Marketing My Way – Part Seven

My initial tweets sounded like when I tried to sell my used Fiat 124 Coupe 5-speed.

Please buy my car; please buy my book.

Well, at least I was polite.

As a Tweeter-newbie, I wanted to keep up so badly that my self-induced social media anxiety seeped through every 140 or less characters.

I assumed everyone else knew what they were doing—an old entrenched pattern. Years back I had believed the guy at Vitamin World with the bar through his nose and fifteen tats who told me that extracted milk thistle with a pinch of valerian root would help insomnia. I eventually realized that another person’s view isn’t always correct especially when it comes to writing, marketing, insomnia and even Twitter.

“Stop,” I said my Alexander Technique training as soon as I realized I had included the link to my website for the last twenty tweets. “Chill out. You’re never going to have 3.6 million followers like Beyoncé.”

I began to follow people and accepted everyone who asked to follow me. Eventually, I blocked anyone who used the Arabic alphabet or any reference to Jesus. I learned about retweets, favoring tweets and hash tags. As I became educated on Twitter good behavior, my learning curve expanded from pushing my book to becoming aware of my own reaction when I read someone else’s self-promoting tweets and shares. I had been guilty of the same obnoxious behavior—promoting myself versus developing relationships.

With my newfound awareness, I moved from being petrified of Twitter to having fun. I posted a link to an article on the shortage of escargot in France, favorited someone’s photo of Mt.Tamalpais at dawn, and become involved in a multi-tweet conversation, “Eating raisins before bed helps you not get up to pee in the middle of the night #bedtimeraisins.”

Based on some of the people I was following, I read about a Marin Tweet Up. Since I didn’t want to seem like a complete Twitter ignoramus, I didn’t ask what that meant, assuming a Tweet Up meant a group of people who met at a local cafe, and sat around tweeting to each other even though everyone was in the same room.

While I still didn’t know what a Tweet Up was, over the next few weeks I followed issues, causes and people and developed virtual relationships that expanded from Twitter to Facebook and eventually to real life (IRL).

One day as I stood in line at Table Cafe in Larkspur, I glanced at two women having lunch, one of whom looked familiar, but I couldn’t place. As I ordered a Caesar salad—hold the croutons—I mentally shuffled through my obsolete rolodex, ruling out people from tennis, karate, exercise class, or the bike path. Then, it registered. I recognized @alembic— from her avatar.

We made eye contact—@alembic had also recognized me. In the virtual world of favoriting tweets, liking Facebook posts, and giving a “thumbs up” to a LinkedIn update, I had met someone in the real word through the meshing of connections and serendipity. She and I already had a sense of each others’ personalities through our tweets, posts and comments. I walked to @alembic’s table.

“Maria?” I asked.

She nodded. “Wendy?”

It’s great to meet you in person,” I said.

“Likewise.”

“I’d love to have lunch sometime,” I said. “I’ll send you a DM on Twitter or PM on Facebook.

“Sounds good.”

Three weeks later we sat around the table talking in complete sentences, instead of 140 or less characters. I had to ask @alembic something that I couldn’t shake.

“What’s a Tweet Up?”

She laughed. “It’s a social event where people who know each other through Twitter get together at a local restaurant. I’ll let you know the date of the next one.”

At the next Tweet Up I met people whom I had initially met in the virtual world. Many of them looked like their avatars with the exception of one woman who uses an avatar of her dog. I expanded my network and developed relationships.

I haven’t convinced my husband to do the same. He says he has no interest in Twitter or Facebook except when he looks over my shoulder and says, “Who’s that?”

“You don’t know him. Maybe you should try Twitter,” I said. “You never know who you might meet.”

Marketing My Way – Part Three

Blurbing a book is not like endorsing the new unscented version of Tide. I figured that out quickly.

“I plan to get endorsements for my book,” I said to Kevin, the marketing guy at Mill City Press.

“You mean blurbs?” he asked. “Well, as a first-time writer it’s really difficult to get someone to blurb your book.”

He didn’t know me. One could say I was persistent, or a full-fledged member of the secret society, PINTHA, coined by my father, and meaning—Pain in the Ass.

“I’ve already drafted an introductory email that I’ve tweaked for each person,” I said to Kevin. “I’m planning to include the book’s back cover copy, and a picture of the cover.”

That way people would know I had a real book, not something I had thrown together at Kinko’s.

“What else should I include?” I asked.

“I suggest attaching the unproofed, professionally edited, manuscript. That way people can have the option to skim the book.”

Kevin helped me on strategy and calmly answered my deluge of questions. He made some other suggestions that I now can’t recall, because I relied on my gut instincts instead of following his advice.

