Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Romancing the Audience

What marketing best practices can we learn from a first-time author? Turns out that my sister-in-law, Michelle Willingham Leonard, is a natural at this stuff.

When Michelle signed a three-book deal with Harlequin, she knew she'd sell a bunch of copies just on Harlequin's marketing muscle. But she also knew that to move herself up over other authors, she should sell some books, too. What things is she doing that we should all remember?

  1. Make a Connection: Her first book signing ever was along with world famous author Nora Roberts. Michelle knew people were there to see Nora, but they had to stand by her table when they were in line. She told each one that she was a first-time author who was so excited to have a book in print. Suddenly the person in the line was part of her story, and they helped complete it. She sold every book.
  2. Talk, and Listen: Michelle's had a blog for some time now. She shares her successes, her personal and business stories. She invites comments, and gets a lot of them. So much of marketing is one-way, you get a lot back from listening, too.
  3. Break Down Your Audience: Michelle could have said, "Any romance novel reader in the world is my target, so I need a campaign to reach them." But she was much more realistic, sending books and simple press releases to local papers and magazines, playing up the "Local Teacher Makes Good" angle. She sent similar stuff to her alma mater, her hometown paper and other places, with "Hometown Girls Makes Good" type angles. As a result, she got feature stories in area papers. That's got to sell some books, right?
  4. Look for Unique Opportunities: When Michelle saw two copies of her book on the shelf at her local store, she asked the manager if she could sign them both and put "Autographed Copy" stickers on them. He said ok. Both books sold quickly. (And I bet the manager ordered a few more copies once he knew she was local...)
I love some of the fun, big budget ideas that the pros come up with. But marketing is so basic, right? Who cares? Why should they care? Where are they? How can I reach them? etc. etc. Kudos to Michelle for getting it.