE need. They make YOU the expert.

2. If you want to write a book to teach or to instruct, consider teaching a course instead. You could do this via your blog as an ecourse, or thru a third-party organization that hires you to teach, or you could find one of the many very cool instructional design software programs out there (Moodle) and build your own instructional site. The key is to start small at first. Perhaps a book is not the first step in your platform; perhaps it is the second or third step.

3. If you have a novel (and you just finished a solid draft that you feel confident about, or if you’re still writing that draft), start a blog and start writing. With fiction, the story matters THE MOST, but a great way to learn to talk to a reading audience is to talk about your favorite books or your writing process. My friend, Jen Haupt, does this, on her Psychology Today blog. As a professional journalist and talented novelists, Jen is using her Psychology Today blog to position herself as a savvy reader. This holds some cache, I think. Your story has to hang together in order to sell to an agent and editor, but the more you can appear interested in your aspired profession (a la America’s Next Top Model, when the girls who learn the industry and industry players very quickly tend to do better), I think it serves your platform better in the long run.

So, what’s your story? Do you think it should start out with self-pub, Kindle, pdf ebook, or a print deal? And once you choose one avenue, can you tell me why you chose it? These two questions are the industry’s present-day entry passcodes. This is what every agent and editor are asking from all of their clients. And when you pitch them your idea, they’ll ask you too.

Farewell to February. Tomorrow is March and our topic for the month is positioning your blog and book to sell.

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As you can see, I’ve been busy this weekend.

In the process, I am bumping my RSS subscribers around. Sorry for the bumpy ride!

If you want to resub to my RSS for reader or RSS by email, check my icons to the right.

And please update your URLs. The redirect is not entirely trustworthy.

And thank you for your patience as the dust of this remodel settles.

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If you haven’t heard about it, please do go to Twitter and search for the hashtag #wdborders. Yesterday, Writer’s Digest did a fantastic free teleseminar about how the Borders situation will affect authors.

The takeaways are worth reading and mirror a lot of what I say on this blog (and what I will be focusing on in March at SXSW and through my new job as social media strategist for a top kid’s book agent; announcement on Monday! Stay tuned!).

So, take five minutes, got to Twitter and find that hashtag. #wdborders It’s free information that you can use right now.

Talk to you all next week!

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Born This Way

by Trish

(via ama_lia)

I had a thought this morning. If you’re reading this blog and have no interest in using social media to position yourself better as an author, I want to give you this chance to unsubscribe from my eZine, remove this blog from your RSS reader, and begin immediately to ignore me.

You would be better served by others in this space, who have positioned themselves by telling authors, “Don’t worry about blogs or social media as an author; you don’t need ’em. They aren’t required.” If you prefer that, by all means, go in peace. I will never change your mind.

But I was born with a different perspective.

I am fascinated by positioning. I became an entrepreneur (in the publishing industry as an entry-level proofreader) in 1995 after a short apprenticeship stint. Everything we write, edit, market, sell, and speak is positioned. I see this line tracing through the past 16 years of my publishing industry career. It’s all about positioning.

I say the Internet and social media are a FANTASTIC way to position yourself as an expert and to get visible. I will not say to you, “Oh, no worries. You don’t need a blog or you can ignore the Internet search engines” because it’s just not real. It’s crazy town. It’s stupidity.

Again, if you want an easy out because you really DO NOT want to do any of this with me, go for it. Unsub, remove my blog from your bookmarks, ignore me. There are no hard feelings.

I am setting up camp right here on positioning using social media. I think it’s the best option out there right now. In 2012, it may be completely different. Maybe the Internet will implode. Perhaps other writing organizations have advance knowledge of this and thus, they are now informing their readers that using any social media is just not necessary.

I say it is. I say you’re a fool if you don’t utilize the still-growing Internet population if you’re trying to sell a book. Again, a known commodity. Thus, marketing principles do matter and do come into play. Writing organizations who say otherwise will be mocked endlessly. Thus, I wanted to give any of you who may get offended by that enough time to get out.

Run, I say, run!

Actually, I don’t have the time or energy to spend mocking anyone, but I do have time and energy to help you as authors to become successful using online tools. I was born this way. We entrepreneurs don’t just spend our time dreaming up schemes to make ourselves money. We see opportunity everywhere for everyone.

I see it for you, the first-time novelist who isn’t sure how to create a Facebook Page for her book. I see it for you, non-fiction journalist, who is trying to build a platform for a new non-fiction book and feels left out in the cold (I really empathize with you particularly). I see it for you, the middle-grade author, who is a professional at school visits and writes amazing series fiction and knows more about the writing trenches than I do. Writing a blog is doable.

I see success for so many of you. I can’t help but get forceful at times. I may even get in your face. I may make you angry. That is perfectly acceptable. You do not have to sit and listen. You are not required to stick around. But if you do, you’ll get the honest, marketing truth.

I am a straight shooter. I don’t play games. I position myself and stake out my spot. I can be no other.

