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In Support of Book Marketers

I have watched a handful of “professionals” share insights about how authors should take their marketing into their own hands, all the while slamming what is being done at the publishing house.  In this post, I hope to help authors see the work from the publishing side and calm fears that some “fresh-out-of-college, overloaded idiot” is the person charged with promoting your books.  *Note: I’ll be saying “Marketing” often in this post–in this case the term covers everything touching promotion of your book-from the folks who book advertising to the publicists who talk to media outlets.

Yep, marketing teams are busy.  Often, we’re slammed.  The whole world of publishing is cyclical, and there is never a time when we have just one book to work on.  But there’s a big gap between being busy and being ineffective. 

Here’s what you should know:

  1. We marketers love our jobs, or we wouldn’t be doing them–Your dreams of becoming a bestseller are put before our own dreams.  We work far more than 40 hours each week making sure you shine.   Managing relationships and egos is one thing, but knowing we are usually the first people asked “what happened?” if a book doesn’t work is pressure we don’t take lightly.
  2. We do not regurgitate ideas–Sure, there are certain things that can and should be done on most books that are added into marketing plans, but each book is given it’s own set of objectives and goals, and we form a plan around things like the hooks of the story, topical interest in the media, and partnership opportunity potential.
  3. We employ outside vendors when needed-We spend a huge portion of yearly budgets on outside companies to manage online campaigns, street teams, and pr campaigns.  Why? So that we can focus on the execution, strategy, and end result.  But sometimes the best focus we can give your book is to keep things in-house.  Let’s face it-even at an outside pr firm you are not someone’s only project, and the expertise of in-house members is exceptional. 
  4.  We are educated, experienced, and professional- Almost all of the people in marketing have a degree tied to it (though I admit that I did not have any prior marketing experience when I joined our team, I had been at Nelson for seven years and knew a lot about publishing).  And while we do have interns and jr. teammembers, those are not the people charged with creating strategies, building relationships with media, or working with sales reps and accounts to get your titles promoted at retail.
  5. We look at projects with an end goal in mind, not just a budget that must be managed-Every marketer I know has gone over budget on projects.  Yes, we are accountable to bottom line numbers, but we go into each project knowing that sometimes the dollars must come second to the strategy. 

The points above speak to the marketers at the publishing house, but You, the author, must take an active role in promoting your books.  While we know that your first priority is to write the books, there are things you can do that don’t take up a ton of time that will pay off for your brand in the long run.  And without you, all we have is a book.  Here’s how you can help make the partnership better:

  • Build a relationship with us- We need to know more about you than the bio on your book jacket.  Let’s chat.
  • Share ideas–We don’t presume to have all the answers.  You know the book better than anyone.  I’ve created a worksheet of questions for our authors to help get to the core questions.  If your team doesn’t have one, start the discussion.
  • Get engaged-You can’t write a book and just return to your cave.  Your competitors will take your spot on the shelf  by creating connections with people online, blogging, and plugging their projects at stores, events, etc.
  • Step up when needed-The publishing house is not a checkbook.  It’s hard for us to respect authors who are never willing to invest in themselves.  We know we’ll be handling the bulk of the expenses, but when you aren’t willing to pay for a night of hotel or extra bookmarks, you are sending the wrong message.

I can’t speak for how other houses run, though I’ve made some assumptions here.  But I can say that my team works this way at Nelson Fiction, and we have a track record to back up the discipline and forward thinking needed to make us the #1 Christian Fiction publisher.  

Publishers have a purpose. And it’s only when you win that we win.

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Retooling Your Personal Brand

retool1

In the first several years of my work experience, no one ever told me about “personal brands”…the assumptions about you and your work ethic that become the tagline people use when talking about you.  Had I known, I probably would have been more careful.  I thought that being a “get things done” girl was fantastic.  My boss loved it,  those in management positions relied on it, and it was my trademark.  If a project landed on my desk, no one need worry-it would be done and done well.

What I didn’t realize is that whilst building this empire of “getting things done”,  I had become a one-woman bulldozer.  I pushed too much, I lacked an ability to listen to other points of view, and I had a need to be patted on the back too often.   What became clear was that upper management liked my drive, and my peers and coworkers wished I would jump overboard.   Thank goodness I had mentors who were candid with me.  The news was painful, but needed.  I would never be a manager of people if I didn’t learn how to get out of the way.  Through coaching, learning to keep my mouth shut, and purposefully putting the spotlight on others rather than myself, I’ve been able to growand bring on a team of top-notch people who know how to stand out from the crowd.

