Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Must We All Become Marketers?

A few weeks ago I attended a writers’ presentation where the subject was how to make the most of Author Visits.

Author Visits and Author Events are what published writers are expected to do to promote their work. Whether these are readings in bookstores or libraries, school visits, or (for the A-listers of the major presses) radio-TV interviews, all qualify.
The presenter was a charming and energetic writer of many published picture books. She was informative and funny, a winning combination. But-

She also had a background in marketing.

Her day job, something most writers must have, was in marketing not related to the book business. Her approach to establishing a career in writing showed that special training and attitude I have come to associate with publicists.

It had taken me a few weeks to digest her presentation. I had to absorb not only the details I may possibly be able to implement in my own life, but to accept that when it comes to what the world values, it is not about pure merit.

It is about a certain level of competence combined with spectacular marketing.

We all know the tales of the solitary types, the J.D. Salinger writers, who wouldn't give an interview. They are the outliers times ten. Most writers cannot afford to hide. Salinger couldn't either, until he became The Salinger.

I’m still mulling over how I do or don’t fit in. It’s called finding oneself, and it doesn't end when you leave your teens. All matters of this world are works in progress, or the writers’ acronym: WIP.

I hope your WIP are rolling along. I hope you have the energy to market.


  1. Hey, the computer just ate my comment ... trying again. I think it's good to do the things that you naturally are good at. For me, that's teaching. However, I am not an entertainer, nor do I wish to be one. But I can play the Entertainer. I wonder if that counts. Hmmm.

    1. Maybe I can make believe I'm a born marketer, ey?
      I always appreciate your intelligent take on things, Vijaya.

  2. I hate marketing my work, but we have to do it. I do love school visits though. I feel like I'm giving back as opposed to talking about myself and my books, so I think it's fun.

  3. Except for bookstores, I've only done group events. I can't imagine getting up in front of a class of middle-schoolers on my own, or worse, pushing my book on them. Hopefully I’ll get braver. I think if a school already owns or has read my books and is asking (begging!) me to visit, it might be different. The pictures you chose for this post are perfect. :)

  4. This whole marketing myself thing is something I've been working on and frankly, feel a little like I've been failing at it. I feel like I just don't have the time and energy to do it right.

  5. I fear the answer to the question is yes.

    Maybe it makes sense. If we want to publish, we're business people even if we have a traditional publisher. And what's a business without marketing?

    Doesn't mean I like it. But I usually approach school visits by putting on a bit more vivacious personality than I actually have. So there's a certain amount of acting involved. Which means a way to inject a bit of art into the marketing itself.

  6. Honestly, I don't know the answer. My marketing approach has certainly changed since my first book was published. I focus more on workshops and school visits rather than bookstore and library events because I've found that they're a better use of my time. I think that's the trick, finding what you most enjoy and what you don't mind putting your time into (since that means less time for writing).

  7. The thought of marketing terrifies me - although I do hope I need to worry about it someday ;)

  8. I'm such an introvert, that I wish I could be like Salinger! I think focusing on your strengths and doing what you like marketing-wise is key . . though I'm not there yet either.

  9. I'm not there yet either, but I hope to be. On the positive side, I'm a major extrovert. I LOVE interacting with people, but I am much better at talking about other people's work than my own. I get flustered when I try to talk to people about mine. So I'm guessing my extroverted-ness (extroversion?) will not be much of a help.

  10. I think writers do have to become savvy (or at least savvier) about marketing. I agree with Anna and Jenni--we have to find our own balance, and it's going to look a little different for each of us.

  11. I dread this, but I've heard much the same thing: that if you don't market your work, you won't get far. It always irritates me when (fictitious) famous writers are depicted in books or on TV as reclusive, prickly, and unwilling to grant interviews. Nowadays, it seems we're expected to write our books AND sell them. I'd love to be one of those effortlessly lazy writers.