Next up, for March, it’s all about positioning a blog to sell a book. Have a great weekend!

ps — I’ve got Gaga’s new single, “Born This Way” cranked in my office. That’s Gaga above, FYI. She’s a little crazy too. But she’s very well-positioned and a worldwide star.

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(via KevinHeyne)

Or are you a professional writer?

Either way, start a list.

I don’t care which you are, just get the list started.

*****

I confess I talk to readers of this blog like they are as serious as I am about author and book promotion.

Why?

Because if I know how well promotion using social media and positioning works, why wouldn’t I tell you that?

I’m not playing games with you here.

Businesses sell any matter of products (including books) using social media. In fact, more and more, businesses have gone the way of social media to sell increased amounts of their products.

I don’t want authors to be left out in the cold.

Why social media? And why is this content marketing (or unmarketing) so darn important?

1. Because it works. It’s been proved over and over and over and over . . . . ad infinitum. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool. How authors should use it in 2011 and may use it in 2012 is still up for argument, but if a ton of novelists and nonfiction authors (names you recognize, including Elmore Leonard, Jane Yolen, Neil Gaiman, Seth Godin) are using it, why shouldn’t you? Just start. You’ll be prepared to go with the flow whenever the game changes. Avoiding it is foolishness.

2. Because the Internet is where the book industry already is. The experts and the publishers may be arguing with this, but let’s face it. Random House laid off staff yesterday, Borders is going down, B&N is a bit more shaky than usual. Ebook sales are flying! If you’re online, you’re better off than other authors who refuse to go online. (And I take it that you ARE online, because you’re here.)

3. Writing organizations who are telling you not to worry about social media are doing you no favors. In fact, I think there are a few organizations out there who would PREFER you stay a hobbyist and write articles in your local paper fo 25 bucks. They make money off of you by doing this! You’ll keep subscribing to their monthly print magazine and keep buying their online workshops!

Think about what advice you receive on a daily basis from people in the industry. Who to believe? You need to trust your gut. This may mean you don’t listen to me anymore. I am okay with that. I want you to be successful.

But a word to the wise: sometimes new things are scary and sometimes everyone rushes with the trends and that’s overwhelming. I may be pushy (hey, it’s my blog!), but I know what I know. You can trust me or you don’t trust me. It’s up to you! I aim to get you to trust me. (Why else do you think I write about this stuff?)

Follow your gut. Be smart. Use your brain.

Start a list. (All right! All right! I’m totally breaking the rules here.) Seriously, start a list.

Even if you do nothing else in 2011 with social media, start a list!

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“Hey, nice to meet you!”

Since we can’t meet a lot of our online audience in person, we reach out and communicate in other ways. But sometimes the usual “hey, nice to meet you?” gets lost in the shuffle.

In 2011, I will be making a determined effort to “meet and greet” you, my online audience, in person as much as possible. (I’ll be at SXSW Interactive; if you’re there too, please say hi!)

To those I won’t be able to see in person, I have a few ideas (swipe them and let’s “meet and greet” as many as we can!).

1. Webinars. Coming in 2011, I will be hosting live webinars with various book publicists and agents and editors and publishing industry experts to talk about how authors can better promote themselves and their books. First one coming in April! You’ll be able to hear my voice, hear me chat about my favorite subject of all time–books, books, books!–converged with my other favorite subject–marketing! (I’ll only say it once so as not to overwhelm you!)–and you’ll be able to hear the enthusiasm in my voice. If you missed it, I was on this webinar with Dan Blank back in August and got overly excited about books and marketing and social media.

2. Vlogging. I have one of those fabu Flip Mino cameras and I intend to put it to use! You’ll find me catching authors and asking them questions about how they best use social media and as a chance for you to know about great books that you may have missed or forgotten about. Vlogging is also a funny word and I like typing it. Vlogging. Vlogging. Vlogging.

3. Q&A teleseminars/webinars. I think it is high time that you all get to ask me questions. Everyone does when I “meet and greet” them in person. Here’s your chance! I may have another expert with me, or I may just field questions myself, but I will be taking questions on the blog about a month before each Q&A chat, so stay tuned to this blog, or better yet, sign up for my eZine, if you care to let me keep you updated (so you don’t have to remember!), and stay tuned. First Q&A will probably be in June.

And those are my ideas. I also had a few others that didn’t make the cut, but you can use them if you want to.

Justin Bieber Tribute Video. Is it just me or is Justin Bieber like super cool right now? I have my hoodie ready to go, but couldn’t bring myself to cut my hair like him. No go.

Little Monsters Dress up Contest. I totally wanted to emerge from a cocoon just like Gaga. Don’t you want to dress up like a Little Monster? Except most of my audience is on deadline for their next book, so no go.

Downton Abbey Spin-Off Show. Every single housemaid gets an iPhone and joins Twitter. Production costs on that were just astronomical when I checked. No go.

Can’t wait to “meet and greet” you all better in 2011!

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