Fast forward to now, and I’m suddenly realizing that my personal brand needs another overhaul.   Rather than being the person communicated to, I am now the communicator.   The items on my plate have changed even over the last year, and I’ve got to readjust my own expectations, those of my leader,  and my team.  As I’ve been thinking about this, I realized there are a few steps that can be done to help come up with a better brand:

  1. Recognize Strengths and Weaknesses- We must be really honest with ourselves about strengths and weaknesses.  It’s becoming clear to me as I’ve grown and responsibilities have changed, that I am less focused on details and now must delegate more often. 
  2. Determine the best use of your time–In order to add the most value to our company or project, we must be clear on the best uses of our time.  While I still enjoy contacting vendors about advertising, it’s no longer the best way for me to spend my time working on author brands. 
  3. Communicate well–This one is challenging for all of us.    Talk openly with your team about how each person contributes best and allow each person to use their strengths.  When new projects arise, dedicate time to sitting together to go through the scope and specific goals rather than parsing out information a bit at a time.  Not doing so leads to frustration on all sides, and conveys a lack of trust to employees.
  4. Hire people who can do things better than you can–One of my authors said this to me a few years ago, and he was right.  I don’t understand html.  And beyond that, I don’t have any passion for learning it.  Rather than using limited time on something I’m not good at and that won’t ultimately grow my business for knowing, why not hire people for projects when needed and task experts in the areas where we are weak?
  5. Make others the superstars-People don’t get enough time in the spotlight.  Once “management” falls into our job responsibilities, the best thing we can do for our team (and ourselves) is to lift up everyone around us.  As a leader, we are lifted up when our teams shine.  And to be sure, it’s really freeing to not be looking for kudos around every corner.
  6. Free others up to make things happen-With delegation comes the need to trust others.  Give people the power to make decisions.  This one thing can solve many problems and keep team members engaged and happy.

What other things do you think are needed to reshape a personal brand?

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Random Acts of Bragging

Proud Peacock
These days, life seems like a rat race most of the time. At work, we want to be seen as the best at what we do. Competition shows up in meetings, in discussions with our peers, and whenever someone else is applauded for a job well done. When we hit the soccer field, basketball court, or dance studio with our kids, we feel a need to push them a bit to be sure they understand we expect them to perform at their best (and win). Even at church, there’s always someone willing to take on one more task to further “The Lord’s Work”, but they make sure everyone knows about it.

What seems to be getting lost in this need to win is an active desire to see others succeed and to lift them up. Why does it feel like bragging on someone else means we’re less wonderful?

To make this post count for more than just unleashing the thoughts in my head, I’m going to do some Random Bragging. And for anyone silly enough to even ponder the thought that my listing any person below is meant as a “suckup”, please close this website now and never return.

  1. To the unsung “behind the scenes” folks who make our lives easier by keeping bathrooms clean, store shelves stocked, and stop lights bright.
  2. To the men and women who live out two stories as they protect our freedom and raise families.
  3. To exceptional leaders like Allen Arnold, Mark Schoenwald, and Michael Hyatt who use their strengths to carry forth a mission and breed excellence in their teams.
  4. To mentors like Jerry Park and Tami Heim who can see diamonds in the rough and are willing to polish and cut for as long as it takes.
  5. To @ksbond and Ashley Schneider, who give me grace when I move too fast, throw curve balls, and manuever as we go.  These times will benefit others in the years to come as I learn to be a great leader.
  6. To friends like @kristij911, Lisa Young, @chrispauldesign, @dee_wilcox, and @lindseynobles who through no extra effort cultivate the best in people.
  7. To authors like @colleencoble who turn a working relationship into  something better, which makes the work so much more rewarding and feels like family.
  8. No list would be complete without noting how different and wonderful life is when the Lord leads it.  But that’s another post.

To each of you, I say Thank You.  My life is better for knowing you.

Who will you brag on today? It’s a win-win situation.

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The Art of Creativity

Being creative takes energy.  It takes time.  It definitely takes money.   There’s an art to it. 

Jennifer's painting

I realized last week that I live in some phase of creativity pretty much all the time.  I was thinking about the artsy sorts of things I enjoy doing on the weekends…painting (my most recent attempt is shown here), pottery, baking, making cards, and doing craft projects.  And during the week, I’m spending company time and money finding new ways to promote great novels from amazing writers.  

 Surprisingly, having a plan for creativity really helps the ideas bloom.  Here are my thoughts on how to foster the best ideation:

what if

  1.  Buy a field in the land of “What If”- Be Curious.  Challenge “business as usual” thinking.  Ask questions. Dare to be different.
  2. Head to the Farmers’ Market- Make time for networking.  Some of my best ideas have come from a random discussion at Panera where I overheard someone talking about a new artist, website, etc. And I’ve met amazing people who can do parts of my job faster/cheaper/easier than I can through social media like Twitter and Facebook.
  3. Till the soil- Ideas need time to cultivate (time to blossom, not rot in a stack of sticky notes).  They also come to fruition faster when people are talking about them.  Share your ideas with others and open them up to other points of view to make them stronger.  Firmly planted roots bear better fruit. 
  4. Be prepared to pluck some weeds- Some ideas never end up happening.  Some ideas just suck.  But cherish the process and be glad you live in a world of possibilities where tomorrow will bring new ideas.

What has to happen for your ideas to become reality?

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