Bring wine, not a bullhorn

I’ve found all sorts of new people on Twitter to learn from. One is Chris Webb, Associate Publisher of Technology at John Wiley and Sons. I found his blog through his twitter. This post especially will be of interest to authors and anyone else seeking to reach readers through social media, a topic which of course we’ve discussed here in the past. It’s short and sweet, and I quote the most important part here:

It seems simple and obvious, but the statement is at the heart of what usually goes wrong for those who only view social media as another channel to send the same old messages. Y
ou need to be a part of the community, connecting, contributing and sharing and not just broadcasting about your product or service. If you do this, the opportunities to introduce people to your product or service will present themselves naturally. But you have to listen and watch for them as part of the ongoing conversation.

Note that what he says is actually from a larger webinar which he links to.

Yes, Dad, I *am* a journalist. So I have to go pawn this to pay my rent!

I absolutely HATE those stupid jewelry commercials. Because YES, honey, what I want for you to express your love for me is a big, shiny rock that was acquired through child slavery and whole-village slaughter. And via Alpha Consumer, I have finally found a way to express it (though they don’t get into the blood diamond issue, or the whole Diamond Cartel–there’s a reason we use the word "cartel" in association with drugs and diamonds…).

As for me: the way to this woman’s heart? Books, of course!

I’m going to have to watch more of these. Apparently it’s a marketing watch web TV show.

Further back in the not-so-way-back machine…

This link is over a month old, and but Booksquare’s Kassia Krozser speaks directly to what we were discussing a couple weeks ago about reaching our readers through online efforts.

Specifically, Kassia is talking about social networking vs. viral marketing. Our teen readers and their little siblings are as much naturals at the social networking thing as my generation of kids was at picking up Pong and the Apple IIe. It makes sense to them, having these kinds of conversations about whatever strikes their fancy–including books. And they’re savvy enough to know their spam from their real conversations. As she notes, readers don’t want to rehash the cover copy. Despite the seeming shallowness of online communication–it’s rather short and swift, after all–the depth that can come from these short conversations goes far beyond a sound bite.

So how does a publisher or an author start a conversation with teens via
social networking?

One thing I’ve found is that as I network on Facebook and Livejournal, this very blog, with adults who are social-networking savvy, the word of mouth of something that is of genuine interest to those I talk to gets passed on. We all know how fast a meme can spread, how linkage gets passed from one blog to the next. Right now there’s a list of science fiction and fantasy reviewers that’s being passed from blog to blog so one blogger can index all the reviewers out there, and it spread like wildfire–I’ve seen it on Wands and Worlds (I think?), Gwenda Bond (maybe? aw, it was somebody on my friends’ list feeds!), and several other blogs, who saw it on blogs I’ve probably never seen, etc.

Those adults will be read by the teens they know, who, if they find the conversation interesting, will share with their friends. Obvious, I know, but my point being that I think it starts there–friending libraries on MySpace and making sure they know about local booksignings through social networking, friending libraries on Facebook if they’ve gotten that far (I haven’t started looking for libraries on Facebook, so if you know if they’ve gotten into that the way they have MySpace, let me know; personally, I find MySpace annoying and rarely check in on it). Teen librarians are great at passing the word on to their teens about events and information that is interesting and useful to their particular community.

Also, I find that often authors themselves have more interesting conversation starters than publishers do, because they have a personal connection to the material that the on-message publishers don’t. This isn’t a bad thing! It’s just that it demonstrates the importance of the author’s efforts in reaching readers via social networking, because they can do what a publisher or even individual editor often can’t: offer that personal perspective, the behind-the-scenes look into the head of the creator that readers will find fascinating. It’s like seeing the making-of video, all those extras on the Lord of the Rings DVDs.

Anyway, just go read the post, because she has a lot more to say on it than I do. Go!

