Okay, maybe my last post was a bit unfair. For writers who do not live in the KC area or otherwise could not come to The Business of Writing - Success, here are a few nuggets of wisdom the 80 or so attendees got to hear from a few of the dozen experts:
- YouTube as a social marketing platform and search engine. Are you aware that YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google? Neither was I. Younger generations, I was also surprised to learn, visit YouTube before Google. (This is valuable information for those of us who write for children and young adults.) Creating vlogs (video logs) is a great way to engage your audience. “People want friends and engagement,” said Leah Stella Stephens, a self-described YouTube junkie who posts videos as Stellabelle. “If you’re boring and dull, that’s fine. There’s a place for you on YouTube,” says Stephens, who is anything but boring and dull. (How can anyone who wears a green, feathered wig be either?) "Be yourself. No one is exactly like you. Take risks."
- Develop your brand and be consistent. There’s a reason why Coca-Cola cans are red and white and why those colors resurface in every commercial Coke makes (including white polar bears), says Kelly Dobyns Ziegler, principal of ZiggyFranz Advertising. Your brand, which can include colors, symbols (Nike’s swoosh), or special fonts (Stephen King’s), identifies who you are to your customers. Your brand should have “one voice,” Ziegler said, and should be present on your author website, email signature, business cards, and so forth.
- What makes someone say, “I’ll have what she’s having”? This question was posed by Cyndi Swall, who describes herself as an executive coach and bliss mentor. Her answer was authenticity. “There can’t be a disconnect between the work you have created and how you show up in the world,” she said. “Perception is reality. Who are you, and what do you want me to feel about your work?” According to Swall, the story you are telling is your own and what’s possible for you.
- Why aren’t booksellers just thrilled when you bring in your newly published book for them to sell? Pat Worth, co-owner of River Reader in Lexington, MO, gave several possible answers. Are you coming in at a bad time and expecting the owner to drop everything to work with you? Did you do your research to find out if this bookstore caters to your audience? Are you selling your book at competing venues down the street? Any of these actions can turn off a prospective bookseller, said Worth. On the other hand, coming in prepared can make booksellers want to carry your book and help you promote it. “You must have a website,” she said. “What materials do you have to help us sell your books—posters, shelf talkers? Would you be available for NPR interviews?”
- Worried about copyright issues? Donald R. Simon, J.D./LL.M, president of Simon Business Consulting, Inc., gave practical advice for protecting yourself and others. When submitting to a publisher, said Simon, “make sure you don’t send out stuff unsolicited. Only send it to people who have requested it." Simon stressed that writers should establish relationships with publishers or agents before sending their work. He also discussed work-for-hire contracts and clarifying who’s going to own the property if you’re working with collaborators. “Get it in writing,” he said.
Developing relationships was one of the recurring themes of the day. Authors need to build positive relationships with their audience, of course, but also with booksellers, publishers, literary agents, and each other. The Business of Writing - Success was all about developing relationships and being authentic.
So if you missed out, don’t fret. Seek out opportunities to learn from professionals in your area, and don’t be afraid of change. Cyndi Swall, the executive coach, could easily have been talking about writing when she said, “Coaching is always about forward motion.” She encouraged each writer to ask, “Is what I’m thinking and doing in support of my new story, or is it keeping me stuck in my old story?”
How are you moving forward?