Prior to the publication I checked out the competition reading books with similar themes. in addition to researching books that were different.  I searched Amazon using key words like “back,” “pain,” “back pain,” “teenager” and “alternative medicine,” and further expanded my list of blurber candidates.   Although I had initial fantasies of well-known authors prostrating themselves over my request, I came to my senses and mostly contacted people I had some relationship with, even if it was a tenuous one. Two years earlier, I had emailed an author whom I had never met saying how much I liked her book, and she responded.  She went on the list.  I had recently read a book that I enjoyed, and without having any prior correspondence with the author, I decided to include her to my list as well.

My final list of prospective blurbers included a few real medical doctors, an Alexander Technique teacher and some published authors.

I sent out twelve emails which fell into the likely, the maybe and the questionable categories—sort of like applying to college with the safety schools, likely ones, and reaches. My safety school was Prescott College in Prescott, AZ where I knew I would never go.  My safety blurb request was to a psychiatrist whom I had seen far too many times.

I immediately received two responses to my blurb-request emails asking for my deadline; I gave each person a time that was about four weeks away. Two weeks later I followed up with another email to those potential blurbers.

In the end, I received seven blurbs including one from someone who was originally on the questionable list.  This was more positive than my list of college acceptances, and much more rewarding.

Marketing My Way – Part Two

“You’ve become quite the social media slut,” my cousin said.

That was a first.

I had a first book completed. Now, I had to market it. I had never marketed anything else before with the exception of a special edition of the San Francisco Chronicle published by the newspaper’s executives during the newspaper strike in 1968. I had hawked the papers for ten cents out of my Radio Flyer Little Red Wagon in front of Young Man’s Fancy in Laurel Village in San Francisco. That probably didn’t count towards any real marketing experience.

As a newbie self-published writer, I plunged into the whirlpool of social media. I found old friends and acquaintances on Facebook. I befriended Ellen from fourth grade ballet class; Sandy, whose Barbie prom dress I had swiped in first grade; Collette, who I carpooled with to dancing school, and friends of friends, old boyfriends or friends of boyfriends. While I hadn’t seen many of these people in years, I figured they would recognize my name, one of the many benefits of not changing my name when I got married. I searched LinkedIn for former fundraising clients, members of boards of clients I had worked with, even people I knew indirectly, figuring they could always ignore my request.

While dancing around LinkedIn, I clicked on a link and minutes later received a connect acceptance from Jerry L., the sales manager at Hanig’s Footwear in Chicago. I realized my error. I had allowed LinkedIn to access my personal email contacts and invite everyone to connect. After several panicky emails from me—George from LinkedIn remained calm—the issue was resolved by something he did on his end. I still don’t know what, but he stopped the email contact blitz. Jerry L. and I remain connected. I hope he’s bought my book.

I started my social media efforts well before the book was published.  I expanded my profile page on Facebook, LinkedIn,  Twitter, Goodreads and other social media sites by posting a new picture. I reasoned I could decide later what sites I wanted to be active on. I dropped virtual “Coming Soon” bread crumbs about my book on Facebook to try and create a buzz, my new favorite word.

I expanded my posts to include article links such as, The Trauma of Being Alive, or the Spirit of a Racer in a Siberian Husky. I learned that many people, including “Friends” don’t post anything, but lurk on the sidelines as anonymous Facebook voyeurs watching others in silence. Months later I found that I needed to “Like” more Friends’ posts in order for my posts to show up on their News Feed. That will work until Facebook changes their policy again.

I made new virtual friends­, and some I connected with in real life (IRL). I ended up blocking some of my new Friends—not because I discovered they were staunch Republicans­—but for too many religious posts.

As a marketing virgin I devoured writing and marketing blogs with a growing titillation that often escalated into mounting panic. “You don’t know what the hell you’re doing.” I silenced the internal negative voice and directed myself not to tighten my neck while at the computer. I took frequent breaks from sitting and lay on the floor in the Alexander Technique constructive rest position using the book, Building Our Way Out of Crime, as a head support which provided growing inspiration in developing further social media relationships.

I still post pictures of my dog.

 

 

Marketing My Way – Part One

I read about creating an author platform and got stomach cramps. The mere mention of “platform” reminded me of the summer I had served as a junior counselor at Forest Farm camp.  When a group of us went under the dance platform to get stoned, I found out that Steve liked Amy better than me. I needed to get that adolescent trauma out of my head in order to move forward.

I had a completed book and needed a marketing plan.

I reviewed websites and read other blogs looking for the right way to market the book, in hope that the words might levitate off the page and penetrate my brain.  Of course, most people trying to market a book knew what to do. They were smarter—more skilled, better writers, plus photogenic.

