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Sent from Seattle: Building Platforms and Shoestring Promotion from AWP 2014

by Laurie Sleeper

platformWith the thought that I might want to actually market the book I haven’t yet finished writing, I attended two different panels on Saturday which covered developing an online presence through platforms and promoting books on a shoestring. By Day 3 of AWP, we all feel a bit bleary-eyed, and while each panel had a different focus, my mind’s eye has blurred them together and this post will do the same. With all due respect to the ten people who participated on these panels, and the audience members who asked questions or contributed their own experiences, I’ll synthesize all their messages into one without attributing particular points to particular people.

As with anything related to writing, there’s never enough marketing money, and the onus—I mean, opportunity—to promote your own work falls mostly (almost always) on your shoulders. Even so, digital media can provide a virtual cornucopia of communication options at a relatively low cost. You must have a web presence, but there are several different ways to present yourself. Don’t just jump in for the sake of jumping, but consider where your time and energy would best be spent.

Even if you’re not ready to promote yourself, buy your domain name now. It turns out that the algorithms Google uses to provide search results include how long a domain has existed. When you are ready to dabble your toes in the online waters, you should understand that you are becoming part of a community of writers and readers, most of whom sincerely want to support each other and the world of writing. Embrace this—these are the people who will read your work.

An easy place to start is Facebook. If you’re a little uneasy (like me) about having 2,000 friends you haven’t met before (probably an age thing), you can create a business page (or a writer page, in this case). One of the advantages of a business page is that you can pay to boost any of your posts. One publisher gave the example of recently boosting an interview with Cris Mazza. In the past, if Cris went to a reading, it would have been considered successful if 50 people showed up. For $60, this boost led to 220,000 views in one day. That doesn’t mean that many books sold, but most likely more books will be sold than would have been at that reading.

But don’t discount live readings or events, either. Wherever you happen to go, explore the possibility of giving readings at local bookstores. If you’re a “new” writer, see if you can team up with a more well-known local writer. Or create an event with a local band, or an art exhibit. Consider giving a small workshop or writing seminar—it’s not so much about selling a certain number of books, but about getting your name out there (lauriesleeper). You want people to remember your name (lauriesleeper). Get your name out there (lauriesleeper).

Don’t ignore Google. While we can all resent the infiltration of Google into every aspect of our lives, and hate that their competitive products are sometimes (often) inferior, the fact is that Google prioritizes their products in their search algorithms. So even though WordPress is the superior blog platform, try to link to Blogger (a Google product) as well. While *some* of us (me, at least) have ignored Google+ with all its “circles,” if you’re trying to promote yourself and your work, you need to start circling around. Tumblr—I have no idea what this is, though I’ve heard of it. Guess what? It’s a Google product. Learn how to lead the Googlebots to you.

Twitter. Tweet tweet. Several panelists like Twitter a lot, and even said they felt more free to post on Twitter than on Facebook. It’s more anonymous, which can make it more intimate. I have to explore this one as well—apparently Twitter is no longer about what you ate for breakfast.

Blog if you have something to say. Don’t blog just because someone—even your agent or editor—has told you that you have to. Only do it if you want to. And if you have the time. But try to want to because this can be one of the richest opportunities for connection with your potential readers and other writers. This goes back to the community thing. You don’t want to just post and promote—it’s considered rude, LIKE WRITING IN ALL CAPS. For every one self-promotional piece you post, you should comment on or like or share ten posts from other writers. It’s about helping each other out, and in the current publishing environment, we all need to help each other. Look at the comments sections of your own posts or those of others as places where engagement and conversation can happen—it’s amazing what kinds of connections you can make with others. Embrace your multi-faceted-ness—you can use tags to identify different types of posts that a variety of readers may be interested in, and you won’t impede the development of you, your voice, your self.

Scribd. GoodReads. bit.ly. Interviews. Guest editor. WordPress Daily Post. SEO. Linkedin. My head is about to explode, yet with patience and time, you can learn about any and all of these approaches. For years, the impending death of the old way of publishing has been lamented, but writing will never die, and all these new ways of engagement just further enhance the reason for writing, which is to communicate with others.

And for goodness’ sake, have fun! The only way to successfully engage your readers is if you are engaged yourself. Find what you like, and go do it! YOLO!!!

4 comments on “Sent from Seattle: Building Platforms and Shoestring Promotion from AWP 2014

  1. Sonya Unrein
    March 2, 2014

    Laurie, these are all good ideas for building the marketing side of your writing career. I would take some issue with the idea that twitter is more anonymous than Facebook. If you’re a writer and not tweeting under your own name, you are missing out on becoming part of a very active book culture that lives on the twitter platform. If you use twitter ONLY for promotion and not interaction, your tweets will be ignored. But if you hone a good follow-list, pay attention and re-tweet and interact, your voice will gain credibility. If you don’t know whom to follow, look at the lists other people you admire have built and then subscribe.

    I am much more myself on twitter than facebook. That might just be a personality quirk. But it does take time and attention. If you’re trying to build something, you can’t just dip your toe in and then leave for months on end.

    I am so impressed by all the AWP dispatches you’ve written. Thank you. It sounds like we missed a fun time.

  2. andreadupree
    March 2, 2014

    Did you say your name was lauriesleeper? I appreciate this so much and all that you’ve done as stringer from AWP. I’m so Twitter illiterate that it humbles me to think of tumblr, scribd, bit.ly, etc. I guess people who really love that stuff are going to take over the world, and the rest of us will whimper in our corners with our notebook and pens. (lauriesleeper for pres.)

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  4. bharathi.b
    May 28, 2014

    thanks for your valuable posting it was very informative. i am working inCheap Crm Software Company In Chennai

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This entry was posted on March 1, 2014 by in Cool Events, Member dispatches, The Scoop, The Write Idea, Uncategorized, Writing.

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