Monday, September 16, 2013

Be A Winner - Marketing Your Book

By Jennifer Lovett Herbranson

It’s Football Time!

Bring on the tailgates, the barbecue, and the excitement. I’m originally from Birmingham, Alabama, and there is nothing in this world like a Saturday in autumn down south.

RV's park themselves outside the game field a week before the game. Crowds litter every available inch of real estate on campus and set up tents, grills, coolers and yes, even televisions. Strange new phrases reappear in the lexicon after a six-month hiatus. “Roll Tide,” “The Swamp” and “Suuu, eee” are heard from Savannah to Texas. Can’t you hear the marching band and the cheerleaders?

What does this have to do with marketing your book? Everything.

Legendary Alabama Head Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant once said, “Everything you ever need to learn in life can be learned on a football field.” With six national championships under his belt, I think he might be on to something. So grab a box of hot wings, a cold iced tea, and some Dreamland Barbecue Sauce. We’re gonna' talk football.

First, what do Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow, and Joe Namath have in common? He married his college sweetheart; he wrote a book about faith; and he played football with my Daddy, respectively. So nothing, really, other than they were all SEC quarterbacks who made it to the NFL.

Quarterbacks are in charge. They read the field, decide the play, and either let go or keep the ball - all before the barreling monster of a defense lineman squashes him to a pulp. In the writing world, you are the Quarterback. The head honcho of your team. The one to decide when to release the ball and when to hold onto it.

And here’s the deal: whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, if you want to sell your book, everyone expects you to do the marketing. Yep you. Even if you get the Big NY Deal, you are still expected to do the marketing because, frankly, there is no reason to gamble on a new or mid-list writer, which means little-to-no marketing money. And who wins? The guy with the biggest motivation and perseverance. They guy who reads the field and decides how to make the plan.

Repeatedly, writers tell me they just want to write. They hate marketing. They don’t want to learn and don’t see the point. I understand. Really. But if you want to sell that book, listen to Knute Rockne: “Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points.” He is often considered one of the greatest football coaches of all time.

Once you decide you’re gonna' dig in and go for it, the first thing you’ll do as the quarterback is find a way to fend off the defense. For writers, that can be anything. The massive defensive end coming at your left side is self-doubt, the one on the right is procrastination, and the guy coming up the middle? That’s the competition. Finally, that defensive line blocking every move you make? That’s the industry. In spite of all this, crush ‘em head on because “when you win, nothing hurts” and Hall of Famer Joe Namath, veteran quarterback of the NY Jets and the University of Alabama, should know.

And winning is only possible with a Coach. You need a Coach who will yell and scream and holler and cheer and push and hug all at once. In the world of writing, there are a lot of different coaches: writer's conferences, marketing programs, books, mentors. These coaches will teach you to develop, understand and tackle the game plan. Do you understand why you need to market on specific outlets? Do you understand the outlet? Do you know how to reach people online and turn them into readers? Seek out the people who can help you with this. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” - Archie Griffin, the only two-time Heisman trophy winner. So get out there, high five the coach and fight, fight, fight!

Why? Because there is nothing sweeter than stepping into a fan-crazed stadium pushing its outer limits with pandemonium. Look around. The world is your stadium and it’s bursting with fans screaming and cheering. The band is playing and the cameras are popping; they want you to succeed. So after you find your coaches, you need a game plan.

Coach Bryant said there are three rules: 1.) Surround yourself with people who can’t live without football. 2.) Recognize winners. They come in all forms. 3.) Have a plan for everything.

In the biz, the marketing plan, or playbook, is called a communications plan. The best way to learn the playbook is find out what is working for other writers. After that, create your own.

Every game plan should include:
  • Target audiences
    • Readers
    • Interest Groups
    • Media (TV, radio, print)
    • Bloggers
    • Other Writers
    • Agents, Editors and Publishers
  • Online strategies
    • Website and/or Blog
    • Facebook Author Page (not the personal one, a professional one)
    • Goodreads (for giveaways and author discussions)
    • Twitter ('cause it’s fun & all the publishing industry is on it)
    • Pinterest (it’s the up and comer)
    • YouTube (3rd ranked search engine behind Google and Facebook)
  • Face-to-face strategies
    • Attend club meetings
    • Hold a signing at a hardware store
    • Speak (schools, civic organizations, anywhere)
  • Messages and themes
    • Define the overarching themes in your story and use those to help sell it
    • What message are you trying to get across in your novel?
Ask yourself: Who will you market to? How? What will you say? Put all that in your playbook. Be as bold and creative as you can. Include offensive and defensive methods.

You will be successful, but it takes time. Start slow and make small goals. Inch up to national championship status with daily interaction on all outlets. Most of all, hang in there. Writing, just as with “Football, is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.” – Vince Lombardi.

In the life of writing and marketing, the game never winds down. You play, you practice, you watch game film, revise the game plan, sometimes you’ll even switch out the players. But it is all part of the continual cycle of getting better, finessing your game and playing to win.

Now “Winning isn't everything, but it sure beats coming in second,” said Coach Bryant. “And I ain’t never been nothing but a winner.”

Now, go out there, find your game and Be A Winner!

About the Author: With a combined 12 years of active and Reserve time as a US Air Force Public Affairs Officer, Jennifer Lovett has marketed books, shows, concerts and more. She is currently an Air Force Reserve Public Affairs Officer at Patrick AFB in Florida and in her full-time life, pursuing a career as a fiction writer.