I’ve talked before about the importance of book marketing and author branding to build a platform, but it’s also about getting out there, from behind the computer screen, and connecting with people. For authors deep into the process of writing, at whatever stage, it’s easy to get lost in your own world. I know for me, once I sit down and start working, which I do five days a week from 9am to 5pm, hours fly by. I don’t even realize it’s happened, I’m so into what I’m doing. Before I know it, the day is gone and I’ve barely moved from my office. That’s why I know firsthand that finding balance and remembering to live life by connecting with the people you care about and the things you love, are so vital to a writer’s sanity, to say nothing of their relationships.
This on-line stuff is great, and I love it, but I’m discovering something else. When I get out there and do the book signings at a local library or book store, I’m able to connect much more directly with readers and people who are interested in what I do. Although I was initially nervous to be “in the spotlight”, so to speak, I’ve discovered something else about myself. I love it. I didn’t think I would, but I love answering the questions and hearing other people’s points of view. It doesn’t matter to me whether they’ve read my book or not, although it’s nice when they have. The fact is, these people who attend a book reading/signing have an innate curiosity about books, writing and publishing, and I happen to have gone through some of the initial steps. I’m no expert. I never claim to be. But I have learned a few things since I started this journey, and if I can share some of those experiences, or answer questions people have, then that’s great.
I also know that people remember what they’ve personally experienced. If they’ve attended a book reading, they’ll remember me, even if they don’t read my genre. They might tell someone else they know who does. Even people who stop for a moment at a bookstore signing, or glance my way and read my “Meet The Author” sign on the desk, might remember my name later, even if they don’t remember where they saw it. My goal is that, if they hear or see my name, or the name of my book again, it just might trigger that “I’ve heard that before,” response. That’s what marketing is all about. It’s about connecting with your target audience and getting them to remember you. If you do it right, and often enough, you’ll begin building a brand that people will associate with you and your work. That’s important.
The key is to carefully choose the message you want people to take away about you, as an author, and your work. It has to permeate everything you do that relates to your work. Your social networking posts, your blog, your website, everything you send out there has to subliminally send the right message about who you are and what you write. Too often I read Facebook or Twitter posts that are negative, ridiculous, politically or religiously incorrect, or even worse, share crude remarks that should have no business being on a public forum. I know it’s your right, but is it really the message you want to send to people who’ve never met you? Right, wrong, or indifferent, people make judgements about you all the time, and how you present yourself in public forums is critical. That’s why I’m so careful not to post anything too personal, or negative. These sites are windows into my “brand”, who I am, and what I believe in. If you’re in business, and make no mistake, writing is a business, you’ll want to carefully consider what goes out to the world at large. It’s not just your friends, but your friend’s friends who can read and share what you’ve put out there.
To me, branding also means looking the part when appearing in public. I always make a point of dressing in a professional, stylish manner. This doesn’t mean a suit and high heels, it means looking as if I’ve taken the time to care how I look. Each time I step out the door to attend a public function, I try to look professional as possible. No jeans, tee-shirts, shorts, sloppy clothes. I call it traditional feminine. A nice blouse, jacket and pants or skirt, with comfortable, stylish shoes does it for me. My hair and make-up are done, and so are my nails. That’s the image I want to portray. Professional. I also smile, chat, and generally keep things light and easy. That’s my style. I don’t try to force something that feels fake. I’m creating a brand people can identify with, but one that feels true to me. It’s how they’ll see me over time, and I’m hoping they’ll relate to me because it’s genuinely how I feel about myself. This business of writing is fun, it’s engaging, and it’s my heart’s desire, but it’s also a business that I take it seriously. My personal appearance and manner of connecting with people hopefully states this, without me having to shout it. Each writer must find a personal style that tells people who they are, before even opening their mouth. But be aware that all the right words won’t help if you’re personal appearance screams sloppy, unprofessional and/or unkempt, if you want to be taken seriously.
I’m finding that the professionals I’m working with; librarians, book store owners/managers, etc., also appreciate this. It gives them an idea of who I am and how I’ll present myself to their patrons. They work hard at cultivating clients and building their own brands. If they’re going to allow me to come in and showcase my work, they want to be assured I can do so in a manner that resonates with their own style. It’s as important to them as it is to me.
The other great thing about getting out from behind the desk is the fun I get to have in meeting new people. Just the other day I was in talking to the owner of a small bookstore, The Village Bookshop in Bayfield, Ontario. This is a small, cozy bookshop the likes of times gone by. It’s a wonderful shop, and the owner has obviously worked extremely hard to build her clientele, and her own brand. She generously supports local authors via consignment sales of work she feels will appeal to her patrons, and where she feels there’s a fit, book readings/signings. How did I meet her? I attended a book reading/signing at the Exeter Public Library in the nearby town of Exeter, Ont. That librarian suggested that I absolutely must contact this woman and introduce myself. The librarian said she knew, based on my reading and our meeting, that I would be a good candidate for this very selective book store. So, I called her. I introduced myself and told her where I’d gotten her name. She was very pleased to hear that word was continuing to spread about her business, and invited me to come chat with her. That chat lasted over an hour, as we discussed everything from her store, her clientele, and what she looked for in an author and their work. It was such a pleasure meeting this woman, who not only has a huge love of the literary world and respect for writers, but has built a strong, reputable business. I also found that her own style and personality resonated with me, so I’m thrilled to be associated with this type of business. You can bet I’ll be supporting her and the other authors she invites to her readings via sharing the news any way I can. You see, she and her shop become part of my brand. They mimic the message I want to send, and I believe in supporting those who support me. Same with the libraries who host me, and the larger book stores, like Coles Books, (Indigo/Chapters/Coles) who do the same.
I don’t have all the answers when it comes to this monster called marketing and branding. I’m still learning and experimenting. I only know I’m having fun discovering what works for me, and meeting new people along the way. Who knows, some of them may find their way into a book or two of mine in the future (names changed of course).