Marketing Madness

Marketing Schmarketing! It’s the portion of my writing life that I estimate will take a little bit of time, when in reality, it takes quite a bit. Mark B., you’ll understand soon enough, and I know Deb has walked the marketing path. And I’m fully confident all you MA-ers will be grappling with the marketing beast soon enough.

When my friends were raising support, they heard an interesting illustration. “Raising support is like hunting for the thirty or so pieces of gravel that have been painted red on the backside. Your job? Start at the beginning of a gravel driveway, and start turning over rocks until you find them all.”

That feels like marketing to me. Or at least it did.

Last summer God provided a surprising way for me to hire a marketing mentor to help me sift through my marketing efforts. It’s been enlightening. Instead of turning over thousands of rocks, he’s helping me locate the red rocks strategically, thus saving me time. And a little sanity.

Here are some things he’s helped me do:

  • Develop two brands: Turning Trials to Triumph, and Build the Christian Family You Never Had (ripped from the headlines of my second book). This covers fiction and nonfiction. The second one is conducive to speaking, which I am working on beefing up.
  • Encourage me to do a redesign on my website. Today it’s up. Hop on over to www.marydemuth.com and tell me what you think.
  • Help me develop two new products to sell on my site. One: a fifty-page tutorial on writing nonfiction book proposals, including two annotated sample proposals. Two: 150 conversation starters you can use around your table with your kids. You can find both products here. (Note: They are the last two boxed options. You don’t need a paypal account to purchase them. We’re still working out the kinks on the store. Ah, the beauty of a new website!)
  • Help me strategize places I can send articles to for free, in order to generate buzz.
  • Encourage me to send out a snail mail newsletter to potential speaking venues. I’m working on my second newsletter, slated to go out to 350 people around the United States. (If you’d like to be included, let me know).
  • Inspire me to add to my email database. I added another email newsletter, Inside Renewal, which you can sign up for on the first page of my website. This one’s about going deep with Jesus, and so far the feedback has been great. Click here for a sample of Inside reNEWal. Click here for a sample of my existing RelevantProse ezine.
  • Help me form strategic alliances with ministries who might need my books. (Missions organizations in Europe for Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture, Counseling entities for my novels, and several moms ministries for my conversation starters).
  • For speaking: he’s helped me hone the way I speak, offering painful, but helpful critique on one of my speeches. I’m a much better speaker now, and hope to have a high quality recording of my speaking soon to give to potential speaking gigs. In the meantime, I have a snippet of my Family Life interview on my site here.
  • Coach me on effective radio techniques, including learning the beauty of sound bites, and tying in my topic to a giveaway on my website.
  • Remind me to put my book cover and contact information on any free article I send out. You can view samples here (10 Ways to Create a Haven in Your Home) and here (7 Insider Tips for Pioneer Parents).
  • Show me the importance of selling my books on my website. Before my new site was up, I created a paypal page on my blog to sell Authentic Parenting while the blog tour was going on. This gave us tangible numbers on the success of the tour, whereas, if we had relied on Amazon rankings, we wouldn’t really know how many we sold as a result of the tour.
  • Probably the most important thing he did was help me come up with value statements; in other words, what kind of value do I bring to my listeners and readers. Here are a few to help you wrap your mind around what I mean. (And, hey, this took me a month to get my mind around it. Not easy at all.) I help people so fully heal from tragedy that others would never know the trauma had occurred. I help parents create a haven in their home so their kids are wildly enthusiastic about coming home every day. I help people approach God in such a way that they know His reality and His direct dealings every single day.

So I’m more strategic about my gravel turning these days. All this stuff has taken me months to accomplish, and I still feel like a neophyte. Two cool things happened in the midst of all this:

  1. As I discovered what God had made me to do, and the life message He had given me, revival blew through my heart. I never thought I’d find more of Jesus in the midst of marketing. Wow.
  2. Even though I’m working hard at finding those red rocks, I see God’s sovereign hand often in the way He finds rocks for me. I may be strategic now, but He is the Great Helper when it comes to marketing. Speaking gigs only He could orchestrate have fallen into my lap. Writing opportunities, too. I have found that trying to market myself on my own would be a futile, silly endeavor. Oh how I need Jesus! And even in all of my strategies and His sovereignty, I rest in the fact that He holds my career and ministry in His hands.

This is a long post, I know. But my prayer is that something inside it will be a help to you as you market yourself or your books and articles.