More on marketing

I’m afraid that even before I left Mirrorstone, I wasn’t reading my friends page daily, because there are just so many things to keep track of, and if even half of my 73 friends were to post daily, that’d be a lot of reading. But I really want to know what everyone is up to, so I’ve been going back into the archives to play a little catch-up.
Almost a good week ago now, Agent Kristin posted about the book launch party of a client of hers, who happens to also be a TV producer in New York City. Marianne Mancusi then lists several really great tips for authors for their own book launch parties. Remember our discussion about marketing your book? She has some great tips for announcing your launch with an email blast inviting pretty much everyone you know, whether they’d be able to make it or not, to your book launch. Not to mention a
whole pageful of other great tips. Here’s a small taste:

Consider co-hosting the party with another author. One, it’s more fun to plan a party with a partner and two it takes off some of the hosting pressure the night of. You can also potentially double the guest list, increase networking opportunities, and introduce a whole new audience for your books and theirs.

Follow up. Over the next week, email your guests and thank them for coming. Especially the new people you met at the party. If you have a photo with them in it, send it with the email. And speaking of photos – upload them right away and put them on your blog, MySpace, Facebook, whatever. People who attended want to see themselves and people who didn’t get to go want to live vicariously. But you lose your momentum if you wait a few days.

Her tips on venues, invitations, gift bags, working the room, and so on are spot on, and she’s got some really creative suggestions that could bring the price of a launch party down for authors, who usually don’t have piles of cash sitting around.
I would also add that if you’re publishing a book for teens or kids, to think about adapting her tips to a kid-friendly environment and to invite readers in your target age group–even if it’s just all the kids you know. Or perhaps to do an adult-centric launch plus a teen-friendly launch. The goodie bag idea could be targeted for teens with just a little tweaking: items like free introductory yoga classes and self-tanning lotion would transfer well. You could probably get local sports and recreation outlets to include a coupon, not to mention local teen-centric outlets at the mall. You could also think about offering up a gift card to a local shop for a nominal amount as a drawing for those who attend (and might be able to get that local shop to sponsor it). By focusing on teen readers, getting teens (or kids) to read, and combining that with any local appeal your book might have, or topical interest, you’ll be able to create a fun, unique event with some media appeal. I’m thinking particularly of the Percy Jackson parties that were thrown at local bookstores before the Percy Jackson books were really big–I saw news reports of the author getting kids involved because of their interest in Greek myths.
So go check out her post, and see if you can find ways to adapt her tips to your own book!

Let’s talk about marketing your book online

I was at an SCBWI conference a couple weeks ago at which they had a panel of newly published authors do a panel chat about how they got published, and the subject came up of websites and blogs. This is something that I’ve heard a lot of people talk about in the children’s book blogosphere, and the discussion that day brought up the same question for me with these authors.

After all of the authors answered the question about marketing their books online with some version of "I have a web page," and perhaps an "I have a Facebook," I raised my hand and asked, "I’ve heard it said that the children’s book online community can be a little . . . in-bred. That is, authors friend authors on LJ and Facebook, comment on each other’s blogs and do blog tours, do interviews with reviewer bloggers, but who is the audience that these blogs reach? How do your directly reach your readers online?"

(I admit, it was a loaded question, because I’ve seen authors use the web in some very innovative ways to reach their teen readers, especially, and part of the answer to that for younger readers isn’t a direct answer because gatekeepers are involved.)

But I’d like to open up the question to you guys. Let’s brainstorm and really think about how to use these new technologies in a way that reaches teens. And how do you go beyond the message of "buy, buy, buy" (which is good for paying your bills, but there is something very commercial about that which I don’t think we really aspire to openly in the book world), and make it a more general message, yet still reach them about your book?

There are already some great examples of authors doing things that reach their readers directly–I’ll name a few off the top of my head: Readergirlz, Scott Westerfeld’s blog, Shannon Hale’s blog, several communities on Facebook. How do these accomplish what they do, and is there a way of extending their reach or following their example? How did Scott and Shannon attract so many readers–do teens look up their favorite author and see if he or she has a blog, or did the blog attract the teen first and then they became a reader of the books?

And what’s up with Twitter? I haven’t really had a chance to check it out yet. How might Twitter be used to reach teen readers?

Those are just a few questions I have, and I’m hoping to open up a discussion here and on Facebook, where this blog is imported as a note. I’ve seen these questions asked again and again on listservs I’ve been on, but usually in the context of librarianship, and I’m wondering how authors specifically can use these tools to reach readers.