The June 6th Willamette Writers meeting was a wonderful time to be in community with one of my very favorite presenters from last year’s conference, Tex Thompson.
The presentation focused on how writers can promote and market themselves, a topic that has become more and more important as the entire publishing landscape shifts into an entirely different geography (think west of I-5 after “the big one,” that’s what’s going on here). From start to finish, writers have to be more aware than ever about what it is they’re writing, who it appeals to, why, and how this work can get to that audience. Teams of marketing agents no longer do all the work to promote your book; more and more often, the writer must take ownership of these aspects of publishing.
Tex gave the audience a formula for understanding our work in relation to the other passions of our lives, providing exercises that reinforce just how pervasive our passions are. And pervasive is a good thing because if you’re a fan of Firefly–like Tex is and as I am and as many others in that room and thousands more in this city and hundreds of thousands more are across this country (and that’s a vast understatement)–then you already have your “in”. You have your way to relate what you’ve created, which may have some Firefly-esque themes, to others who would want to read it.
Author Self-Promotion Nuts and Bolts
“Yeah, writing is great, but I tell you what I really love: constantly shilling my book to a crowd of indifferent strangers.” Said no writer, ever.”
Tex also provided us a few nuts and bolts of what we can do in regards to self-promotion.
- Take your passions and write about them.
- Create a blog.
- Submit a magazine article.
- Write a review and post it on Goodreads (you were going to read that book anyway, right? Why not write a review about it and maybe get a few followers?).
Some other ideas took me by surprise:
- organize an event.
- Sponsor a contest or fellowship.
- Create a group around what you’re passionate for.
You get the idea – self-promotion does not have to be all about me, this book, me, this story, me…while your listener begins to stare off into space, eyes glazing as she mentally calculates just how far she can get away from you and how fast. Self-promotion can be all about doing the things you love, sharing them in a variety of ways, and building community with and for people who are your built-in audience.
Tex provided a road-map to the logline we can shoot out to an agent, and not surprisingly, it follows very closely the formula DongWon Song shared in his seminar a few months back: “My work will appeal to fans of X, written in the style of Y.” Also key, make sure your book comps come from within the past 5 years because agents or publishers want to know that you know what’s going on outside the little “word cave” you otherwise hole yourself up in.
Fun & Games?
“Success can’t be guaranteed. Let it be a byproduct of living a life you’re proud of.” Tex Thompson
The seminar wasn’t all fun and games, though, which is to say that it was all fun, but Tex doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of this life we’ve committed ourselves to. She just piles enough humor on top to make them palatable.
While you may never schmooze your way to the best-seller list or find yourself giving an interview to Terri Gross or accepting a Pulitzer, you can still do what you love, love doing it for as long as it’s good, and perhaps a little bit of success will find you along the way.
Now for the best part – Tex will be at our very own Willamette Writers’ Conference and I can already tell you I’ll be there, front and center, and I may even bust out my cowboy boots for fun.