***

Mary E. DeMuth helps people to turn their trials into triumphs. An expert in Pioneer Parenting, Mary enables Christian parents to navigate our changing culture when their families left no good faith examples to follow. Her parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House, 2007), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005). Mary also inspires people to face their trials through her real-to-life novels, including Watching the Tree Limbs (nominated for a Christy Award) and Wishing on Dandelions (NavPress, 2006). A pioneer parent herself, Mary and her husband, Patrick, reside in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France, where they planted a church. You can find Mary at her website: www.marydemuth.com or her blogs: www.relevantblog.blogspot.com and www.pioneerparenting.blogspot.com

Publishing is Subjective

In the land of fairytimes, in the anon time before I understood the publishing biz, I held this cherished belief that publishers knew everything, were perfectly consistent, and had universal opinions about each work that flew across an editor’s desk. Now I’m not so sure. I just received my edits from a publisher. The editor did a terrific job, although I must say all the red ink made my eyes hurt a bit. I appreciate his kind attentiveness to the book, his eye for detail, his ability to discern when a reader would be confused.

As I read through his comments and edits, I remembered that he was not initially my editor. This caused my mind to walk an entire journey . . . What would the other editor have said? What red lines would he have made? What verbs would he deem weak? Where would he add clarification? This is just one book in the pipeline of thousands of books. I realized how different the book might turn out with a different editor or with a different publisher for that matter.

Then I remembered the rejections of this particular book. A couple houses passed on the manuscript, but what if they hadn’t? (At this time, my crazy-awful mind had visions of advance-wars, spiraling my fledgling advance to more digits.)

At this point, I realized that a book has to be held like water running through hands–it is a fluid endeavor, spilled out by some, consumed by others, edited by one. Sure, the book is “my baby,” but in a sense it belongs to many more spheres–the publishing house, small CBA bookstores, megaplex bookstores, the reading public, the gift-giving public.

Suddenly, this kernel of an idea God breathed into my heart has taken on a life of its own. I’m thankful for that in one sense. It means that the book is out of my hands, in the capable Hands of the One who holds all things together. On the other hand (to continue my poorly wrought metaphor), I feel loss–like my baby has grown up with a mind of her own and is ready to explore the world without me. All this to say this profound truth (drumroll, please):

PUBLISHING IS SUBJECTIVE. While one house may love your prose, another may be riled by it. One editor may slash and burn, another may gently lead. Sometimes I view it like the surprising ending to St. Elsewhere, where what we really thought was a hospital drama was actually a snowglobe manipulated by an autistic boy who dreamed the entire plot of the series in his head. Publishing is a snow globe, manipulated by . . . well, who knows . . . Snowflakes are whirring around at the tip of a whimsical hand.

That being said, the subjective madness doesn’t crush me, nor does it disillusion me. I’m just so flat-out happy that I actually sold some books, that publishers thought my ruminations worthy of the printed page!

And I am keenly aware of the true Promoter of all things. Jesus is the One who sees it all. He simply asks me to take the last seat, the seat of humility, allowing His promotion. Not mine. So, yeah, it’s subjective. But, God is here. He is present all around. He sees my words. He sees your words. He weathers the rejections with us. He works in and through editors. He is an Author, after all.

Platform and The Force

I have all the answers you seek, young Padawan. (Advanced apologies for those of you who don’t like Star Wars)

Platform:

  • You need to speak to as many people as you can (the clone wars come to mind . . . Millions is preferable.)
  • Your website has to have the firepower of the Death Star
  • As wise as Yoda your blog posts must be, but also as pretty as Princess Leia (and all the storm troopers must secretly read it. Your blog hits should hover around one million.)
  • Your books should wield as much power and elegance as a light saber, and they should have enough strength to thwart the forces of evil. (This is hard to put a number on, though).
  • You should create your own hologram which says, “Help me Obiwan Oprah. You’re my only hope . . . For book sales.”
  • Your fan site on Facebook should include every species: ewoks, wookies, jedis, icky darth spikey people, naboo, JarJar binks (don’t know how to spell that), and every creature represented by the bar scene in the original movie. Let’s just hope Harrison Ford is your fan too. That will help.
  • Platform is greatly improved when you dress the part: http://shop.starwars.com/?rid=CPC. Although for me, it would be hard to be Daisy from my next novel, because she’s a missing girl.

