Authors serious about learning all they can about marketing their books spend at least as much time researching smart marketing techniques as they do implementing them, it seems. With our need to be more savvy than perhaps ever in the history of authors and books, and with technology offering us more possibilities than ever, one of the most significant marketing lessons came from my six-year-old grandson when he visited recently.
We’d played a harrowing game of Stratego, made a meal together, created imaginative PlayDoh creatures, and taken down the Christmas decorations. We refilled the humidifier and loaded the dishwasher, took out the garbage (he thinks it’s fun), and swept up pine needles from the spent Christmas tree.
With the family room put back to its normal configuration, my little helper and I noticed that two of my house plants—two peace lilies—suffered from holiday neglect. Many dead, brown leaves needed pruning.
An engineer-in-the-making, Andrew insisted on assisting…and directing the task. He rotated the pots for me while I snipped dead leaves. He pointed out which leaves needed attention, then collected the refuse for disposal.
Even at six, he could tell what a difference it made to trim off what was no longer living in order to give the plant a more vital look. It impressed him all the more when I told him that trimming off the dead parts would make the plant healthier, that dead or dying leaves drain a plant’s energies.
After he left that day, I sat admiring how vibrant the plants looked when just hours earlier the only fitting label was sad.
The application to some of my recent questions about marketing was clear. With one or two books releasing every year since 2010, two more in 2013, and books contracted for 2014 and 2015, I need to prune my marketing efforts of anything that isn’t working. Those “deadwood” investments of time might have been vital three years ago. Are they yellowed or lifeless now?
Flattering as it is to be invited to do a blog interview, if the blogger reaches basically the same audience with the same commenters as two other blogs on which I’ve been a recent guest, or reaches an audience with which I already have connections through other sources, or if the blog interview is an exact duplicate of information, should the answer be, “Thanks so much, but I’m not free to do that right now”?
Flattering as it is to be invited to an author signing, how does that fit with my overall marketing plans? Do I have the time to invest, even if the projected attendance is small? Sometimes the answer is yes because of side benefits or a desire to help cheer on a local bookseller. Sometimes the answer is no because I could use the time for other more effective marketing projects.
I’m taking a fresh look at the vitality of my marketing efforts with an eye for deadwood. What’s not working? Does it need more of my time or can I let it go so it isn’t draining resources I need elsewhere? Rather than add every new innovation that pops up, should I spend some time on these considerations:
- What marketing methods best fit my personality?
- Which ones best fit my interests and target audience?
- Which methods/opportunities feed my soul?
- Which ones drain me?
- Which methods accomplish dual goals—writing an article in line with my ministry that also will direct readers to my book as an additional resource or edutainment tool, speaking to women’s groups then providing them with the opportunity to buy books for further impact…?
- What am I doing now that needs a performance review? Is it producing results in keeping with the time invested? If not, is there a compelling reason to keep it in my marketing arsenal, or should it be—pardon the mixed metaphor in the sentence—pruned?
Every day brings a new opportunity for us to try “one more” marketing adventure. How vital will those adventures be if we don’t stop, evaluate, and trim something we’re doing if it is no longer producing or if it no longer fits?
Paraphrasing the counsel I heard this summer from author Mary DeMuth, I’m thinking through marketing like I think about house plants. Do I need more plants? Or do I need to take better care of the ones I have? Mary said it this way: Plant small. Tend big.
May the end result be vitality in every area: our projects, our readers, and ourselves.
SIDE NOTE: One of the marketing investments I made on a recent release--Cedar Creek Seasons, a novella collection based on the charming town of Cedarburg, WI--was to like the Cedarburg Chamber of Commerce Facebook page and watch for events for which a complimentary copy of the book might be a good fit. I also sent a complimentary copy to each of the major locations mentioned in the book, people we interviewed, and the young man--a 7-foot basketball player--I met on a plane while researching the book. He became the template for the hero in my story. Those marketing tasks gave me joy, so they increased my personal vitality at least as much as any impact they might have had. I'd love to hear what works for you.