Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Year = New PR

Or How to Teach an Old Brain New Tricks
by Bethany Maines

I’ve been thinking about short stories lately. Wait… I recant that. I’ve been intending to think about short stories lately. What I’ve actually been thinking about is PR, Social Media and writers.

You’d think Social Media would be right up a writer’s alley. We don’t have to leave the house. We get social interaction without having to brush our teeth and theoretically we can do it without interfering with our writing. Now clearly, that last one is problematical. Due to theory of the Hierarchy Avoidance (first formulated by The Hobo) there are many much less fun things than Facebook that a writer will do to avoid writing. But supposedly slipping in five minutes of Facebook time shouldn’t hinder the production of a manuscript. And yet, most writers I know were extremely reluctant to start using Social Media. Why? Because it felt like PR. And we suck at PR. Clearly most of us got over that and formed a lasting Facebook addiction, but beyond that, here’s the real problem.. With the economy in the crapper, and the publishing industry teetering on the edge of not being able to find their… er… heads with both hands and a map, authors are being asked to handle more of their own PR and promotions.

Frankly, I cannot imagine a group of people less equipped to do PR. Writers, in my experience, are an introverted, sweats wearing bunch. (Female writers dirty secret #82: underwire bras are for “fancy” days when we have to leave the house.) If we had wanted to go outside and be judged on our appearance and have people listen to us talk, we would have gone into politics and we’d be totally different people/aliens/insane. So basically, writers are fundamentally unprepared for PR and we wander around secretly wondering if everyone else knows something we don’t.

For those who haven’t tuned into one of my blogs before, my day job is as a graphic designer, which makes me a proficient technology user, with a rudimentary grasp of how marketing works. And I’m here to tell you that yes everyone does know something you don’t - OK, well maybe not everyone, but the PR people certainly. The reason that PR is hard (besides the having to talk to people) is that there are skills and information that we writers don’t have. PR and marketing people also tend to do something that most writers HATE doing – they think of a book (and an author) as a commodity. And since books are our precious, adorable babies, thinking about them as “just another thing to sell” kind of hurts. But… we all want our books to sell right? We want our babies to go out into the world and do well, so as their parents we’d better think about getting out there and giving them the best shot they can in this cruel world.  And in my experience, that means having a plan.  

Before creating a promotional or marketing plan I evaluate how much time, effort, & money I'm willing to invest on promotion. Yes, this means that I have to know, at least roughly, how much my yearly household budget is, and how much time (per week/month/year) I have to devote to my writing job. You don't have to be super detailed, but it helps to know how big you can dream. Then I evaluate my yearly calendar in terms of writing deadlines (these will drive promotional deadlines) and other life goals; this helps me spot when I should be doing more promotion and when I will actually be available to do it. 

Once you know your personal parameters you can start on the actual PR plan by identifying the possible methods of promotion. Step 2 will be to evaluate the pros & cons of a particular channel against your budget and your brand. Below is the list I created for my 2012 plan. So take a look and see if it sparks any ideas for you. Feel free to share your own ideas and PR experiences in the comments!

Step #1: Identify Marketing Message Distribution Channels
(aka Ways to promote yourself and your book)
· Live Audience – signings, guest speaking, launch party
· Internet Presence – website, facebook, twitter, youtube, goodreads, linkedin, blog
· Internet Ads – google adwords, facebook ads, ads on websites
· Email – newsletters, e-fliers, personal email
· Video – book trailers, promo videos
· TV - news, reality shows, talk shows
· Radio - programs, ads
· Written Word – “expert” articles, reviews of other books, blogging, guest blogging, books, short stories
· Print – newspapers, magazines, print ads, fliers, posters, mailers, books
· Word of Mouth – book clubs, fans, bookstore staff, reviews

I'll be discussing my own marketing plan (and technology tips) in upcoming blogs. In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter @BethanyMaines, Facebook with Bulletproof Mascara and on the web at


  1. You definitely know more than I do, Bethany, so cross that concern off your list. Great post. I try to be interesting in terms of social media but some days all I can come up with is "brushed teeth...laundry next." Maggie

  2. Just read a fun post about 10 Myths about Introverts - and the one that resonated with me is that most of the world is an extrovert and they think we introverts need to fix ourselves. So they come up with things they think we should do - like writers promoting themselves - so not normal.

    Even if you do all the right things, you may still suck at promotion. I see people on FB who talk about what their pet ate for breakfast and get 100 times more responses than a writer trying to be just as engaging, but somehow failing because it's just not natural and they don't have the kind of friends who like to talk about a pet's breakfast. More on what introverts do like to talk about in that blog post.

    I also read that FB is not a marketing plan but a tool to use with your marketing plan. I'll be looking forward to reading more about your marketing plan. :)

  3. All absolutely true comments Kathy!! FB and any social media is not an end it is a means to an end. And yes, introverts do not need to "fix" themselves! We are fine the way we are!!

    And yes, Maggie, it's a bit of mystery who seems to connect on social media and who doesn't. And sometimes I don't even make it to "I brushed my teeth." :P

  4. With me it's a bit like throwing dark. I do a bit of this and a bit of that. I do think for mystery writers, DorothyL is one of the best places to promote, as long as you are also reading mysteries and posting reviews.

  5. Great blog, Bethany!! I felt like the mega contradiction i am the entire way, being as my undergrad degree is in... you guessed it, Public Relations!! You said it perfectly!

  6. Great post, Bethany! I look forward to more of this.

  7. This is a fabulous post, Bethany - and totally the reason I have now hired someone to help with the PR side of things. As a performer, I'm happy to go out there and put on a show, but I'm way better at saying someone else's lines than talking about my books. My social media is way more social than PR....yep-I kind of need all the help I can get.

  8. Just read what I wrote, how anyone can throw a dark, I don't know, I meant throw a dart. In any case, you did give some good ideas.