How I’m Celebrating Social Media Week

On Wednesday, February 15, I’ll be participating in “Getting Published & Beyond in the 21st Century,” a panel discussion sponsored by Pubslush Press. The final lineup is still being assembled, but I’m looking forward to sharing the stage with the author Emma Straub and Amanda Pritzker, a senior publicist at Penguin’s Portfolio imprint. (There are some other folks I’m pretty sure are coming, but I don’t want to say anything before it’s official!)

In my previous role as the director of e-marketing strategy at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and in the consulting work I do for authors and publishers today, I’ve encouraged writers to familiarize themselves with the major social media tools and pick the ones that resonate most closely not just with their publicity goals, but with their comfort in being online. I’m not one of those people who thinks you have to be everywhere and do everything to promote yourself successfully online; in fact, I think one of the first and biggest problems many authors face when they try to do their own social media marketing is that they spread themselves too thin too fast. What I was hearing from a lot of authors, though, was that while they were being told that they needed to go out onto the Internet and promote themselves, they weren’t always being given much practical advice on how to go about doing that.

So a big part of my message to the audience at Wix Lounge that evening is going to be that even though social media marketing is a lot of work, it doesn’t have to be a lot of hard work. Ultimately, I don’t believe that you should be out there “selling product” to people. Instead, you want to be yourself—admittedly, a somewhat streamlined version of yourself—and make a connection with the readers to whom your work is most likely to be valuable, whether that’s because of the information you share or the entertainment you provide. And you demonstrate to those people, day in and day out, that you are an interesting person who, from time to time, has a book out they might want to read.

I’m thinking back to a keynote speech I saw YA novelist John Green give in late 2011 at mediabistro.com’s Publishing App Expo. “We did not market anything, ever,” Green said about the video blogs he’s filmed with his brother, Hank, which have accrued more than half a million fans in less than five years. (Maybe closer to a million, depending on the yardstick you’re using to measure Green’s popularity.) “It isn’t like YouTube exists so I can share my books with you.” When he does mention a new book or some other project, he says, “it’s because I’m thinking about it, not because I’m desperate to sell it.”

Okay, I think it’s hyperbolic of Green to say “I’ve never, ever, ever done marketing,” but I see where he’s coming from—I’m just a firm believer in the Seth Godin school of permission marketing, or “the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them,” and of the idea that every aspect of your public presence is, in effect, a subtle form of “marketing” yourself to others.

(By the way, if you haven’t read Green’s latest, The Fault in Our Stars, yet, you really should. It’s got one of the best first-person voices I’ve seen in a long time, maybe since Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook, which is a book it reminds me of in other, emotionally resonant ways.)

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21 January 2012 | events |