January 13, 2010

PubPt: Market Yourself & Books While You're At It

Dear Readers,

I just got back from a really great event given by the Publishing Point (#pubpt) called “Market Yourself! (and books, while you’re at it)” held in the conference room at Simon and Schuster. And I found the place on my first try! However, I did stand across the street in frozen terror for a few moments when I realized that I was entering THE Simon and Schuster. (Yes, I am a dork. Nothing marks a wannabe like an action like that, but I couldn’t help myself.)

Due to excessive planning, I arrived quite a bit early and spent over an hour searching the neighborhood for a coffee shop with free Wifi (there weren’t any—I asked 6 within a 4-block stretch). I finally gave up and just waited in the Metro Café across the street. And at T-1/2 hour, I made my way in.

So of course the guard couldn’t find my name on the list. I was able to convince him to let me in anyway (I swore I had no plans to disrupt the magnificent work of S&S) and after getting up to the 14th floor, I wandered around a bit, not wanting to burst into the wrong room. (Why, oh why, did I arrive a half-hour early? I really thought people would come early to mingle, but alas—this was not the case.)

I was the first one there and waited uncomfortably , feeling like an intruder on the inside workings of the Publishing Point & the wonderful Maggie Hilliard (@MaggieHilliard), Susan Danzinger, and others, for at least 20 minutes until people started to arrive. And there were plenty of people. They encouraged us to tweet during the event but I couldn’t get a Wifi connection (what is it with me and Wifi today?). I didn’t want to mess with my phone and have my notes suffer, so I just turned my phone off and focused on the guest speakers.

After a roll call—I wish I could remember everyone who came but it just went by too fast!—we went over a little bit of what the Publishing Point does. Check out their website: http://publishingpoint.ning.com/ and be sure to sign up for their group on meetup.com to find out! They have lots of useful info to share and you’ll get to learn from the best.

The first speaker was Max Kalehoff (@MaxKalehoff). He’s an expert on developing brands and, whether we like it or not, to get anywhere in publishing we each need to be a brand. So what does that ACTUALLY mean? To explain this, he used a case study about his own company, Clickable. Maybe, to make this easier, I’ll use myself as a case study.

Everyone is selling something. In publishing, we’re selling books or a book idea or a manuscript of a book. Online, we’re basically selling ourselves. The first thing you need to figure out is: What are your goals? Using myself as an example—What I hope to get out of being online is connections. I want to establish myself in the literary community and have all the privileges and responsibilities that come with it. (I’m already on my way with all of my blog readers—you guys are the best!)

Next step: Figure out the core insight into your niche—what is this group missing? Is there a problem that could do with a little fixing? For me, a problem I see is that everyone trying to get into the publishing industry wants to appear perfect and fearless. This makes authors unable to relate to them and the young professionals themselves seem…inhuman. How can an author relate to an agent that isn’t human, that doesn’t convey passion for their work? What’s wrong with showing how eager you are to live your dream? With saying you are nervous on your first day? It may not be a huge problem, but I think the lack of honest, firsthand journeys into the publishing world is a niche that should be filled.

The next step is to question where you can fill in: What can you contribute that they’re missing? What can you do more or be better at than everyone else? In my case, I’ve decided to be completely honest about how hard it is to get into the publishing industry and be embarrassingly personal. I’ll tell you about how I get lost or flub someone’s name or get really excited when I should be cool—because I think sometimes the publishing industry could do with being a little more human. Therefore, I think I can make connections by contributing my personal story—both the wins and losses.

Next step: Establishing outbound connections. This means helping people for nothing. The only thing you need to do is remember to leave your name. I know all you readers are good people, so you already do this the same way I do. Answer questions on other people’s blogs, crit. other people’s manuscripts, be generally helpful. This rule boils down to karma (see @jamieharrington’s blog for a nice post on karma in the publishing world) http://www.totallythebomb.com/friends-getting-theirs.

Then comes the big step: Inbound engagement--setting up your own blog, Twitter, participating in chats, forums. When you do this, be sure to have some sort of theme that you will blog on—it’s very confusing to have someone who talks about random subjects every time they sign on! People want to know what to expect when they come to see your page. Make sure you are reaching out to the people who are interested in your product (product = you! your book! But be careful—if you intend to write several books, calling your blog after one of those books could trap you). For example, the theme of my blog is right across the header—my journey to break into the publishing industry. I share insights that I gain, stumbles that I make, and I hope that others will also share their insights.

The sharing of content is linked with the last step: educational and marketing assets—keep them coming back for more. The second speaker, Stephen Baker (formerly of Business Week) also talked about offering things of value. Don’t talk at, talk with. Be present.

Stephen Baker also discussed his experiences using his blog (TheNumerati.net) and Twitter (@SteveBaker) to promote his book, The Numerati. He also discussed his use of social media and how, at the time he was writing, certain publishing houses were still unsure of how to use this tool, afraid it destroy the mystique of the author. I guess we’ll see how far we’ve come when we find out how much he is allowed to tweet when his next book comes out.

Both speakers said that it’s hard to measure success in blogging since no one knows which numbers to look at, but the idea is to have something show up once you are googled. I absolutely agree with this. I know talking to you all is like preaching to the choir but it can never hurt to hear it again. Having a personality is just as important online as it is offline. I promise, when I seriously consider a manuscript I also seriously consider the author and I know that publishing houses do as well. Seeing someone who is taking their career seriously by promoting themselves is a great sign that they will be committed to promoting their book once it is published.

Almost forgot to mention that I met some really great people there, some employed and some looking for employment. I ran into Elana Roth (@elanaroth) in person—yay!

Whew, that was a long one! Sorry about that, but the event was full of info! I have another great event tonight (different sponsor) so off I go again. I hope you found that helpful and until next time…


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Oops sorry about the other post. Not sure what happened. LOL. Anyway, what I meant to say was: Awesome post, Rayna. I think promoting yourself, whether published or aspiring, is a writer's obligation. At least to some extent, so I'm glad to see that I'm at least thinking along the same lines as other people.

  3. Thanks! It's hard to walk the line between interaction and shoving your product in people's faces but I've found that people on Twitter have been amazingly adept at this balance. We're all starting to work together as a team to promote the books--it's to all of our benefit to make the books successful and I'm glad so many authors are willing to put the effort into blogging to make that happen.

  4. Thanks for blogging about this, Rayna. I haven't thought about some of the points mentioned, especially the real reason behind having a 'theme' for your blog. Currently, I was not sure of a theme for my blog, and now I have decided the general theme of it, so I'm glad about that. By the way, I am from before by the name of Rini/Tiffy. Just cleaning up my internet life and making it more organized. (Can't remeber if it was actually posted under Rini or not, so just covering bases.) smile

    I'm glad that the people of the publishing industry are still human, so it's very encouraging to know that. Once my manuscript is finished and polished, I'm sure you'll be some of the first agents I'll query. smile

  5. @Tiffany--Thanks- I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

  6. I'm glad you mentioned Jamie. She really IS totally the bomb! And she also lives the advice you're posting. Karma blesses goodwill and perseverence.

    I believe the last line on The Beatles "The End":

    "And in the end,the love you take
    is equal to the love you make."

  7. Rayna,

    This was such an awesome post. People are always saying you need a "brand" but never explaining, or least not in a way that I understand it. Your post really explains it well.

    Also, I agree so many agents are very intimidating. I really love that you are keeping a human face to your experiences. When I'm ready I will query you for sure. I like knowing the people I'm working with, regardless of professional relationship are also human and can relate to me.

    Thanks again for the great post!