Because my real job is more or less all about helping books find their ways to readers, I love talking with authors and industry professionals about marketing – and as a reader, I think it’s fascinating to hear how – out of all the zillions of books in the world – a relatively small amount of particular titles seem to get a lot more attention (and readership) than others.
What do marketers think about when they think about marketing? I asked some really talented book marketing type people, each of whom approaches the marketing of books from a slightly different perspective: Jeff VanderMeer, novelist and author of BookLife: Strategies and Survival Tips for 21st Century Writers; Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson of Verso Digital Advertising; and Ashleigh Gardner, Manager of Digital Development at The Dundurn Group.
Today’s Q+A is with Jeff VanderMeer, and I hope you find it as interesting as I did!
Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist who makes “part of his living writing fiction and part of it doing book reviews, teaching writing workshops, and taking on individual manuscript critique assignments.” In other words, he has a day job. But what makes Jeff unique among authors is that a big part of his day job is helping other writers learn the art of sustainable creativity. In fact, his recent book, BookLife, is all about doing just that.
Jeff VanderMeer Q+A:
KM: What one piece of advice would you give to publicists/marketing staff who are trying to get their authors to promote their books via social media?
JVM: Go through a discovery process wherein you discover
- What your authors are passionate about
- What their core abilities outside of writing are
- How even-tempered they are
- How outgoing they are, and
- How involved in social media they already are.
Create a social media plan for each author based on the answers. DO NOT give each author a “one size fits all” solution.
KM: What one piece of advice would you give to authors about taking on the social media marketing of their books?
JVM: Know your limitations and have specific goals, but also have fun with it. If you don’t have fun, nothing else is going to matter much.
KM: Authors are pretty much expected to take on marketing of their books these days. And that generally means being available online in some way shape or form to the public. What aspects of the new media/social media landscape do NOT appeal to you as an author, and as a private citizen?
JVM: I’m not fond of the way the new media landscape tends to level out experience, which is to say that one negative aspect of the overall positive effect of the internet leveling out hierarchies and creating alternatives to traditional power structures is that it also seems to make a lot of new creators not see the value in listening to those in their field who have been around the block a few times.
I also don’t like feeling addicted to social media platforms like Facebook, and the lack of personal distance from readers. This just means you have to be continually evaluating your relationship to social media, and adjusting accordingly.
KM: Do you think anything has been, or risks being, lost as the book publishing paradigm shifts from a one way channel: author – publisher – reader – to one of any number of possible variations on that? Do you worry about the creative process being hindered, eroded or changed by instant and constant cycles of audience feedback?
JVM: Creators need the time and peace of mind to create, and the fragmentation that the internet brings with it is a definite threat to the act of creation. Writers need to take whatever measures necessary to get off of the internet entirely for large blocks of time. Otherwise, one’s powers of intense concentration tend to become eroded. One good test is: are you still able to read a serious, difficult book? If you can’t, something’s wrong.
The same thing goes for audience feedback: don’t solicit it while working on something, and depending on how thick your skin is and how suggestible, insulate yourself from too much feedback once a book is out. There are tons of great opportunities on the internet, but many dangers as well.
As for what we’re losing—we’re losing those eccentric or introverted creators who don’t like interacting on the internet and who just want to write. I worry about this a lot, since I feel like we may be losing a certain *type* of writer as a result, unless that person has a strong advocate working on their behalf.
KM: As an author, what do you love most about social media?
JVM: I love the sense of community and the ways in which it creates opportunities for cross-pollination of ideas. It also is an ally to collaboration, and it makes big projects that require input from creators across several continents to be viable and relatively inexpensive. It also often does allow for interacting with readers while still keeping some distance. An email in my Facebook account doesn’t seem as invasive as one in my personal email account, for example.
Check back Wednesday for Q+A with: Denise Berthiaume and Tom Thompson of Verso Digital Marketing