And lest you think I’ve lost my midi-chlorians, you can salve all your platform woes as you watch this brilliant piece of cinematography:

Mary Skywalker, Platform Jedi of the First Order

The Writer’s Baggage

Maryfrance The baggage I’ll write about today isn’t that negative psychological baggage we all carry with us: regrets, guilt, shame, and the like. I’m referring to the things we actually need to lug with us if we are to succeed on this publishing journey. So, pack your bags, writers, and don’t forget to strap on some humor as you do.


The Ten Pieces of Baggage Every Writer Needs:

  1. Chocolate. Preferably dark. I keep mine in the lower right hand drawer of my desk. The current picking? Trader Joe’s dark chocolate goodness. Keeps my mind clear. Makes me smile even after reading my “royalty” statements (which feel more like pauper statements!).
  2. Grit-spitting tenacity. The kind a cowboy would have after wrestling cows, wrangling snakes, and eating Hormel chili over an open, smoky fire. You have to come at this business like a spider monkey (wearing chaps, to keep the cowboy metaphor alive). When rejection slaps you upside the face, you gotta prepare for more rodeo, more bucking, more angry bulls. The trick to cowboy grit? Keep getting back in the saddle. Every day. Write those words as your act of defiance! Each word written is like a notch in your belt.
  3. Another hobby just as successful as writing: Hummingbird training. With hummingbird training, you experience the same sort of whiplash, the same frenetic activity. The same flying feathers. Succeed at Hummingbird training (particularly two birds performing a synchronized dance) and you’ll succeed at writing. Besides, you may need to fall back on it in your later years.
  4. Cheerleaders. I don’t mean this metaphorically. Actual high school cheerleaders clad in orange and purple, your name blazed like an alma mater across their fronts. Have at least five show up at your desk every day to say this cheer: “A-W-E-S-O-M-E, Awesome, are Thee!” (Mixing a cheer with King James English will accomplish two things: The Shakespearean rhythm will inform your prose, and the cheering will lighten your rejected spirit.)
  5. Stickers. Steal these from your kids’ teachers in a clandestine overthrow of the sticker drawer. Stickers like 100% A+, or “Great Job!” or “You’re a great kid” (which you are!). Print off your latest piece, the one you think is drivel personified, and adhere one of these babies on it. Suddenly, you’re terrific! Wonderful! Unbelievably talented!
  6. A dog, not a cat. A dog will lay (oh shoot, or is it lie?) by your feet as you compose deeply significant words that will impact the planet. When you’re drained, feeling blue, old Rover will roll over, loll his eyes your way, and slobber a smile. Such unconditional love is hard to find in this business, so securing a dog is essential. A cat, however, doesn’t shower you with fuzzy love. She types gibberish on your keyboard when you’re not looking and spills tea on your computer. If you can’t afford a dog, buy a hamster in a habitrail. His constant spinning on that “wheel of life” will be the impetus you need to keep going. Make it a point to write when he wheels, and you’ll be guaranteed to be prolific.
  7. A snuggie.Everyone needs one, but writers especially do. Because our income doesn’t bring in enough to pay our heat bills! And of course, our hands and can’t be bothered or inconvenienced by a mere blanket that wrestles our fingers into blind submission.
  8. And for that matter, a Huggie. Not the diapering kind, the real embracing hug from a fellow author who understands your plight. You receive and impart these “huggies” at conferences, where other writers parade around in designer snuggies.
  9. A New Christmas List. To maintain proper sanity, every author needs to update his/her Christmas list with certain items emphatically CROSSED OUT. No more JOURNALS! We have thousands of them. No more PENS! Or PLAQUES with catchy slogans about writing being like opening up a vein (ew). Replace said list with: A MAC COMPUTER (Sorry PC fans). A TRIP TO A REMOTE SPA ISLAND. THE GENES OF J.K. ROWLING. And a JET SKI.
  10. A weird disguise. Preferably a toupe, some ugly thick glasses, a mustache, and a hood. Why? To shield you from all that paparazzi when you become famously famous, bigger than Hannah Montana when she breaks up or adds a boyfriend. And while you’re at it, add some Peeps. Not an entourage that follows you around and tells you how cool you are (that’s what your family is for, right?) But actual marshmallow peeps. They will cheer you on when your fame fades and no one thinks you’re the it girl/guy. A peep is eternal. Just look at the shelf life.

So, there you have it. A writer’s necessary baggage. I’d love to know if I’ve possibly missed anything. If I have, please enlighten me in the comments section. I will say that Night Vision Goggles did vie for the number ten spot. So you can’t say those.