As usual, I had a physical response to this self-imposed stress. My neck and back began to tighten like a condensed accordion. I developed a cyst on my chin the size of a marshmallow. As the flurry of emotional frenzy headed towards a tornado alert, I relied on my training in the Alexander Technique to inhibit my reaction.

“Stop,” I said, directing myself to pause.

Years of Alexander Technique lessons had assisted in the management of back pain, and provided the coping mechanisms to deal with the antics of my then-teenage son. The Technique would certainly help with stress.

It occurred to me that I could use that same awareness to market my book.  In pausing and inhibiting reactions, I realized that my sole purpose in publishing the book was to finish it and get it out in the world. Once I accepted that, I decided to have fun.

I began to talk to anyone about the book, whether it was someone I ran into at Peet’s who I hadn’t seen since a spin class ten years prior, or the Jack Russell terrier’s owner I saw each morning on the bike path although I knew neither the owner nor the dog’s name. One friend suggested I read Frances Caballo’s book, Social Media Just for Writers. The book sat on my desk for two months as a paperweight, gathering a film of dust before I picked it up. When I finally read the first ten pages, I felt destined to be a social media failure. Rather than panic outright, I emailed Frances and set up a paid half-hour consultation.

“Can I run through my initial plan?” I asked “I’m on Facebook, LinkedIn and Goodreads. I recently joined Google+.”

My Facebook posts consisted of dog photos with either one of my two kids occasionally making an appearance. LinkedIn had a basic resume, albeit outdated.  I had recently joined Goodreads, and upgraded my Google account to Google+. I wanted to have my picture show up in emails so past and future recipients could identify a name with a face—using the professional photo I recently had taken—not the older one of me sitting in the backyard with Jake, the  black-and-white Siberian husky who had died three years before.

“That’s a great start,” Frances said. “You should add Twitter.  Twitter is a great platform for writers.”

There was that platform thing again.  I had shied away from Twitter like a forest of poison oak­ convinced I would be overcome by a rash of tweets.

“A writer friend of mine hired someone to manage Twitter,” I said, not really knowing what I was talking about. “Do you know anyone who does that?”

“I might,” she said. “Let me think about it.”

I wished there was an inoculation against Twitteritis.

“It’s important to start creating a buzz,” Frances said.

To my ears, buzz sounded better than creating a platform.  At the conclusion of our fifteen minute conversation, my confidence had increased from zero degrees to a more temperate zone. I realized I could market the book.  My way.

“What do I owe you?” I asked.

“Nothing,” Frances said. “We didn’t spend much time.”

“That’s very generous,” I said.  “I’ll plug your book on my Facebook page and post a link.”

“Perfect.”

An introduction to Social Media 101.

The Dinner Party

             “What do you do?” I asked my dinner partner with the bad overbite.     

            “We just moved here from London,” he said, in a Michael Caine-like accent.  “I work for a software company in San Francisco.”

            My software knowledge is limited to notification updates on my iPhone.  

            Eight people were seated around the rectangular mahogany table set with matching yellow-and-gold Fleur-de-lis placemats and napkins which looked like they came from Sur la Table.  The hostess Katrina, on my right, was discussing the role of stay-at-home moms with Brittany who sat opposite her.   I think they were born the year I graduated from high school. Snippets of the conversation from the corner, led by Stefan, an avowed psychiatrist, hung like poufy clouds over his head.  My husband, Jim, two seats over, was dissecting NFL draft prospects with his seatmate.   I melted my sitz bones on the edge of the chair and made another attempt with Mr. Software, also known as Glen. 

            “Since you’re from the U.K.,” I said, casting around for some common ground.  “Are you familiar with The Alexander Technique?” 

            He stabbed a piece of overcooked veal chop with his fork as he pushed aside a chunk of turnip gratin woven with clumps of Gruyère cheese.  I couldn’t fault him for that.

            “I believe my sister took lessons before she took up the clarinet,” he said.  “ She told me to think about my head being pulled up by an invisible string.” 

            Glen  lengthened his neck like an erect giraffe about to chomp on a leaf from an overhanging branch.  “It’s all about posture.”

             “Not exactly,”  I said, pausing before launching into a basic principle of the Alexander Technique.  “When one tries to fix something by doing, another part of the body tightens.” 

            I was met by a blank stare. So I smiled and turned towards Katrina and Brittany who were now debating the merits of  day camp versus sleep away camp—a no-brainer in my opinion.   I looked down the length of the table and checked my watch.  It was at  least thirty-five minutes until we could graciously make our exit.  I pushed my chair back and got up to talk to the dog.