**pause for the gooby starstrucked feeling to pass**
So before we get into marketing, let's pretend as if no one knows who you are and tell us a little (or a whole lot!) about yourself.:)
I’m the author of ten novels for adults and teens, including the bestselling THE IMMORTALS series, which you can read more about at my author web site or the series web site.
In addition, I run a blog
Psst!!! In case you didn't notice, Alyson is being very modest about her bio. In addition, Shadowland, releases on November 17th and is already getting rave reviews. But what did we expect :)>
So how was your road to publishing? Did you start any of your platform or marketing prior to getting an agent or selling your book?
Well, the embarrassing truth is, I was as green as they come. Seriously, there was no one as clueless as me. And while I wanted to be a writer since I read my first Judy Blume book back in sixth grade, I didn’t get serious about it until late 2001, just after 9/11 happened and I was working as a flight attendant in NYC and figured it was as good a time as any to go after my dream. So I started writing in whatever spare time I had, on layovers, on flight delays, on cocktail napkins, you name it, I was determined to get it done.
The moment I typed “The End” I bought a copy of Writer’s Marketplace, jotted off a query letter, and sent it directly to a long list of publishers, mistakenly thinking I didn’t need an agent (I can’t even begin to stress how very wrong that is). And while every one of them requested the full, they all rejected me in the end. Still, they were the nice kind of rejections, the kind that welcome you to resubmit if you choose to revise.
So I enrolled in some online writing classes, and through one of those classes I met a fellow student who referred me to her agent. He read my mss, loved the voice but told me my structure was a mess (it was!), and suggested I read STORY by Robert McKee. I bought it straightaway, read it in two days, took the next three weeks to ruthlessly revise my mss, sent it back to him, and a few days later he signed me. And several months later he sold my debut novel, FAKING 19, to St. Martin’s Press in a two-book deal (this happened in Feb 2004).
But even with the book deal in hand, I still had no idea what I was doing marketing wise, or how publishing even really worked. I didn’t know any other writers, and was sort of living and working in a bubble. And aside from my website (at the time crafted from an Author’s Guild template), I didn’t blog, or join any professional writing organizations until my third book, LAGUNA COVE, was already on the shelves. It was through my memberships with SCBWI and RWA that this whole new world opened up and I realized that simply crossing my fingers before each release does not a publicity plan make! So I spent the next several months getting a blog together, joining a slew of social networking sites, and generally playing catch up.
Hate to say this, but it's kinda nice to know you got rejections too. Gives me hope :) As a bestselling author, I'm sure you do a lot of marketing. What are the top three things you think every author should do to promote their book?
While I think it’s extremely important to find a way to connect with readers, whether that be blogging, myspace, twitter, facebook, or all of the above, I’m also a big advocate for doing only the things you truly enjoy and scraping the rest. Because the truth is, keeping up with all of those sites is a major time suck, and if you’re not enjoying them, then it’s a colossal waste of energy that’s better used for writing!
I think the number one most important thing an author can do is to put together a nice website to showcase themselves and their books. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and you don’t have to spend a ton of money, just make sure it’s professional, inviting, easy to navigate, and a fun destination for readers and potential readers to learn more about you and your books.
If you like blogging and can keep it going and keep it fresh, then by all means, have it. It’s a great way for people to get to know you and your writing style. But if you don’t enjoy it, and can’t provide regular content, it’s probably better to skip it and find another way to reach out—or even join a group blog where you don’t have to post as often, and can cross promote with other authors and poach off each other’s readers.
Thank you for emphasizing that it is important to market your book the way you feel is best and the way you like to do it the most. In addition to blogging, how important is social networking to you?
I’ve found it to be a great way to stay in touch with readers, and I really enjoy keeping up with my Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter pages. I also keep a bulletin board on my site where I answer questions and chat. And while I’m a member of GoodReads as well, I admit that I rarely visit, I have super tight deadlines to meet and I had to draw the line somewhere!
I notice you team up with other authors on various projects. Do you feel it is beneficial for authors to promote books as a group?
Yes I do. I’m a member of two group blogs: The Teen Fiction Cafe and Living Your Five. I’m a huge advocate of the group book signing, because the reality is, unless you’re a huge, name brand author, it’s hard to fill up a room by yourself—especially when the majority of your readers are teens who can’t even drive yet. Not to mention, after you’ve released a few books in a row, it’s hard to get even your own family members to show up and look excited (not that I’ve had that experience or anything—mom, dad, are you reading this?!).
A group signing not only attracts more readers, but it’s a great opportunity to cross promote, which is why I’m especially excited about the Smart Girls Kick It Tour—the brainchild of Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong that’s kicking off in fall 2010. When they asked me to join them I was beyond thrilled. Most tours are set up by the publishers, meant to promote their own stable of authors, but this is something different—this is purely an author generated, grass roots effort, that is sure to be not only successful but fun!
I cannot wait for the Smart Girls Tour. If it does not go to Atlanta, I'll have to find one to road trip to :) Sounds like you do a lot of different types of marketing: blogs, group tours, signings. Can you give us any insight into what your publicist and marketing department does for you and how you two work together?
I’m lucky to work with such a great team at St. Martin’s Press—and it really is a team effort, a whole collaboration from the front cover design to the back cover copy to publicity and marketing, etc. They’re always brainstorming fun, new ways to promote the books, and they really knocked it out of the park with the Immortals website they created and the “overheard in Summerland” audios are amazing! Every time you click on a tulip (an important symbol in the books) you can hear a scene not included in the books—I was stunned when they came up with it!
On my own, I make bookmarks and bookplates which I send to readers who send me a SASE, I also make sure to blog about each new release and announce it on all of my social networking sites. And I always hire Circle of Seven to put together a trailer because they do a great job and they have the most amazing distribution (it’s all about the distribution!), then I pretty much hope for the best, and get to work on my next book! Because the truth is, while my efforts have merit and make me feel like I’m doing my part, it’s nothing compared to what my publisher can do. They have much bigger reach, far more resources, and much deeper pockets than I—and their efforts make a much bigger difference than mine ever could.
So in addition to signings and your publisher's marketing efforts, what other creative things have you done to promote a book?
While I’m not sure that they’re particularly creative, I’ve made bookmarks, bookplates, done blog tours, made trailers, bought ad space on reader centric Internet sites, signed stock in bookstores both near and far, Myspaced, Facebooked, Twittered, (yup, they’re verbs now!), taken part in group signings at bookstores and book festivals, given presentations at libraries and schools, all of which, no doubt, helps to get my name and books “out there.”
The truth is, and this may not be wildly popular but I believe it to be true—the absolute best thing you can do to market yourself as an author is to write your next book! At the end of the day, that’s all your readers really want from you anyway. And with books getting such a short shelf life these days, the best way to ensure yours books maintain their space is to keep ‘em coming, to build up a nice backlist for your readers to explore and for bookstores to reorder with each new release.
Thank you so much for joining us today and good luck with Shadowland! (not that you will need it! :)
THANKS FOR THE INTERVIEW, SHELLI!!!